DALLAS – Just because they prevented the Houston Rockets from sweeping them, Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis doesn’t want anyone thinking the pressure has shifted south down Interstate-45.
"We can’t play loose,’’ Ellis said after the Mavs beat up the Rockets, 121-109, Sunday night at American Airlines Center. "The pressure is still on us.
"At the end of the day if we lose we go home.’’
And the Mavs aren’t ready to go home.
In one of their best all-around games of the season – save that awful showing from the free throw line – the Mavs got mad, got physical, and then just kept pounding the Rockets into submission until they led 81-57 late in the third period. The run, which included Houston missing 17 straight shots, enabled the Mavs to get within 3-1 of the Rockets in this best-of-seven first-round playoff series.
Ellis, who poured in 31 points on 13-of-21 shooting, was the primary catalyst for the Mavs. It was as though he wanted the Mavs to hop on his back, because he wasn’t about to let them lose this one.
"Relentless, non-stop, relentless, next play mentality,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said of Ellis. "Good or bad, he kept playing and he kept charging forward like a freight train.
"And that’s who he is. He’s an attacker through and through, and that’s what we need him to be.’’
Ellis scored 34 points when the Mavs lost Game 3 on Friday, 130-128. So he now has 30-plus points in back-to-back playoff games after previously not having any in his playoff career.
On Sunday, Ellis scored 18 of his points in the second half when the Mavs blew open the game. It was a night when the Mavs weren’t going to suffer the embarrassment of having their season end on their home court.
"We played so, so hard, we just weren’t ready to go home yet,’’ Ellis said. "All the guys in the locker room came together and said we were going to leave it out on the court, and we did.’’