DENVER – Tim Hardaway Jr. has played 22 minutes or more in each of the last five games, all as a starter.
He’s averaged 24.4 points and shot 30-of-55 (54.5 percent) from three-point range.
It’s not a stretch to say that the Mavericks have won four of those five games because of the way Hardaway has played. It’s been the first time he’s looked like the old Hardaway before his broken foot cost him the last half of the 2021-22 season.
“Mentally, him not playing last year put that fuel in him,” said Dorian Finney-Smith. “We’re just trying to feed off his energy. When you’re genuinely happy for somebody, it takes the pressure off of you when you’re shooting.”
In other words, Hardaway’s revival after he averaged just 10.2 points and shot 29.4 percent from three-point range in the first 18 games he played has energized everybody.
When he dropped a season-best 29 points on the Denver Nuggets Tuesday night, it set the table for one of the grittiest wins of the season, 116-115. Hardaway hit six of eight three-pointers.
We all know Jason Kidd’s playing rotation will have ebbs and flows. Nothing wrong with that.
But with Hardaway on a confident and productive tear, it’s had a robust impact on the Mavericks as a whole.
He said after his big game Tuesday that the Mavericks are feeling better about their direction, thanks in part to some signature wins lately.
“Every team needs to have a big game, I would say,” he said. “And I think coming back home playing Golden State and winning (by three, a week ago), I think that kind of lit a fire under us.”
Confidence is an amazing attribute. And Hardaway is brimming with it right now.
Here’s our other takeaways from the inspired win.
Doe-Doe did-did: In his four games before Tuesday, Finney-Smith had averaged 4.5 points and shot just 5-of-18 from 3-point range. Then came this: 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting that included making 5-of-10 from beyond the arc. Oh, and he also made the game-decider with 17 seconds left when he took a pass from Luka Dončić and fired in a triple from beyond the top of the key. It wasn’t his preferred spot in the corner, but Finney-Smith proved again he’s not just a one-trick pony.
Stronger everyday: The Mavericks lost a lot of games they shouldn’t have in the first month of the season. But Tuesday was a win they probably weren’t planning on. Second half of a back-to-back in Denver, mile-high thin air and a Nuggets’ team that was desperate for a win after two losses on the road? That’s a tough challenge, for sure. And then they score 11 points in a row to go up 112-111 with under 40 seconds left? “They’re a great team,” Finney-Smith said. “It’s hard to play in here. It’s tough when a team gets going and takes the lead with a minute left, but we stayed together.” As Jason Kidd said: “You don’t win an award for the first 20 (games). You get to learn about your team. We’re going to be judged probably every night. But internally we truly believe we’re going in the right direction.”
Strong numbers: Yes, the Nuggets scored 115 points and had at least 28 points in every quarter. But they also had 17 turnovers that led to 23 Mavericks’ points. The Mavericks also had 17 turnovers, but the Nuggets scored just 16 points off of those miscues. That shows that the Nuggets were making errors in situations that led to transition opportunities for the Mavericks, who had 19 fast-break points, their second-best production in transition this season and way above their 12-point average . . . Oh, and by the way, Luka had a triple-double. That happened to be the 52nd of his career and sixth of this season. It was 22 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.