At some point you might seriously wonder if Maxi Kleber didn’t feel alone out there in the threes. The Dallas Mavericks’ German basketball player spent much of the second round of the first round in the NBA playoffs against the Utah Jazz as a solo wrestler. He held his position, waited for the passes and then “continued” as he later put it. Holding him worked so well that the Würzburg player scored 25 points after his team’s 110:104.
Kleber, 30, hit a total of eight threes in the basket – more than ever before in his five-year basketball career. In addition to his faithful teammate Jalen Brunson (41 points), the German also played an important role in the 1-1 draw against Utah in the series. “It was clear they were going to let one or the other of us go – and today almost all of us got in,” said Kleber, who was still swaying in the interview after the final siren, as if he was about to let the next move fly.
In the playoffs, the defensive lines pack a lot more than in the extended regular season. There are tactics, analysis and adjustments, who develops danger with the opponent – and who can save strength on the defensive.
Kleber scored eight goals in eleven attempts against Utah
Not entirely without good reason, the Utah Jazz devised the plan to grant Kleber his freedom from the outside. ‘Cause the wingman’s been on the call since the start of the year shooting drop: He tried so hard, but he just couldn’t beat it anymore. Since then, just under 19% of their trios have met their fate. But this time it was almost 80 percent (eight hits in eleven attempts).
The Mavericks also went into the playoffs worried because of their slack in the offense because they desperately need glue – at both ends of the field. Under his own basket he’s something of a Secretary of Defense in Dallas, his octopus arms and talent for rebounds and blocks holding things in the back. When Luka Doncic did magic on offense during the season, there were spaces for players like Kleber. His task: to hit when he’s free, because everything falls on Doncic.
But this time Slovenia’s exceptional talent did not play. Doncic, 23, missed the Mavericks’ first two playoff games injured and his return is eagerly awaited, including by Kleber. “He is our best player, of course we need him back on the pitch as soon as possible,” explained the German. The prospects for game three (Friday 03:00 CET) are uncertain, but the Dallas director’s calf injury appears to be on the mend.
“I know he really wants to play,” his rep Brunson said of Doncic after his brilliant day: “He does everything he can to be there for his team. We’re just trying to buy him time.” So the Mavericks are aware that this streak can be long, they really need a healthy Doncic. And until then, they also have Maxi Kleber, whom their coach Jason Kidd has explicitly emphasized: “He didn’t score in the last few games of the main round. But he’s a pro, he keeps going. because he can.” The only question is whether opponents will let him stand so freely again.