MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The battle for seventh place in the Western Conference went down to the wire, with five extra minutes needed to decide the fight between the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks.
Monta Ellis' wide-open 18-footer at the buzzer bounced off the back iron and off the rim, sending yellow and gold streamers down from the FedExForum ceiling and sentencing the Mavs to a first-round series against the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs.
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This time, however, the home team celebrated once the buzzer sounded.
Ellis missed a wide-open 18-footer in the final second of overtime, landing the Dallas Mavericks in the West's 8-seed after a 106-105 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. The Mavs ran the same play as they did when Ellis drilled a buzzer-beater to beat the Portland Trail Blazers on Dec. 7, just from the opposite sideline.
Once again, Ellis came off a pick and got wide open in the middle of the floor. It was the shot the Mavs wanted by the hot hand they hoped could win the game for them after Ellis had drilled a clutch 3 to tie it with 13 seconds remaining in regulation, then scored seven points in the extra frame.
"It was a great shot," Ellis said. "It just didn’t go down."
That came as quite a surprise to Ellis, who never lacks for confidence. That was quite clear by the way he knocked down that 3 from the right wing to tie it up late in regulation.
Up to that point, Ellis had a horrible shooting night, missing 11 of his first 15 field goal attempts. But a short-term memory is required for any player who embraces the responsibility of taking clutch shots.
That description definitely fits Ellis, whose 151 clutch points (defined as coming in the final five minutes, score within five points) ranked behind only MVP front-runner Kevin Durant and LeBron James this season.
"Hey, he’s an attacker," coach Rick Carlisle said. "I encourage all our guys to stay process-oriented, stay aggressive, step into shots that are there. He had a lot of good shots that were near-misses that were just in and out. The last one’s a great example."
After Ellis drilled the tying 3 late in regulation, he got hot in overtime, taking over the game for a stretch to help the Mavs build a four-point lead. Within a span of 109 seconds, Ellis hit a long 2, another 3 from the right wing and a driving layup.
But Ellis missed his last two shots in the final seven seconds, much to the surprise of the Mavs, particularly on the wide-open buzzer-beater.
"The way he’d been shooting it, I really thought it was going to go in," Carlisle said. "He played with such courage in the fourth quarter. I doubt we’d be in the position we were in with a chance to win it if it hadn’t [been] for him. He’s just got to keep hoisting those up, because he’s going to make more than he misses."
The protected first-round pick the Mavs gave up in the trade, which has since been shipped from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Houston Rockets to the Oklahoma City Thunder, is officially OKC’s property in this draft.
The pick was top-20 protected through 2017, so the Mavs had to finish with one of the NBA’s top 10 records to unload the pick this season. With the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls both losing their regular-season finales, the 49-33 Mavs have the league’s 10th-best record, giving the pick to Oklahoma City.
Had the Bulls or Raptors won, there would have been a random drawing to break the tie with the Mavs and determine the draft order. If the Mavs won the drawing, they wouldn’t have lost the pick this year.
It was the Mavs’ preference to part with the pick this season.
“I’d rather just get it over with,” owner Mark Cuban said before the Mavs’ loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. “I’m fine just getting it out of the way so it’s no longer over our head or an issue.”
The Mavs owing Oklahoma City a protected pick prevented Dallas from discussing giving up future first-round picks in trade talks. An NBA rule prevent teams from trading first-round picks in consecutive years, so the earliest first-rounder the Mavs can deal now would be their 2016 pick.
Dirk Nowitzki especially needs it.
The Mavs’ 35-year-old star played a season-high 46 minutes in Wednesday’s 106-105 overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, a rugged game that decided the order of the West’s last two playoff seeds. Nowitzki played every second of the fourth quarter and overtime despite bruising his right knee in the first half when he banged it against Memphis center Marc Gasol’s bulky knee brace.
