Just a dozen games into the season and the Dirk Nowitzki-Monta Ellis combination looks extremely promising.
In the first 12 games, the Dallas Mavericks’ 11-time All-Star and their newest star have each scored at least 20 points in the same game on five occasions. That includes the 37 points Ellis tallied and the 35 points Nowitzki chipped in during Wednesday’s electrifying 123-120 victory over the Houston Rockets.
The 72 points are the most by two Mavs in one game since Jamal Mashburn (42) and Jason Kidd (38) combined to score 80 against the Rockets on April 11, 1995.
Ellis and Nowitzki were the linchpins as the Mavs rallied from an 18-point deficit with 3:36 remaining in the third period to chase down and dethrone one of the NBA’s finer ballclubs.
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“They’re both stars in this league,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “And in big games and in big moments, your stars have got to be stars, and they were.
“We got a good balanced [Wednesday] night of them playing off each other and them getting other people involved. They’ve got to do a lot of work at both ends, because teams are trying to attack them.”
While Nowitzki is the consummate mainstay who can hoist a team on his shoulders and drag them to the winner’s circle, not many saw that leadership capability in Ellis.
When the Mavs signed Ellis to a three-year, $25 million free-agent contract this past summer, the one skill they knew he had in his pocket was his ability to fill up the basket.
But Ellis’ innate ability to crisply direct an offense, aggressively attack the basket and play solid defense has been unparalleled.
“I expected that he was going to be into winning, I thought he was going to be a hard worker and I thought that he was going to be a very talented guy, and he’s been all those things,” Carlisle said. “The thing I really love is how well he continues to adapt to our system and our personnel.”
Realizing the magnitude of the situation with him and Nowitzki, Ellis said: “If me and Dirk is going like that, the other team has a problem.”
And Houston had a problem Wednesday.
“We felt like we couldn’t get a stop to save our lives there for a long time and the only way to really stay in this game was to keep on scoring, and that’s what we did,” Nowitzki said. “Monta was attacking again all night and was phenomenal.
“I happen to hit my first couple of shots, which is always big for the confidence of a shooter, and I just kept on attacking from there.”
The attacks by Nowitzki and Ellis helped the Mavs improve to 6-0 at home, 8-4 overall and 2-0 on this three-game homestand, which ends Friday night at 7:30 when Dallas hosts the Utah Jazz at American Airlines Center.
Marion plans to play
Forward Shawn Marion popped in a pair of key baskets late in Wednesday’s win, but also strained his right groin in the comeback.
Marion, however, said he should be able play Friday against Utah.
“I tweaked it a little bit, but it’s all good — I’ll be all right,” Marion said. “I’m going to play.
“We treated it [Thursday], we’ll treat it again [Friday] and do it again right before the game.”