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How former U-M star Tim Hardaway Jr. has helped lead Dallas Mavericks in playoffs

Hardaway’s play has been a big part of the Clippers being on the ropes.

NBA: Playoffs-Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Clippers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

With 1:03 left to play in Game 2 of the playoff matchup between the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles, a dagger three was hit to secure the 127-121 win for Dallas and give the Mavs a 2-0 lead in the series.

The dagger wasn’t hit by rising star Luka Doncic, who led the Mavericks with 39 points in the win.

The dagger wasn’t hit by Kristaps Porzingis, once viewed as a future star in the NBA who has struggled with injuries throughout his career.

The go-ahead three was hit by Tim Hardaway Jr., the former Michigan basketball standout who helped the Mavericks to victory. That shot gave Hardaway Jr. 28 points, as the former Wolverine shot 9 for 14 from the field, including 6 for 8 from three to go along with 5 assists in a big win.

Hardaway Jr. has helped the Mavericks take a commanding lead over the Clippers in this opening-round matchup.

Over his first two games of the 2021 postseason, Hardaway Jr. has racked up 49 points. He has been scorching hot from three, shooting 64.7 percent from deep and posting an impressive +29 when on the court.

After coming off the bench in a sixth-man role for most of the season, Hardaway Jr. has thrived in his starting role in the playoffs.

Michigan basketball might be feeling a sense of Deja vu, as much like his college days playing with Trey Burke as the primary ball-handler, Hardaway Jr. has thrived working off Doncic as a secondary scoring option that NBA defenses forget about when focused on the young star.

While most NBA draft analysts saw Hardaway Jr. as a 3-and-D guy, THJ has become more than that with the Mavericks, proving to be a reliable scoring option who can score in a litany of ways.

Hardaway Jr. showed his ability as a versatile in Game 2. He didn’t just convert on kick-out threes off Doncic passes; he executed beautifully in the Pick-and-Roll, scoring directly off ball screens with off-the-dribble threes and a decent little floater.

He’s far from the fastest guy in the league, but the 8-year NBA veteran has learned how some savvy moves when driving.

At the 1:48 mark of the video below, watch how effectively he changes speed in transition, stepping through the lane and evading defenders with a nice euro step to get to the cup.

It’s inaccurate to say that Hardaway scored on that possession by turning on the boosters and being the fastest guy on the court like Ja Morant or De’Aaron Fox.

Rather, Hardaway Jr. showcases his veteran savvy, taking what the defense gives him and attacking at the perfect timing to catch the Clippers before they get set defensively

Last week, Tim Hardaway Jr. told The Dallas Morning News that feels like he’s been playing the best offensive basketball of his career, partially thanks to the support he has received from his college teammates.

While it seems unlikely that Hardaway Jr. will continue to score at the pace that he is throughout the entire playoffs, being a reliable scoring option who is more than a role player has helped Hardaway Jr. secure a spot in the Mavericks rotation.

Hardaway Jr. becomes an unrestricted free agent at year’s end, and with the health status of Porzingis always seeming to be up in the air, signing the former Wolverine to another deal should be one of Dallas’ main priorities this offseason.