Mirza Teletovic had his best career game Friday night. Credit: Getty Images
When Mirza Teletovic made his first two off-balance 3-pointers off catch and shoot plays, one thing was important to his teammates: Get him the ball.
His teammates did and Teletovic enjoyed the finest game of his NBA career with 34 points in a 107-106 victory over the Mavericks Friday night.
“It was fun,” Paul Pierce said. “We got a guy like that who gets it going, you want to give them the ball. You know that feeling they have and they feel like they’re going to make everything.”
The Nets continued their progression toward .500 by winning for the ninth time in 10 games and seventh straight time at home.
Teletovic wound up shooting 12-of-18 from the floor and made 7-of-11 from 3-point range. The 3-point barrage by the second-year Bosnian came mostly as a result of transition plays or during times when the Mavericks’ defense was focused on stopping on other Nets.
“I think that’s why they bring me here and I’m glad I can bring it to them,” Teletovic said. “I’m trying every night to bring it like that and it’s very important when I’m in the game to stretch the floor and I think I’m doing a pretty good job right now.”
Teletovic’s 34 points were the most by a foreign-born Nets player since the late Drazen Petrovic had 34 points on Feb. 14, 1993. Petrovic shot 12-of-18 in that win over the Heat but the big difference was that he took only two 3-pointers.
The best game of Teletovic’s 87-game career came on a night when he played over 25 minutes for the 11th time this season after rarely getting opportunities last year. Still, even without the playing time, teammates saw what he could do in practices and his progress on defense, which Teletovic believes is why he’s getting the time now.
“It speaks a lot about him,” Deron Williams said. “[He was] definitely frustrated a lot last year with his lack of playing time. Mirza’s a competitor and he’s been one of the top players in Europe for a long time. It was a little hit to his ego and he felt like he could contribute and help.”
“I think [it’s] just the opportunity for him playing, but also too his work ethic,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “He doesn’t just show up on game day shooting. He’s working extremely hard at his game. I think also, a big credit goes to his teammates because they believe in him. As much as the coaches believe in him, his teammates in that locker room believe that he’s going to do the right thing when he has the ball.”
Most of Teletovic’s scoring came in the second quarter when he scored 24 points while making 6-of-7 3-pointers during a 39-point period that had him feeling like he was in heat check mode. The highlight of the 3-point barrage that made him look like Craig Hodges during a 1990s 3-point shooting contest at All-Star weekend was an open 3-pointer at the top of the key as Dirk Nowitzki was late on his defensive rotation.
“Dirk is a legend,” Teletovic said. “He’s a very-known guy and I played against him a lot of times in Germany. It’s just a big honor playing against him.”
Even with Teletovic’s big quarter, and his first 30-point game at any professional level since a 32-point night for Caja Laboral against Olympiacos in Game 8 of the 2011-12 Euro League tournament on Dec. 8, 2011, the Nets needed a few more of those big shots in the fourth quarter.
The Nets seemingly put the game away when Teletovic drained a 3-pointer from in front of the Dallas bench for a 100-89 lead with 4:35 remaining. But Dallas came back with six straight points before Teletovic hit a running 15-footer from the left wing for a 102-95 lead with 1:13 left. Andrei Kirilenko iced it when Nowitzki seemed to purposely miss a second foul shot with 7.1 seconds left in a two-point game and Kirilenko grabbed the rebound.
When it was over, Garnett threw up the ball and pumped his fist in celebration.
“Mirza carried us tonight man,” Garnett said. “I thought offensively he was in a rhythm and for a while, I thought we had great shots, great looks. Some of them fell, some of them didn’t, but when he came in, he definitely gave us a different spark tonight and we were all excited for him.”