PHOENIX – It’s almost as if the Dallas Mavericks are going to sink or swim with Monta Ellis as their go-to player whenever they need a crucial basket down the stretch.
Sunday night at US Airways Center, with Ellis unable to find his shooting touch, the Mavs nearly drown.
The Mavs led the Suns 86-60 with 7:14 remaining in the game following a long jump shot by Chandler Parsons. But the rest of a game the Mavs eventually lost 98-92 was a complete disaster.
And that especially included whatever Ellis tried to give the Mavs.
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After the aforementioned six-point lead, the Mavs were just 1-of-14 form the field. A layup by Rajon Rondo was their lone field goal down the stretch.
Meanwhile, of those 13 missed field goals, seven of them came from Ellis. Overall, Ellis scored just 11 points – two in the first half and none in the fourth quarter – and was a paltry 4-of-22 from the field.
Even with players such as Dirk Nowitzki and Parsons on the floor, coach Rick Carlisle defends his decision to keep turning to Ellis to take clutch shots even on nights when Ellis obviously can’t find the rim.
"We’ve got to get shots,’’ Carlisle said. "He’s the one guy that can get clean shots, and he’s getting good looks.
"I always believe he’s going to make the next one. My responsibility as a coach is to make sure that we get shots.’’
Nowitzki, who has usually been the Mavs’ go-to player for over a decade, said the Mavs are just going to have to live with Ellis, who struggled mightily Sunday.
"He’s been our closer, he’s been fantastic for us,’’ Nowitzki said. "Monta had some shots that we’ll live with.
"He made those 15-16-footers off the screen-and-roll. That’s a shot that he’s made more than he’s missed for us this year.’’
Center Tyson Chandler still has all the confidence in the world in Ellis and his shot-making abilities.
"I trust him,’’ Chandler said. "He’s come through time after time for us, so just because he doesn’t have it one night doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that he’s going to make his next shot.
"I have all the confidence in the world that he’s going to make them. For whatever reason they came up short, but sometimes the games go like that.’’
Parsons, who scored a team-high 19 points against the Suns, said over-analyzing Ellis off his poor performance Sunday is not something the Mavs are going to blow out of proportion.
"He’s been a great closer for us all year long,’’ Parsons said. "And we believe in him and we’re going to keep riding him.’’