How it happened: The Clippers couldn’t stop the former Miss Universe’s boyfriend.
J.J. Barea, the proud beau of 2006 Miss Universe Zuleyka Rivera, simply dominated the fourth quarter of a contest that was closer than the Mavs would have liked with a game against the Lakers less than 24 hours away. Barea had 16 of his 22 points in the final frame, allowing Jason Kidd to rest most of the quarter.
With Barea running the point, the Mavs seemed to have closed the door on the lottery-bound Clippers with 19-5 run early in the fourth quarter. Barea had nine points during the spurt, during which LA point guard Mo Williams got frustrated enough to pick up a pair of technical fouls and get tossed.
But LA didn’t go away. The Clippers went on an 11-0 run, highlighted by a pair of pretty transition spin moves by budding superstar Blake Griffin (25 points, 17 rebounds), to pull within five points. That caused coach Rick Carlisle to put Kidd, who had hoped to sit the whole quarter, on the floor.
Barea delivered the dagger, going on a personal 5-0 run to extend the Mavs’ lead back to double digits with two minutes to play.
The Mavs needed Barea to fill the backcourt closer role. Jason Terry usually fills that role but never got going, scoring only six points on 2-of-11 shooting.
What it means: Second place in the West is at stake Thursday night. The Mavs have pulled within a half-game of the Lakers with a five-game winning streak against non-playoff foes. The Mavs survived the tuneup. Now comes the true test.
Play of the game: The Mavs turned a Blake Griffin airball into a transition dunk midway through the fourth quarter. J.J. Barea rebounded the miss and hit Jason Terry with an outlet pass. Terry one-timed it to Dirk Nowitzki, who was filling the right lane and finished with a tomahawk dunk to extend the Mavs’ lead to nine points. A frustrated Griffin made bad worse, getting whistled for a technical foul after the play.
Stat of the night: The Mavs are 9-2 in games after they’ve had at least two days off. That’s the best record in the NBA.