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Monday, May 9, 2011
J.J. Barea is getting job done in big way

By Jeff Caplan

DALLAS -- J.J. Barea continues to be such a pest at both ends of the floor that he's still inducing forearm shivers out of frustration. Andrew Bynum took it to a mid-air collision danger level in Game 4, and Ron Artest specialized in the clothesline face-rake at the end of Game 2.

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Why's everybody always got to pick on the little guy?

"It happens," Barea said after Sunday's Game 4 romp that eliminated the Los Angeles Lakers from the playoffs and launched the Mavs into the Western Conference final. "I'm the guy that takes it in there. It happens sometimes in basketball. You've just got to be ready for it."

Teams now know they better be ready to deal with the diminutive Barea. The backup point guard has taken a lot of heat over the years from the home fans who become frustrated some of Barea's dribbling exploits, but there's no denying that Barea's ability to play the pick-and-roll and get to the rim is invaluable to his team.

He dismantled the Lakers in the second-round sweep. He dominated the fourth quarter of Game 2 with eight points and a pair of assists to break that game open and he scored a career playoff-high 22 points in Game 4.

"Awesome," Barea said. "I just wanted to give it all to my teammates to get a win so I made sure I came off the bench with a lot of energy. The pick-and-rolls were working and we were running them a lot."

Barea is averaging 7.7 points and 3.7 rebounds in 17.8 minutes a game behind Jason Kidd, and he's kept his turnovers down, just 1.1 a game. Against the Lakers, Barea was superb, averaging 11.5 points on 17-of-34 shooting and 5.5 assists. He was so frustrating to the Lakers that they took two cheap shots on him.

The Artest flagrant foul in Game 2 got him suspended for Game 3 and Bynum's shot drew harsh criticism as a classless act from Lakers legend Magic Johnson.

"J.J. really had a great series," Dirk Nowitzki said. "I think he had some problems in the Portland series because they were so big and physical with him...He was phenomenal attacking [the Lakers]. He was great in the fourth quarter, really won us the game in Game 2. Same thing [in Game 4]. He came in and I think we ran like 10 or 11 possessions in a row of pick-and-roll because they were having trouble guarding him and he was getting in the lane."

Barea finished with eight assists to go with 22 points. Since Game 6 of the first round, Barea has racked up 26 assists and no fewer than four in each of those five games.

In his fifth season since the Mavs signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Northeastern, the Puerto Rico native has emerged as very capable backup on a title-contending team.

"He's also improved," Nowitzki said. "I remember days when he got in there [the lane], got airborne and then trying to look for something. I saw him got in there [against the Lakers in Game 4], had nothing [in the lane], dribbled back out, attacked again, run the pick-and-roll, and went back in there [and scored]. He looked poised out there and he ran the show, so I was real proud of him."