Monta Ellis knew he wasn’t at full strength Wednesday night.
But the competitor in the shoting guard wouldn’t allow him to sit on the bench in street clothes and watch his Dallas Mavericks teammates try to win a game without him.
Thus, Ellis shook off a left hip injury, played 37 minutes and finished with seven points, three assists and a career-high tying seven steals as the Mavs escaped American Airlines Center with a slumber-like 87-82 triumph over the Utah Jazz.
The victory, which came despite 37.3 percent shooting by Dallas, enabled the Mavs to go into the All-Star break with a 36-19 record.
“We needed this win,’’ Ellis said. “They could’ve got it without me, but I hate sitting on the sideline so I got out there and did whatever I could to help us win.
“I just hate watching basketball on the sideline. I feel like if I can walk, I can play.”
Ellis has played in 219 straight games dating back to Apr. 26, 2012 -- the final game of the 2011-’12 lockout-shorten season when he was playing for the Milwaukee Bucks. But he insists that playing in Wednesday’s contest had nothing to do with extending his streak of games played.
“I don’t care about no streak,’’ Ellis said. “I want to win, that’s all that matters to me.’’
While Ellis was just 1-of-6 from the floor, he used a solid defensive effort as the Mavs held Utah to 37.5 percent shooting and forced the Jazz into committing 19 turnovers.
After a turnover by Ellis led to a breakaway dunk by Gordon Hayward -- that sliced the Mavs’ lead to 83-82 with 15.3 seconds remaining -- Ellis made amends by burying a pair of charity tosses less than two seconds later for a three-point lead.
Then on Utah’s ensuing possession, Ellis stole a pass by Hayward, and Barea closed the scoring by banging in two free throws with 0.5 ticks left.
“He set an all-time individual team record with 12 deflections in the game defensively, so he played well,’’ Carlisle said, while defending Ellis. “You guys just look at the shooting stats and whatever his turnovers were, but there’s a lot more to it.
“He even hit the big free throws that decided the game and he came up with the steal that decided the game. So it’s not all about points.’’
Ellis was just delighted he was able to contribute in some way when his offensive skills fell by the wayside.
“Whatever they needed me for,’’ Ellis said. “They didn’t need me too much for scoring tonight so I was just trying to do it defensively.’’
So how did Ellis’ hip survive a night when he obviously was tentative on offense?
“It was all right, little sore, but I got through it,’’ Ellis said. “I’m all right.
“Next several days treat it, ice it, stay off it, get a lot of work with a massage therapist and get ready for second half of season.’’