UNC in the NBA: Harrison Barnes hits game-winner for Mavericks

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 20: Harrison Barnes
DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 20: Harrison Barnes /

Harrison Barnes drains 30-footer at buzzer, propels Mavericks to victory over Grizzlies

There usually aren’t a whole lot of bright spots on a team that’s won just 4 times in its first 19 games. And it’s difficult to find the silver lining for a team that’s sitting dead last in the NBA’s toughest conference, already five games out of the eighth playoff spot.

For the 2017-18 Dallas Mavericks, though, it would undoubtedly be the play of veteran small forward Harrison Barnes.

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The sixth-year player out of North Carolina has turned his slow start around by averaging nearly 22 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in the month of November. His current averages of 19.5 points and 7.1 rebounds, extrapolated out over the course of a season, would both be career-highs. Both his points and rebounds, as well as minutes per game, are also tops for the Mavericks.

Barnes scored 22 or more points just twice in the Mavericks’ first six games of the season. In the past 13 games, though, he’s done it seven times. He’s scored 25 or more points four times over the past month, including a season-high of 31, which he did against both the Wizards and Celtics.

On Wednesday night, Barnes took things a step further when the final three of his game-high 22 points came on a 30-foot game-winning jumper as time expired.

With just half a second remaining in regulation and the Mavericks down by two, Dennis Smith, Jr. inbounded the ball to Barnes several feet behind the three-point line. Barnes, covered closely by Grizzlies small forward Dillon Brooks, quickly heaved the ball over his defender and toward the basket.

The ball bounced squarely off the center of the backboard and into the goal, giving the Mavericks the lead with no time left on the clock. The referees would review the play to confirm that the ball left Barnes’ hands in time, but replay showed that he got the shot off just in time.

It’s worth noting that it’s the second “L” that Brooks has taken at the hands of a Tar Heel in the last 10 months. In April, Brooks’ Oregon Ducks lost a one-point thriller in the Final Four to eventual national champion North Carolina.

A changing of the guard has happened in Dallas with the evident aging and degeneration of future Hall-of-Famer Dirk Nowitzki, and Barnes’ development and near nine-figure contract. Now, the team clearly belongs to Barnes and Smith, the up-and-coming rookie point guard out of North Carolina State.

Next: Coby White's triple-double leads Greenfield to victory

Stick with Keeping It Heel for more on Barnes throughout the season, as well as the various North Carolina alumni in the NBA and internationally.