J.J Barea.

J.J Barea has proved to be the unlikely saviour for the Dallas Mavericks

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The Dallas Mavericks are on the cusp of securing a playoff birth for the third consecutive year and they have one man, above all else, to thank for saving their faltering campaign: J.J. Barea. 

Sitting seventh in the Western Conference at the beginning of March, the 2011 champions embarked on a 12-game run that threatened to undo all of their hard work from the previous 61 encounters. 

Picking up two wins in a dozen games, the pressure was building on the franchise as the Houston Rockets looked to take advantage and sneak into the top eight. 

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However, a run of six consecutive victories has halted the slide and Barea, in particular, has stepped up to the plate when it really mattered. With just three games to go in the regular season, the Texas-based organisation need just one more win to clinch their playoff birth. 

It has been a strong season for the Puerto Rican but, in the five games before last night's win over the Memphis Grizzlies, he took his play to a new level.

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He averaged 24.2 points per night through the games and shot an impressive 53.9 percent from his 89 field goal attempts. He also shot a solid 50 percent from three-point land. 

Along with his sharp shooting, he has been passing the rock to great effect and it has led to some brilliant team displays from the franchise. Throughout the encounters, he accumulated a total of 35 dimes. 

So impressive were his displays against the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks, two victories that halted a three-game losing streak, he worked his way back into the starting five at the expense of Raymond Felton. 

The 97-88 victory over Denver saw the former Minnesota Timberwolves man drop 18 points and 11 assists for only the second double-double in his 73 outings this season. 

In truth, it's been a good season for Barea. He is averaging 11 points a night - the highest in his Dallas career - and is shooting the highest percentage from the field throughout his time as an NBA star. 

But his performances in those five games are what stood out. He was awarded the NBA's Western Conference Player of the Week honour five days ago, and there was nobody else more deserving of the prize.

There was a worrying moment for the 31-year-old during the Mavericks' win over the Grizzlies as he left the game in the first half due to a groin injury. With playoff basketball almost in the bag, Mavs fans will be hoping their surprise star can make a full recovery in time for the first encounter of the postseason. 

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors

Just one game back from Friday night's opponents, there is still the possibility of finishing sixth, which would offer a potentially easier - we use the term lightly - first round tie against the Oklahoma City Thunder as opposed to the San Antonio Spurs or Golden State Warriors. 

Barea will be a loss for the final three games, but he has more than done his job. At a time when Dallas were crying out for someone to step up, the point guard proved to be the unlikely hero.

Dirk Nowitzki
Dallas Mavericks
Southwest Division
Western Conference
J.J. Barea

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