Tim Hardaway Jr. may be playing his best stretch of basketball since spring 2021, and it came when the Dallas Mavericks need him most.

On Tuesday night, in a 116-115 win over the Denver Nuggets, Hardaway scored a team-high 29 points and made six threes. The game vaulted him into an exclusive club, becoming the 10th player in NBA history to make at least five threes in five-straight games.

On that same list is sure-fire Hall of Famers Steph Curry and James Harden. Hardaway occupying any list those two are on speaks to how well he’s playing since breaking out of a shooting slump six games ago.

“I think every team needs to have a big game, I would say, to feel like they’re getting some juice,” Hardaway said. “When Luka’s having to collapse a defense, bring two guys to him, we’ve just got to make his job a lot easier and knock down shots.”

That has clearly been true for Hardaway as of late.

Hardaway’s five-game run

In the last five games, Hardaway is averaging 24 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Even more miraculously, Hardaway is shooting 51 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from three. No, that is not a typo. Yes, you read that right.

He is playing free and finding the shots he’s known to make. More than anything, however, he’s taking advantage of the looks Luka Doncic’s gravity creates.

To start the season, Hardaway was getting many of the same looks but he wasn’t converting. Maybe it had something to do with his foot injury. Maybe it was a confidence thing. But whatever it may have been, he’s put it on the back burner, and Dallas is better for it.

When Hardaway entered the starting lineup, the Mavericks’ offensive rating ballooned to 132.3. And the team’s net rating sits at 17.9 in 142 minutes he’s played with Luka Doncic. During those minutes, Dallas shot 136-255 FG (53.3%) and 69-139 from three (49.6%), while opponents shot 41-112 from three (36.6%).

For this team to be great, Dallas needs Hardaway to be the best version of himself. That’s what has made the difference in the Mavericks’ three-game win streak. Not Christian Wood being something he’s not, or Doncic doing what he does — it’s been Hardaway finally looking like the player Dallas thought was re-signing during the summer of 2021.

It’s about time.

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Feature image via Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports