The Mavericks were on pace to have the best offensive efficiency rating in NBA history when the season was suspended on March 11.
They looked like nothing could stop them.
Well, almost nothing.
A worldwide virus halted the season and that was about the only thing that could slow down the Mavericks when they were clicking on all cylinders. And even when they weren’t, they still made life miserable for opponents.
So now, four months later, they are hoping that potent production doesn’t miss a beat in the restart scheduled for the end of this month.
Tim Hardaway Jr., as much as anybody not named Luka Doncic or Kristaps Porzingis, has had a whole lot to do with the hot-firing offense. He’s proud to be a part of it. He’s played on good teams before in Atlanta and not-so-good teams in New York.
He also that keeping the offense humming is going to be one of the determining factors about how far the Mavericks can go in their first jump into the playoffs since 2016.
“It’s just that selflessness and knowing you’re role on the floor,” Hardaway said Tuesday. “Everybody knows that once those two guys (Doncic and Porzingis) are on the floor, you just got to be ready.
“You got to have your trigger ready. Be ready to get back on defense. You got to be ready for anything.”
But mostly, have your trigger ready.
Coach Rick Carlisle has assembled a team that relies on its outside shooting more than any other team in the league, other than the Houston Rockets.
The Mavericks shoot 3-pointers often. And they make a bunch of them. While Houston takes more, the Rockets’ 34.8-percent accuracy is only 23rd in the league. The Mavericks hit 36.9 percent, eighth best in the league.
Ergo, the efficiency on offense.
As Hardaway said, teams that can pick up where they left off the best will have the advantage as the season restarts.
What he also hopes is that the Mavericks learn from the one shortcoming they had offensively in the first 67 games of the season.
They were not good in close games, going just 14-21 in what the NBA classifies as “clutch” games – those that are within five points at some point in the final two minutes. Worse, the Mavericks shoot under 23 percent from 3-point range in those situations.
Fixing that is a major focus during the three weeks of practice going into the eight games that will finish the regular season.
“Coach has done a great job of sprinkling that in,” Hardaway said. “We’ve been in a lot of close games throughout the year. They give us examples and, we’ve watched a little here and there. We know what we have to do. It’s just a matter of us going out there and experiencing it like we did this year.
“We know what to expect and moving forward, we should be able to close out games a lot better. Not saying they’ll turn out as wins. But us being in situations like that, we should know what to do at this point.”
Photo finish: Speaking of late-game execution, Carlisle teamed with assistant coach Darrell Armstrong for a golf match at the Disney campus against J.J. Barea and Seth Curry.
Carlisle said the coaches had a nice lead on the players. Until . . .
“We were up pretty big going into the last hole,” Carlisle said. “And they decided they wanted to let it all ride on the last hole. Seth and D.A. were each getting a stroke.
“Unfortunately, D.A.’s tee shot went 45 degrees right toward Magic Mountain and we didn’t survive that hole. So the whole thing ended up being a wash. But we had a blast.”
The round started with a visit from an old pal, Jason Kidd, who was with Carlisle and Barea for the 2011 championship and now is an assistant coach with the Lakers.
“We saw Jason Kidd on the first tee and he came over and was giving us a hard time. We had a fun little mini-reunion for a minute or two.”
Health update: Carlisle said that, so far, the Mavericks have had all their healthy players available at each practice.
“Everybody’s doing well at the moment, knock on wood,” he said. “We’re ramping it up gradually. We’re getting into more full-contact activity, for sure.”
As for avoiding the coronavirus, which has made itself known to several other teams, Carlisle said: ““We’ll stay in the practice of trying to follow the rules and procedures and protocols and hope that we can stay out of harm’s way. Our guys have a great attitude about being here. They (the NBA) are bending over backwards to make things comfortable for us, to make things as much like home as they can be.”