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3-pointer: Yi Jianlian proves he’s ready to go

DALLAS — Yi Jianlian hadn’t played meaningful minutes since March 13. He hadn’t made more than one bucket since Feb. 29. Rust? Forget that.

Rick Carlisle‘s second-quarter look at a lineup with Brandan Wright at power forward now that Lamar Odom is out of the picture and Ian Mahinmi at center was short-circuited thanks to Mahinmi’s foul trouble. In stepped Yi at the 10:22 mark, and less than five minutes later the 7-footer from China had splashed four jumpers from 17 feet and deeper for eight points to quickly surpass Odom’s average of 6.6.

“It was huge for us. It energized us and kept us going,” Carlisle said. “Even though we didn’t play a great first half because we were turning it over, his hoops made a big difference for us.” “He was great, came in looking for his shot right away, made a couple, brought some energy, brought some toughness there on the post,” Nowitzki said. “I’ve always liked him. I like what he brings to the team. Hopefully he can gain some momentum, some confidence and keep playing well.”

Yi played 5:43 in the first half and went to the locker room tied for the team scoring lead with Brendan Haywood, while Dirk Nowitzki was 1-of-6 for four points and the starting five managed just 23 points. That’s how impactful Yi’s instant offense was to the cause. In fact, Odom had scored at least eight points in just three of his last 21 games. What does this mean for Yi in upcoming games? That’s hard to answer. But with four games in five nights coming up on a challenging road trip, Yi could be in line to see at least some spot minutes.

“I think the guys understand that there is some fluidity to our rotation, that everybody has to be ready,” Carlisle said. “Yi gave the greatest example tonight of the importance of depth on this team in this season. What he did tonight was professional, I mean that’s a pro. The guy has kept himself completely ready and to come in there and knock in four shots in a row, it’s big time.”

A member of the Chinese media contingent that follows Yi throughout the season enjoyed the Yi-Wright combination at the 4 and 5 so much during that second-quarter stretch that he asked Nowitzki if that pairing reminds him at all of a Nowitzki-Tyson Chandler pairing.


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