“It’s just a bruise,” said Nowitzki, who scored 30 points on 12-of-22 shooting in the loss. “Gasol is wearing that huge brace, and I ran into it like four times, I think. We’ve got plenty of time until Sunday, obviously. I’ll take it easy tomorrow and get ready to play Sunday.”
Nowitzki wore a rubber knee brace in the second half, saying he just wanted something to protect the knee if he banged it again. He said the knee didn’t bother him much after halftime.
“Hey, this guy’s a machine,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He don’t come out of games unless there’s something really wrong. I’ve never seen a guy as resilient as him when it comes to those kinds of things with injuries. It’s another reason he’s one of the all-time greats.”
MEMPHIS -- The NBA announced the schedule for the Dallas Mavericks-San Antonio Spurs series, which starts at noon Sunday at the AT&T Center.
Game 1: Dallas at San Antonio, noon, Sunday, April 20
Game 2: Dallas at San Antonio, 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 23
Game 3: San Antonio at Dallas, 3:30 p.m., Saturday, April 26
Game 4: San Antonio at Dallas, 8:30 p.m., Monday, April 28
Game 5 (if necessary): Dallas at San Antonio, TBD, Wednesday, April 30
Game 6 (if necessary): San Antonio at Dallas, TBD, Friday, May 2
Game 7 (if necessary): Dallas at San Antonio, TBD, Sunday, May 4
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Mike Conley hit two free throws with 1.1 seconds left in overtime, and the Memphis Grizzlies grabbed the Western Conference's No. 7 seed away from Dallas by edging the Mavericks 106-105 on Wednesday night in the regular season finale.
Monta Ellis missed a 17-footer before Conley drew the foul driving to the basket. Dallas had one last shot, but Ellis missed from the top of the key.
Memphis became the seventh team in the West with 50 wins this season. The Grizzlies, who set a franchise record with a 14th straight home win in a single season, will open the postseason Saturday at Oklahoma City.
Avoiding No. 1 seed San Antonio in the first round was the only thing on the line, and Memphis has lost 14 of its last 16 against the Spurs with the Mavericks losing nine straight.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The fight to avoid the Western Conference’s 8-seed went down to the wire, with the Dallas Mavericks landing there after a 106-105 overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
How it happened: The Grizzlies pulled out a heart-pounding win in a game that had the intensity of a playoff game.
Memphis point guard Mike Conley scored the game-winning points by hitting a pair of free throws with 1.1 seconds remaining after a coast-to-coast drive.
Mavs guard Monta Ellis, whose 3-pointer with 13 seconds remaining in regulation tied the score, was magnificent throughout most of overtime. However, he missed his last two shots in the final minute, including a wide-open 20-footer at the buzzer.
Power forward Zach Randolph led the Grizzlies with 27 points and 14 rebounds. Center Marc Gasol nearly had a triple-double with 19 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Conley added 22 points and five assists.
Mavs power forward Dirk Nowitzki scored a game-high 30 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 46 seconds remaining in overtime. Ellis scored seven of his 18 points in overtime.
Ellis had an off night for the first 47 minutes, but he drilled that cold-blooded 3-pointer to tie the score with 13 seconds remaining in regulation. Randolph missed a long baseline fadeaway on the next possession, and the Grizzlies weren’t able to get a shot off after inbounding with 0.9 seconds remaining when the rebound went out of bounds off the Mavs.
The Mavs led by four with two minutes remaining in overtime and three after Nowitzki’s 3 in the final minute, but Dallas couldn’t close the door.
What it means: The Grizzlies get the 7-seed and the Mavs get the 8-seed that comes with a first-round date against the San Antonio Spurs. Memphis will face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. Dallas (49-33) fell short of 50 wins for the third consecutive season after hitting the milestone 11 straight times. The Grizzlies (50-32) finished the regular season with a franchise-record 14-game home winning streak.
