Hot streak melts J.J. Barea's frozen start

DALLAS -- Unlike a struggling baseball pitcher who tweaks his mechanics, J.J. Barea said he didn't do much differently to get his shooting stroke working again.

"Maybe leaning forward a little bit more, maybe I was fading back," Barea suggested after he scored 19 critical points in the Mavericks' 111-106 win over Houston Thursday night. "But, I just kept shooting and worked out a little bit more than usual. When I got my rhythm then it just started working."

Barea got off to an awful first two months of the season, but he's turned things around with perhaps the best month of his career. He'll be sorry to see January go.

From Dec. 31 through Thursday's game, Barea has raised his scoring average from 7.1 points to 8.5. To understand the depths of Barea's shooting woes through the first two months of the season, consider how hot he's been in January: 47.4 percent from the field (63-of-133) and 54.8 percent from 3-point range (17-of-31). Yet, his season totals are still only at 41.3 percent overall and 28.4 percent from beyond the arc.

"In November and December, the way he was playing, he probably wouldn’t have handled it [the ball in late-game situations]," Dirk Nowitzki said. "The way he’s been playing has been phenomenal. Every shot looks good, so he deserves to get the ball."

And coach Rick Carlisle has given it to him when it's mattered most. Barea has been the primary ball-handler in late-game situations during the team's three-game winnings streak, the first in a month.

He hasn't disappointed. The last three games likely go down near the top of the best stretches of his career. He's scored 52 points on 20-of-28 shooting from the floor, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range and 7-of-7 from the free throw line. He has 11 assists and four turnovers, and doing it in an average of just 26 minutes -- with heavy playing time coming in the fourth quarter.

"It’s really big. It’s big for us, big for us to get wins and especially it just gives me a lot of confidence," Barea said. "Coach and my teammates did a great job of trusting me and giving me confidence, and coach does a good job calling plays and the pick-and-roll for me."