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As Dirk dominates, Barea exemplifies strength of the Mavericks

May 18, 2011, 2:38 AM EDT

J.J. Barea Getty Images

Right about now, the Oklahoma City Thunder can probably identify with Andrew Bynum.

Don’t get me wrong, Dirk Nowitzki was unquestionably the story in the Mavericks’ Game 1 Western Conference finals victory over the Thunder. While other national outlets were busy talking up the greatness of Derrick Rose during Dallas’ well-earned,  eight-day layoff after the team swept the two-time defending champion Lakers out of these playoffs, Nowitzki reappeared with an historic performance: 48 points on just 15 shots, and an NBA postseason record 24 made free throws without a miss.

As great as Nowitzki was, however, the scoring spark provided off the Mavericks’ bench was just as important to the team’s getting it done in Game 1. And J.J. Barea’s play exemplified the distinct advantage that Dallas has in this series, and has had the entire postseason thus far.

Simply put, the Mavericks have too many weapons.

Behind 24 points from Jason Terry and another 21 from Barea, the Mavericks’ bench outscored their Thunder counterparts 53-22. While we’re used to Terry’s scoring barrage off the pine, Barea can be hit or miss. But boy did he hit in the previous series against the Lakers, and he was equally deadly in Tuesday night’s series opener against OKC.

In his first stint in the first half, Barea had a quick nine points in just over nine minutes. But the real damage came in the fourth quarter, when the diminutive reserve took the game over for a brief stretch, and helped his team build the lead to a point of no return.

When Barea checked in 30 seconds into the final period, Dallas held a nine-point lead. He then proceeded to score his team’s next 12 points, pushing the lead to as many as 16 during that run. Barea used his speed to blow by defenders to get into the lane as Dallas spread the floor with its shooters, and he was able to finish at the rim, sometimes in traffic. And just when the defenders started to sag off of him and dare him to shoot from outside after he got to the basket for three consecutive layups, he nailed a 25-foot three-pointer, just because.

The performance from Barea was a microcosm of what teams in the playoffs have been finding out, as Dallas plows through them one by one on its seemingly inevitable march to the Finals. The Mavs are loaded; if Nowitzki doesn’t get you (which is unlikely given the transcendent level at which he’s performed this postseason), then Terry, Barea, or Jason Kidd will.

Bynum’s dirty and ridiculous hit on Barea late in the Lakers’ Game 4, 36-point loss in Dallas — you know, the one that earned him a five-game suspension to start next season, the biggest the league has handed out for an on-court action since the Knicks-Nuggets fight back in 2006 — was completely uncalled for. It was a poor decision in terms of how he wanted to vent the frustration of his season coming to an unexpected end, in no small part thanks to the play of a 5’11” reserve who carved up the Lakers at will for the better part of the series.

Don’t expect any member of the Oklahoma City Thunder to mimic Bynum’s actions at any point in the conference finals, no matter the situation. But just because they can control themselves better than Bynum did doesn’t mean they won’t share those same feelings of frustration.

  1. davidly - May 18, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    Yeah, it’s kind of hard not to give Dallas their props now that all the blame can’t be laid at the Lakers’ feet.

  2. delius1967 - May 18, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    It has to be annoying to the abnormally super-sized people who inhabit the NBA that someone who looks like he should be sweeping the floors of the stadium after the game is doing so much damage to them during it. I bet there are a lot of guys like Barea out there who simply don’t get a second look from teams because they are “too small”. You can’t build a team out of guys like this, but you can’t build a team out of 7-footers, either.

    When J.J. froze Nate Robinson in the second half and blew past him like Nate was a statue, I literally gasped. One of the best head fakes I’ve ever seen.

  3. chargerdillon - May 18, 2011 at 10:49 AM

    This guy is flat out impressive to watch. He’s got speed other guys can’t touch and after watching him shred OKC the same way he did to the Lakers, it sort of makes sense that you’re gonna have to drill this guy when he drives the lane…….OR HE’S GOING TO KEEP DRIVING THE LANE

    As a Lakers fan this is the exact type of guy the Lakers have needed for awhile now. I love Derek Fisher but its time to get some fresh legs at the position. I keep saying that if Fish is the starting PG next year, the Lakers are are one or two and done in the playoffs. This could all change however if a trade is made for Dwight Howard.

    Props to JJ

  4. philiplewis1 - May 18, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    From what I remember, he was a beast in the D league before they brought him up. I think he was averaging well over 30 a game. The contrast between him and Jason Kidd is also an advantage. You get adjusted to one and then the other comes back in with a different style and set of skills.

  5. cosanostra71 - May 18, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    I like the Mavs’ players, but just imagining how much more annoying Mark Cuban would be if he actually had a championship under his belt makes me root against the Mavericks.

    • jjared1101 - May 18, 2011 at 1:01 PM

      See…i never get this. As a Mavs fan, I love Mark Cuban (most Dallas fans feel this way). He’s spent money far and above most, shows he loves his team, is a true fan of the game, is a self made billionaire, and is trying to start a college football playoff system (which most people really want).

      So, what is it about Mark Cuban that people don’t like? Mavs fans who don’t like him have a gripe because they can say that they wish he would be more quiet because they feel it hurts their team. But, if you’re not a Mavericks fan, what do you care? Guy gives millions to charity (matches whatever he’s fined and sends it to charity every time), is a great business man, and is living a life that most can only dream of. Yea, sounds like a terrible guy.

      • chargerdillon - May 18, 2011 at 1:17 PM

        Mark Cuban is what every regular dude would be if he was a billionaire. Im a diehard Lakers fan, but im not butthurt about the butthurting the Mavs just put on them.

        The same rap on Mark Cuban is what i would call is the same rap on Philip Rivers of the Chargers. It’s not the person you really hate, it’s the actions/expressions you see them do that if you’re not a fan, really turns you off about them.

        Mark Cuban is a damn good owner for the simple fact he has a passion for what he spends his money on. People may not like his antics/expressions at times but the reality is anybody who’s going to tell you they dont want to have an owner that passionate about their investment is a flat out idiot. People are always going to hate, the majority of fans would apprecaite any owners support for their own product the way Cuban does.

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