As they continue to climb up the Western Conference playoff ladder, the Dallas Mavericks turned in a rather business-like performance on Friday.
Unfortunately, another injury potentially could derail all the momentum the Mavs have stored up over the past two weeks.
Monta Ellis poured in a game-high 22 points as the Mavs made quick work of the Utah Jazz, winning 103-81 before a sellout crowd of 19,928 at American Airlines Center. It was a season-high-tying fourth straight win for the Mavs, who improved to 30-21 and moved into a virtual tie with the Phoenix Suns for the seventh playoff spot in the West.
But the victory was tempered by an apparent leg injury to Ellis, who limped off the floor with 3:35 left in the game while favoring his right hamstring.
“Any time a player walks out early, there’s concern,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “But we’ll get it checked out. I’m not going to talk about it right now until I get an official thing. Probably, I think, it’s a hamstring, but beyond that I don’t know.”
Carlisle said he also didn’t know if the hamstring will keep Ellis off the court for an extended period of time. Ellis will undergo an MRI Saturday to determine the severity of his injury.
Ellis had 13 of his points in the first half, when the Mavs compiled a 54-43 lead. They kept applying more pressure in the second half, outscoring the Jazz 49-38 while racking up their 14th double-digit win of the season.
The Mavs, who have been terrific on the boards lately, outrebounded the Jazz 48-37. Five Dallas players picked off at least five rebounds, led by forward Vince Carter, who pulled down a game-high eight boards.
“We have a lot of scorers, so it’s just attack mode but find the open guy,” Carter said. “Tonight was definitely important for the guards and even the small forwards to kind of get in there and get a couple of rebounds.”
The only other time the Mavs won four straight games this season was Nov. 16-22, when they beat Orlando, Philadelphia, Houston and Utah.
The Mavs got 20 points from Dirk Nowitzki, 12 points and seven assists from Jose Calderon and 12 points and six rebounds from Samuel Dalembert, who contributed back-to-back dunks and a nifty tip-in basket off a feed from Calderon early in the second half.
Brandan Wright then coaxed in a sweet dunk via a pass from Carter. Shortly thereafter, Devin Harris dropped a pass off to Wright for yet another dunk for an 80-66 lead.
“These are the kind of games you have to win,” said Calderon, who converted 4 of 7 3-pointers. “I think everybody had that in our minds before we started the game. And as I said, we came ready to play, and everyone who stepped on the court did a great job tonight.”
The 22-point win ties for the Mavs’ largest margin of victory of the season. The Mavs plastered the Chicago Bulls 105-83 on Dec. 28.
The win also put Dallas nine games over .500 for the first time since the Mavs were 21-12 on Feb. 20, 2012.
But as the Mavs embark on a three-game road trip that starts Sunday in Boston and continues with games against Charlotte and Indiana, they’ll do so not knowing if Ellis will be able to play.
“The teams we’re playing are going to be physical, combative teams like Utah and like Memphis and like Cleveland,” Carlisle said. “It’s been kind of a murderer’s row of teams that are physical and that are an attacking sort of mentality. It’s a big challenge for us.”
Especially if Ellis can’t play and give the Mavs what he gave them Friday against the Jazz.