DALLAS -- Little J.J. Barea is playing rather big. So much so that New Orleans Hornets coach Monty Williams had this to say about a Dallas Mavericks roster that employs the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion.
"The guy that really scares us, scares me," Williams said prior to Monday's game, "is Barea."
"He said that?" Barea said with a smile in the postgame locker room.
And for good reason. After a slow start to the season, Barea has been at his antagonizing best on both ends of the floor. He's scored in double figures in three of the last four games, and although he had just seven points in Monday's win over the Hornets, he dished out four assists in the decisive fourth quarter by penetrating the Hornets defense. At the other end he didn't give All-Star point guard Chris Paul any room to breath.
Barea played the entire fourth quarter Monday and he again showed that when surrounded by scorers, he can be tremendously effective. Coach Rick Carlisle made extensive use of the three-guard lineup with Jason Kidd at small forward and Jason Terry at shooting guard. Barea outscored Paul 2-0, out-assisted him 4-3 and even out-rebounded him, 1-0. But, modest stats on paper are only the tangible portion of Barea's success.
"It was great tonight. I couldn't wait to just start using pick-and-rolls and getting in the paint tonight. I knew it was going to work against this team. So, finally we started getting me some pick-and-rolls and we started pushing the ball. With the shooters we've got, with J.T., J-Kidd and Dirk, it's so easy for us. If I get in that paint and create for others it's awesome."
With Caron Butler out of the lineup the last three games, Barea has stepped up as a finisher. He's played the entire fourth quarter in the past three games.
In Friday's win against the Philadelphia 76ers, Barea scored 12 of his team-high 19 points in the fourth. He actually didn't play the entire final period. Carlisle let the fans give him a hand as he take Barea out with 34.7 seconds left to play.