Play of the game: Conley’s frantic drive in transition resulted in a foul by Vince Carter to send Conley to the line for the game-winning free throws with 1.1 seconds remaining. Conley grabbed the rebound after a missed Ellis jumper with 6.7 seconds on the clock and raced coast to coast.
Stat of the night: The Mavs played 22 games that were decided by three or fewer points this season (11 wins, 11 losses). According to Elias Sports Bureau research, that is the most such games for any team in the league and the second-most in a single season in the Mavericks’ franchise history (25 in 1983-84).
Memphis was at full strength for only one of those games, and that was way back on Nov. 2, when the Grizzlies were stumbling out of the gates at the beginning of the season.
The Mavs had the good fortune to face the Grizzlies while Memphis was missing one of its stars in the other two meetings. Center Marc Gasol missed the Grizzlies’ Dec. 18 loss in Dallas. Point guard Mike Conley sat out when the Mavs won at FedExForum on Feb. 5.
“This time around, they look like a playoff team,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s going to be a tough game. That’s all right. The more tough games we can play headed into the playoffs, that should help us. We’re going to have to be ready.”
The Grizzlies have had to be one of the best teams in the league since the calendar flipped to 2014 to earn a playoff spot in the West. Memphis was 13-17 on Dec. 31, including 10-13 without Gasol. Since then, the Grizzlies are 36-15, with only the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers posting a better record in that span.
1. How much of a difference does it make whether the Mavs face the Thunder or Spurs?
Gutierrez: It makes a dramatic difference. Dallas has the advantage in coaching and bench support against Oklahoma City. At best, they're even in those categories against San Antonio. The Spurs struggle against younger and athletic teams. No one will confuse the Mavericks as either of those. Dallas has lost nine straight to their neighbors to the south. Meanwhile, the recent run of success against the Thunder should give the Mavericks more confidence if they were to matchup in the first round. I think a series against San Antonio would be death by paper cuts, while a series against Oklahoma City would potentially be death by technical knockout.
Taylor: The Mavs really have no chance to beat San Antonio in a seven-game series. The Spurs are too disciplined and too good offensively and defensively for the Mavs to beat them. The have virtually no chance to beat Oklahoma City, but it's more of a chance than they have to beat San Antonio. First, they beat Oklahoma City the last two times they've played them even though OKC didn't have its full squad either time. So much of professional sports is about confidence. The Mavs believe they can beat Oklahoma City. In their heart of hearts, I don't know that they believe they can beat the Spurs. They will compete, but I don’t know if they believe when it comes to San Antonio.
MacMahon: The Mavs wouldn’t be favored in either series, but they’d at least have a shooter’s chance against the Thunder. They’d be in serious jeopardy of getting swept by the Spurs. You can debate how much stock should be put in Dallas’ two March wins over Oklahoma City, but they at least gave the Mavs reason to believe they can beat the Thunder. That doesn’t exist against a San Antonio team that hasn’t lost to the Mavs since Jason Kidd was playing point guard in Dallas. The Mavs’ ball movement gives the Thunder big problems. If the Mavs are hot from 3-point range, they’ve got a shot to beat the Thunder.
Some truths don’t need to be said out loud.
The chance to claim the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoffs -- and not be forced to make a first-round trip to San Antonio -- is obviously major motivational fodder for the Mavs entering Wednesday night’s regular-season finale against the Memphis Grizzlies. The loser faces the Spurs, who swept both the Mavs and Grizzlies this season and have won their past nine meetings with Dallas.
Oklahoma City Thunder or Los Angeles Clippers is no treat, but the Mavs’ odds are much better against those potential No. 2 seeds than if they match up with the Spurs. But that isn’t the only reason this is a big game for the Mavs.
The Mavs set 50 wins as a goal at the beginning of the season, and they’re fired up about the chance to accomplish that in their 82nd game.
