CHICAGO – As he was dribbling the ball up the floor Tuesday night late in regulation at the United Center, something told Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis that the Chicago Bulls were going to try and intentionally foul him.
After all, the Bulls were nursing a 108-105 lead and there were only 4.2 seconds left when the Mavs brought the ball inbounds from underneath their basket with no timeouts left. And as Ellis got near the 3-point line, Kirk Hinrich grabbed him around his upper arms just as Ellis went into a shooting motion.
The Bulls were hoping to foul Ellis before he could go into a shooting motion, thus Ellis would have gone to the free throw line with a pair of charity tosses. Instead, Ellis outfoxed the Bulls, drew the shooting foul from Hinrich.
From there, Ellis calmly sank all three free throws with 1.2 seconds left that tied the game at 108-apiece and effectively send it into the first overtime of a game the Mavs eventually won, 132-129 in double overtimes.
Ellis said: "I saw (Hinrich) out of the corner of my eye and went into shooting mode.’’
In the two overtime sessions, Ellis was 4-of-7 from the field and scored nine points. Overall, he scored a season-high 38 points and converted 16-of-35 shots.
When asked if this game called for Ellis to shoot a season-high 35 times, coach Rick Carlisle said: "Obviously it did. And we played 10 extra minutes.
"You’re playing an extra 20 percent of a game in terms of length, so he’s one of the guys that’s got to be a playmaker and a guy that manufactures good shots. His timely shot-making and playmaking tonight carried the day.’’
In helping the Mavs run their record to 14-5, including 3-0 on this four-game road trip, Ellis made no excuses for the fact that he took 34.3 percent of the 102 field goals the Mavs attempted.
"Well, we played good as a team and I was just taking what the defense was giving me all night,’’ Ellis said. "And I showed up at the other end of the floor when I needed to.’’
Prior to draining his key three free throws, Ellis also figured prominently in a key play.
As the Mavs were railing 108-105 with 14.6 remaining in regulation after Jimmy Butler split a pair of free throws, Ellis chose shot to pass it to Dirk Nowitzki at the 3-point line – he was being guarded by Hinrich at the time. Instead, Ellis flew in for a layup which got Dallas within 106-105 with 4.5 ticks to go.
Pau Gasol’s two free throws padded the Chicago lead to 108-105 with 4.2 seconds left. Then came that high basketball IQ play by Ellis when he drew that critical foul from Hinrich.
"They were giving (Ellis the layup), so he decided to go quick,’’ Carlisle said. "It was enough time.
"Obviously he got the ball back and he got fouled and it all worked out. It turned out to be a perfect play. He knew a lot more than all of us did as to what was going to happen.’’