DALLAS - During the Dallas Mavericks' 115-105 win over the Detroit Pistons, it was Tim Hardaway Jr. who led the way with a career-high 42 points. The University of Michigan alum had plenty of friends and family in the stands to witness it.
With Luka Doncic sidelined and Kristaps Porzingis going down with knee soreness midway through the game, it was clear Hardaway Jr. was needed as the No. 1 scoring option.
“Just being able to have them witness me play in person and being able to see them and being able to talk to them, it’s awesome man,” Hardaway said. “When Pops is in the building, I don’t know what it is.
“These things just happen, so I’m happy and thankful he was here.”
Hardaway Jr. managed to have what was comfortably the best performance of not only his Mavericks tenure, but his NBA career. His pervious career-high was 39 points - making this performance his first-ever 40-point performance.
It was an especially timely performance for Hardaway Jr. when factoring in he was previously in a scoring slump. Over his prior 10 performances, he was averaging just 10.9 points per game while going 33.6% from the field and 27.7% from beyond the arc.
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle had high expectations for Hardaway Jr. entering this game, but the eight-year NBA veteran went above and beyond exceeding them.
“He’s back here (in Michigan), his family’s here, his mom and dad are here, so it was clear to me that he was going to play a helluva lot of minutes one way or another and we were going to need him to be productive,” Carlisle said. “(But) 42 (points) was a little even more than even I expected, but he was our guy.
With how hot of a hand Hardaway Jr. had in this game, the Mavericks made it a point to get the ball to him down the stretch. He took on the role of lead closer scoring 17 consecutive points in the fourth quarter.
“We had to work to get him the ball," Carlisle said. "They were trying to deny him. One play late, we actually had him set a screen and that’s what got (Jalen) Brunson to the rim for a layup (that put Dallas up, 111-105 with 37.3 seconds to go). When a guy’s going like that, having him be a screener is often an effective strategy."
It was clear that Hardaway Jr. was simply not going to be denied a win at Little Caesars Arena. As he put it, he wasn't going to walk out with an 'L' with his family and friends from school in the stands
“Just being back where I went to school and just being able to play in front of my family and a couple of my friends, I didn’t want to leave out of here with an L.”
Next up for Hardaway Jr. and the Mavericks is the first installment of a back-to-back at the American Airlines Center. On Saturday, they will take on one of the NBA's hottest teams, the Washington Wizards, who have won 9 of their previous 10 outings.
Luka Doncic will be making his return to the lineup but Tim Hardaway Jr. will surely still be needed to have a strong outing. Both Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal are playing lights out as of late and the Dallas Mavericks need all the points they can get.