This probably won’t be included in the Dallas Mavericks’ end-of-the-season highlight reel, but they’ll take it just the same.
The young and gritty Philadelphia 76ers made the Mavs sweat until the very end Monday night at American Airlines Center before Dallas eked out a 97-94 triumph.
Monta Ellis shook off a slow start to tally 19 of his team-high 24 points in the second half as the Mavs (7-4) opened their three-game homestand on a solid note.
In addition to Ellis, the Mavs had some other players do some heavy lifting. Dirk Nowitzki wound up manufacturing his first double-double since February as he collected 20 points and 10 rebounds.
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Shawn Marion battled mightily and finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and two steals, and Jose Calderon fired in 14 points.
The game marked some changes for the Mavs, who had been rock-steady in using the same starting lineup for the first 10 games this season. However, against the Sixers, Jae Crowder started in place of Samuel Dalembert and the move almost prove detrimental to the Mavs.
Crowder had a miserable night, finishing with just two points, six rebounds and three turnovers and made only 1 of 8 shots.
Meanwhile, Dalembert, who used to play for the Sixers, battled gamely and collected eight points, a season-high 14 rebounds and three blocks.
Also, in his short but impressive debut, rookie point guard Shane Larkin had three points, three assists and three steals in only nine minutes.
Ellis tallied 13 of the 31 points in the third quarter when the Mavs finally seized some control. Ellis added six points in the fourth quarter when the Sixers were still clinging to the Mavs.
“It was just the timing and the flow of the game,” Ellis said, referring to when he found the ball often in his hands during the crucial moments. “It was something that Coach went to, and my teammates look for me to make plays now, not only for myself, but for others.
“And they put me in a great position, and that’s what I tried to do.”
Ellis found his teammates for a season-high 10 assists. One of them came when he found Dalembert for a dunk and an 88-81 Mavs lead.
Calderon followed with a 3-pointer off a feed from Ellis. And when Marion blasted down court for a breakaway dunk via a pass from Nowitzki, the Mavs had bolted to their largest lead of the night (96-87) with 2:08 left.
As a whole, coach Rick Carlisle lamented changing his lineup.
“The lineup to start the game didn’t work out,” Carlisle said. “Everyone who played contributed and this is a survival-type game.
“We did what we had to do to win.”
The Mavs were sloppy most of the night, turning the ball over 21 times that led to 22 points for Philadelphia. Dallas also shot 43.6 percent from the field and limited the Sixers to 38.4 percent shooting.
Dallas didn’t take its first lead until Marion darted down the court for a dunk and a 70-69 advantage with 1:41 remaining in the third period. Before then, it appeared as though the Mavs were sleep-walking while wallowing in a sea of turnovers.
To Dalembert’s credit, he didn’t complain about not starting, saying he would do what’s best for the team.
“He was terrific,” Carlisle said. “Sam showed why he was valuable to us, but we’ve known it all along.”