Dallas Mavericks get Tim Hardaway Jr. back from ankle injury ahead of Game 1 vs. Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Dallas Mavericks will be without key contributor Maxi Kleber against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals. However, they receive a boost with the return of Tim Hardaway Jr. to the lineup after recovering from a sprained right ankle. He has participated in several practices since Game 6 of the team’s first-round playoff series.

Mavericks coach Jason Kidd announced Monday that Hardaway, who suffered a sprained right ankle in Game 2 of the first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers, would be available for Tuesday’s opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder. While Kleber’s absence is a significant loss, Hardaway’s return provides a much-needed punch off the bench.

“It’s unfortunate to lose Maxi,” Kidd said. “Maxi was playing well for us, defensively and offensively. But getting Timmy back is a good thing. We’re going to need Timmy coming off the bench to give us some offense, and his playoff experience is going to be crucial.”

April 14, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States; Dallas Mavericks forward Tim Hardaway Jr. (10) walks to / Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Hardaway, who averaged 14.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 79 games this season, shooting 40.2 percent from the floor and 35.3 percent from beyond the arc , will be considered a spark coming off the bench and will help fill the void left. by Kléber’s injury.

With the Thunder’s strong half-court defense anchored by Chet Holmgren’s rim protection, Hardaway’s perimeter shooting could be a helpful factor. The Mavericks have gone 37-20 this season when Hardaway makes multiple 3-pointers. However, given that there are limits, a natural balance must be taken into account when considering defensive impact.

As the Mavericks play without Kleber, it will be difficult for the team to deploy larger roster combinations, creating a bigger path for Hardaway and Dante Exum to move into important roles off the bench. Oklahoma City does not deploy significant perimeter personnel, which makes this all the more important.

With Hardaway back in the mix, Dallas looks to make a deep playoff run despite the setback. His playoff experience and scoring ability will be crucial in the series against Oklahoma City.

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