As he scanned the box score from Game 2, Jalen Brunson did a double-take.
“Maxi, 8-for-11. Jesus,” he said as if he’d just had a great revelation that was all-too-clear to the 20,000-plus at American Airlines Center Monday night.
“Twenty-five (points)? Jesus. That’s big time. I’m happy for him.”
Maxi Kleber hadn’t scored more than nine points in any game since before the All-Star break. That was in February, if you had forgotten.
But he had 10 points in Game 1, then went bonkers in Game 2 with 25 points on 8-of-11 shooting from 3-point range.
When he breaks out of a slump, he doesn’t mess around.
The 6-10 forward had shot 18.8 percent from 3-point land since the All-Star break. He’s made 10-of-16 in the first two games of the playoffs and also had three assists and six rebounds in Game 2.
When the Mavericks needed a sidekick to Brunson’s 41-point night, Kleber supplied it.
For a guy who struggled with his shot for the longest time, then couldn’t really work on his shot because of nagging injuries that curtailed his practice time, Kleber’s start to the playoffs is major for his confidence.
“Obviously it is a big boost, but even in the games before when I didn’t shoot well, I think overall I still did many things and we won as a team,” he said. “That is the most important part.
“It doesn’t matter if I get a hot day and make my shots or somebody else does. All we care about is getting the win. Obviously, it feels really good to make those shots because the end of the season wasn’t my prettiest. But this was one game and now you have to move on to the next one.”
He was asked if the basket started to look ocean-like at some point as 3-pointer after 3-pointer kept falling for him against the Jazz.
“I don’t think there was a point where I thought that,” he said. “Every time I was open, I just shot the ball. We analyzed how they play defense and where the looks were coming from. You have to be ready to shoot and just let it fly. I didn’t really think much about it.”
That’s when heaters like what Kleber had in Game 2 usually happen, when you aren’t overthinking things.
But rest assured, his teammates and coaches were thinking about how a shooting exhibition like Kleber’s makes life easier on everybody.
“When he’s able to stretch the floor like that, the defense has decisions to make,” Brunson said. “Yeah, he was 8-for-11 but he’s also a guy who is going to make the extra pass.”
The Mavericks hoisted 47 3-pointers in Game 2. There is no quota per player, but coach Jason Kidd said there is a number that they try to get to as a team.
And Kleber is a big part of hitting that number.
“He has to shoot them, because he can shoot,” Kidd said. “And today (in Game 2) he made them. And we’re going to need them. It creates space and helps everyone on the floor. He was huge for us tonight to get up 47.”
Kleber’s output should bode well for the Mavericks as they try to find a way to win in Utah on Thursday and Saturday. They haven’t won on the Jazz’s home floor since Dirk Nowitzki was playing, losing 11 in a row at Vivant Arena.
Getting shooting outbursts teamwide and from Kleber like they did in Game 2 would help their cause drastically.
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