Hot-shooting Dirk Nowitzki showed why the Western Conference coaches voted him to the All-Star game for a 12th time.
But it was Monta Ellis who snapped out of a cold spell Friday night to contribute mightily to the Dallas Mavericks’ 107-103 triumph over the Sacramento Kings at American Airlines Center.
Ellis scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half, including five in the final 12.4 seconds, as the Mavs held off the pesky Kings to run their record to 27-21. The victory enabled the Mavs to remain a half-game ahead of Memphis — the Grizzlies beat Minnesota on Friday 94-90 — for the No. 8 playoff spot in the West.
Along with 34 points from Nowitzki, the shot in the arm from Ellis helped catapult the Mavs to 2-1 on a four-game homestand, which ends Monday against Cleveland.
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Saddled with just 17 points and 12 turnovers in his previous two games, Ellis was 6 of 10 from the field Friday and also finished with three steals, three assists and his first no-turnover game of the season.
“I thought Ellis played probably his best all-around game of the season,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He had zero turnovers, he was extremely disciplined at both ends of the floor.
“He waited for the opportunities to pop and then he got to the rim, he had assists and he made huge free throws at the end. So he was fantastic tonight.”
A three-point play by Ellis gave the Mavs a 105-100 lead with 12.4 seconds left. Marcus Thornton then hit a 3-pointer to narrow the Kings’ deficit to two points with 5.6 seconds remaining.
Ellis, though, sealed it for the Mavs with a pair of free throws with 4.6 seconds to go. It all helped cap off a night when the Mavs rallied from 14 points down late in the third quarter to upend a Kings team that played without their best player, DeMarcus Cousins, who has missed the past five games with a sprained left ankle.
Brandan Wright also was effective for the Mavs as he recorded his first double-double of the season, finishing with 10 points and a season-high 10 rebounds. Six of those points and five of those rebounds came in the fourth quarter
“It was tough for us, said Wright, who was 4 of 6 from the field. “We got down big at the start of the third quarter and we were fighting out of that hole the whole time.’’
The game appeared as though it was about to get away from the Mavs. A furious 41-14 run by the Kings bridging the second and third quarters catapulted them to a 76-62 lead with over four minutes remaining in the third period.
But the scrappy Mavs, who got 12 points in the fourth quarter from Nowitzki and another 11 from Ellis, scrambled back and held off the Kings at the end.
“It was a tough night because our shot-making wasn’t great,’’ Carlisle said. “It took us almost 3 1/2 quarters to hit a 3, and on those nights you’ve got to hang in somehow, and Sacramento had a pretty good groove going.
“In the second half we had zero turnovers as a team and that’s the only way we were going to win that game, because the shots weren’t falling. I just took a lot of grit to hang in — we got down, but we hung in.”