On second thought, maybe the Dallas Mavericks were able to find that superstar this past summer to play alongside Dirk Nowitzki.
Looking as though he fits into the Mavericks’ offensive scheme like a glove, Monta Ellis kept attacking the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night until he poured in a game-high 30 points en route to pacing Dallas to a 123-104 triumph at American Airlines Center.
The Mavericks are now 3-1 on the season heading into Wednesday’s 8:30 game in Oklahoma City against the Thunder.
Signed via free agency over the summer, Ellis was 11 of 14 from the field, 8 of 8 from the free-throw line, handed out nine assists, and also helped spearhead the Mavericks’ defense in a yeoman’s performance.
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“Monta Ellis was fantastic tonight in all aspects of the game,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “He defended, he made plays at the rim, he was under control, he hit mid-range shots, he hit guys cutting to the basket. It was a great all-around performance.”
It also was a great all-around performance by the Mavs as they placed all five starters in double-figure scoring for the second consecutive game. They also had two reserves in double figures against the Lakers after having one with 10 or more points during Saturday’s 111-99 victory over Memphis.
This time it was Ellis who served as the table-setter as he kept the Lakers’ off-balance with his magnificent darts to the basket and sharp, dead-eye passes.
“I just think being aggressive opens everything up for us as a team,” Ellis said. “Me getting to the basket, they play me kind of differently, so I try to open up everybody else, so I just got to continue to attack and make the right plays.”
In leading from wire-to-wire and by as much as 30 points in the third period, the Mavericks completely manhandled a Lakers team missing its leader, Kobe Bryant, who is out with an Achilles injury. Dallas shot 52.1 percent from the field, converted 13 of 27 3-point attempts and pounded the Lakers on the glass, 50-35.
“We just wanted to come out with energy tonight,” said Jae Crowder, who contributed 18 points in 24 minutes on 7-of-9 shooting. “We felt like this was a game we really needed tonight, and we wanted to come out tonight and make a stand.”
If this trend keeps up through the rest of this week, someone may start mentioning the Mavericks in the NBA championship contender conversation.
The Mavericks used some Showtime-style basketball to rough up the Lakers right away as Dallas led 35-22 after the first quarter. And they did all that scoring damage without getting a point from Nowitzki.
Carlisle said: “It means we’re moving [the ball]. We have good balance.”
Nowitzki finished with 11 points — the first game he hasn’t scored at least 20 points this season — and added eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. Jose Calderon notched 12 points and dispensed five assists, Shawn Marion had 11 points and seven boards and Samuel Dalembert chipped in with 10 points and six rebounds. DeJuan Blair collected 10 points, six rebounds, five steals and four assists.
“It was fun, man,” Blair said. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
The Mavericks held a commanding 67-48 lead at intermission. Then with Ellis popping in 10 points in the third quarter, that lead swelled to 90-60 with 4:33 remaining in the period.
“We had a hard time containing Monta Ellis,” said Lakers point guard Steve Nash, who was held to five points on 2-of-8 shooting. “He was in the guts of our defense all night. He was getting easy buckets and creating easy buckets for his teammates all night. He really spaced us out with his penetration.”
And he really showed that he has superstar potential.