Not even losing point guard Rajon Rondo to a head injury less than two minutes into Saturday night’s game against the Orlando Magic could prevent the Dallas Mavericks from stretching their road record versus Eastern Conference teams to a perfect 13-0.
Monta Ellis took control of what turned into a tight game and the Mavs held on to defeat the Magic 108-93 at the Amway Center, increasing their record to 32-17.
Ellis finished with game highs of 25 points and 13 assists as he was again the dominant player on the court.
This also ended one of the most demanding travel months in recent years for the Mavs, who had 16 games in January and 12 of them on the road. The Mavs posted a 9-7 record in January and finished this road trip with a 2-1 record.
But as the dust settled Saturday, the talk turned to Rondo, who was inadvertently kneed in the head by teammate Richard Jefferson with the game just 98 seconds old.
“He got hit in the head and he’s going to get checked out by our doctors back home,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “When there’s an update, we’ll let you know what it is.”
Carlisle wouldn’t say if Rondo would have to go through an NBA-mandated concussion protocol. The veteran playmaker was bleeding when he left the court.
“I didn’t see the whole thing, but then I saw the replay it looked completely ugly,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with 11 points. “I saw RJ even has a bruise on his knee, so that tells you how hard, unfortunately, he hit him.
“But he’s a tough kid, so the docs will check him out and then we’ll go from there. But that was as hard of a hit as I’ve seen in this league.”
Devin Harris (12 points, five assists) and J.J. Barea (10 points, 18 minutes) got the lion’s share of minutes in Rondo’s absence. And Ellis ran the offense a lot more than he has since the Dec. 18 acquisition of Rondo.
The Mavs eventually built a 71-44 lead with 9:21 remaining in the third period after a 3-pointer by Harris. But the Magic went to a small lineup and sliced that huge deficit to 94-89 with 5:51 left after Channing Frye’s 3-pointer.
That’s when Ellis took over. Ellis scored 10 of the Mavs’ final 14 points on a variety of moves, and also fed Tyson Chandler for a dunk during that critical stretch of the game.
“I was just taking what the defense was giving us,” said Ellis, who made 11 of 20 shots. “They started switching at the end and when they did switch, Tyson rolled.
“If he wasn’t open, then the next guy was open. We just read the defense and was able to make shots down the stretch.”
In addition to playing without Rondo for the balance of the game, the Mavs played without Chandler Parsons, who missed his second game in a row with an illness. But that didn’t prevent the Mavs from shooting 56.8 percent from the field and converting 11 of 21 shots from behind the 3-point arc.
“I thought we played good throughout the entire game,” said Chandler, who wound up with 20 points and nine rebounds. “They made a good adjustment putting an all-perimeter team out there, which kind of stretched our defense, and we had to make an adjustment coming down the fourth quarter.
“But I thought we did a good job adjusting to the lineup.”
And Ellis was effective in showcasing his talents.
“Monta Ellis carried us again,” Carlisle said. “When it got close and very uncomfortable in the last five minutes, he made plays.
“He got guys shots, put the ball in the basket, got to the free throw line once, and he was tremendous, and he made great defensive plays too. Great players make big plays, and he was huge tonight.”
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760