DALLAS — It’s a heck of a time for the hottest streak of J.J. Barea‘s NBA career.
The Dallas Mavericks needed Barea at his best after Deron Williams strained his left hamstring, an injury that has sidelined him the past two games. Barea, the veteran backup, has answered the bell by looking like the go-to guy during the summers while suiting up for the Puerto Rican national team.
Barea’s numbers in the wins over the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls: 58 points on 22-of-34 shooting, including a sizzling 12-of-15 from 3-point range with 16 assists.
“Little J.J. has been on fire,” Dirk Nowitzki said after Saturday’s 118-111 win over the Bulls. “He’s been incredible the last two games. Seems like he can’t miss.”
Barea has carved out a heck of a career for a sub-6-footer who went undrafted a decade ago, highlighted by playing a key role in the Mavs’ 2011 Finals victory. His spectacular performances in the past two games, however, have to be considered stunning.
To put it in perspective, Barea has scored at least 26 points five times in his 10-year NBA career. Two of those have come this week, as he torched the Nets for a career-high 32 points and followed that up by dropping 26 on the Bulls.
“Hopefully it can stay like this a little longer,” said Barea, who was 9-of-14 from the floor against the Bulls and hit his first seven 3-pointers before finally missing from the corner in the fourth quarter.
Barea wasn’t having a great season before he suddenly caught fire. He was shooting only 38.6 percent from the floor and 30.5 percent from 3-point range before he was called on to start in Brooklyn. His 3-point percentage for the season has soared nearly 10 points since then.
There have been long stretches in both games in which Barea put the Mavs on his back.
“Our team is a lot about finding the hot guy, riding him when we have to,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “That’s a little bit of the way we’re built. Tonight, J.J. was red hot again. We tried to keep getting him the ball and guys kept finding him.”
The Mavs will likely need Barea in the starting lineup for at least another game or two. Williams described his status as day-to-day after MRI results confirmed a hamstring strain, but it’s nothing serious. However, it typically takes a couple of weeks to recover from that kind of injury.
The Mavs have complete confidence that Barea can keep Williams’ seat warm, if not red hot, in the meantime.
“He’s ready,” Wesley Matthews said. “He’s ready to step in, ready to rise to the challenge and has stepped up to the occasion in a big way.”