DALLAS DALLAS Apparently, the Dallas Mavericks got sick and tired of being the Denver Nuggets’ favorite whipping boy.
So they finally went out and did something about it.
With Monta Ellis erupting for 14 points in the fourth quarter on Friday, the Mavs scored 61 points in each half to race past the Nuggets 122-106 at American Airlines Center.
The Mavs won after losing to the Nuggets three previous times this season. Dallas (42-28) moved into seventh place in the Western Conference playoff race thanks to Miami’s 91-86 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Mavs’ 42 wins surpassed their total of last season, when they finished 41-41 and in the NBA Draft Lottery. They can thank Ellis for dragging them to the finish line and finally solving whatever choke-hold the Nuggets had on them.
From the 8:46 mark of the fourth quarter until his second straight 3-pointer gave Dallas a 119-103 lead with 1:46 to remaining, Ellis scored 14 of the Mavs’ 19 points. During a time when coach Rick Carlisle said Dirk Nowitzki and Devin Harris were among the players who were winded, Ellis picked up the wheel barrel and carried the Mavs to the winner’s circle.
“He really answered the bell down the stretch,” Carlisle said. “He was struggling halfway through the third and I was about to sub him out just to give him a blow, and then he got to the rim and laid one in, so I pulled Devin back, and then he went on his run.
“That was a spectacular run to end the game and we needed every ounce of what he was giving us.”
Even Ellis said he, too, was a bit gassed. Yet he kept knifing through the Nuggets’ defense for eye-popping, high-arching layups, or kept pulling up for gut-wrenching 3-pointers.
“I was getting a little winded for running the plays back-to-back,” Ellis said. “But it felt good because we got the win.”
It was a much-needed win after Wednesday’s 123-122 overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Unlike in the previous three games against the Nuggets, the Mavs set the pace. Thanks to Jae Crowder coming off the bench to bury four 3-pointers, Dallas bolted ahead 53-38 midway through the second period.
Crowder was in the game after Vince Carter dislocated the pinkie finger on his right hand. The second-year player didn’t disappoint.
“I don’t know when I’m going to get my shot, but when it comes I have to step into it aggressively and take them,” said Crowder, who hit all four of his 3-pointers in the second period. “I know I can shoot the ball and my teammates have faith in me, so I just have to step in and shoot them.”
The Mavs built their lead to 85-68 late in the third period, but the Nuggets stormed back to pull within 99-96 with 6:29 left after a 3-pointer and dunk by South Oak Cliff product Darrell Arthur.
But Nowitzki scored twice from short range, Ellis flew down the lane for a layup and then fed Brandan Wright for a basket. Shawn Marion followed with a dunk.
And after Ellis got the crowd all lathered up with those consecutive 3-pointers, Carlisle took him out of the game to a standing ovation from the 20,188 fans who showed up.
“He’s always going to be aggressive and he’s always going to be in attacking mode,” Carlisle said of Ellis, who poured in 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting. “The thing we’ve got to do as a team and me as a coach is we just got to give him the best possible situations.”
It helped that the Mavs had some balanced scoring as seven players scored 10 or more points. The Mavs also fought on the boards to win the rebounding battle 48-35, in addition to converting 12 of 22 shots from 3-point range.
“Our biggest thing is to try and get as many wins as we can and do it as a team collectively like we did tonight,” Ellis said. “I think it was a great team win, but I think we needed this win from the overtime game the other night. So we did a great job of bouncing back.”