Not long ago, that seemed like a bare-minimum expectation for the Mavs, who won at least 50 games in 11 straight seasons before going 36-30 in the lockout-shortened season and 41-41 with last season’s temp-filled roster. But the days of Dirk Nowitzki’s Mavs joining Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics, Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers and Tim Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs as the only teams to have a decade-long run of such seasons feel distant now.
For a franchise trying to rebuild a championship contender, 50 wins is a major milestone.
Nobody refers to Ellis as an analytics antihero anymore or calls him a selfish gunner who values volume scoring over winning after he’s played a critical role in the Dallas Mavericks returning to the playoffs. But Ellis distinctly remembers all those who doubted whether he could be a valuable member of a winning franchise, present company included.
“That’s why I go out every night and play this game of basketball -- for my teammates and this organization -- because all of them critics,” Ellis said Tuesday before the Mavs traveled to Memphis for a regular-season finale that will determine the order of the West’s last two playoff seeds and whether Dallas accomplishes its goal of winning 50 games. “I love proving people wrong, and this year we have done that. ...
Ellis still bristles about the criticism of his game, but it was factually based. What he’s actually proven is that he can adapt and thrive under better circumstances.
There is no question that Ellis was one of the least efficient scorers in the NBA in recent seasons, especially during his last campaign in Milwaukee. The facts were that his field-goal percentage (41.6) was the second lowest in the league among 15-plus-ppg scorers, his 3-point percentage (28.7) was the worst among qualifiers and he hit the lowest percentage of off-the-dribble jumpers (32.3) of any player who jacked up at least 250 such shots.
The facts are that Ellis, whose points (19.0) and assists (5.8) are actually down slightly from last season, has become a significantly more efficient scorer across the board this season. He’s shooting a very respectable 45.2 percent from the floor, 32.7 percent from 3-point range and 38.8 percent on off-the-dribble jumpers, which ranks 16th of the 33 players with at least 250 such attempts, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Every game will matter with the regular-season finale deciding whether the Mavericks or Memphis Grizzlies get the unenviable task of opening the playoffs in San Antonio.
Frustrating as the Mavs’ inability to hold leads might be, this is a fun team to watch. It’s one of the best offensive teams in basketball, featuring a historically elite shooter in Dirk Nowitzki, one of the league’s most relentless paint attackers in Monta Ellis and some beautiful ball movement in coach Rick Carlisle’s flow system. Sure, the Mavs are a subpar defensive team, but that’s entertaining, too.
Enjoy the ride. The odds of it ending with a parade through downtown Dallas are extremely slim, but at least Mavs basketball is fun again after one miserable .500 season.
On to your questions ...
I think it's pretty clear Dirk Nowitzki is best Mavs player ever. Who's the second? -- @JohnnyPablo_ on Twitter
Rolando Blackman, Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, but I’m going with Mark Aguirre.
Aguirre’s Dallas departure was ugly, but the dude filled it up during his time with the Mavs. He averaged 29.5 points per game during the 1983-84 season, a franchise record that might never be broken. He averaged at least 22.6 points per game for six straight seasons.
We’re talking about one of the best 6-foot-6 post scorers to ever play the game. It’s too bad his No. 24 will probably never hang from the American Airlines Center rafters.
Is Monta Ellis having a great season due to him changing his game under Rick Carlisle or more of a testament to simply being surrounded by a better supporting cast like he was with the Warriors? -- Parker (Dallas)
It’s a case of right coach, right situation and right time of Ellis’ career. He arrived in Dallas sick and tired of losing, recognized the opportunity he had here and attacked it with an open mind.
It’s not that Ellis has changed his game as much as he’s simply played to his strengths. He’s always excelled at attacking the basket. He just settled for way too many jumpers in recent years.
Of course, he never had a teammate that had anything close to the kind of gravitational pull on defenses that Dirk has. Ellis has much more space to operate in Dallas than he did in Milwaukee or Golden State after he became the go-to guy. Carlisle has done a great job putting Ellis in situations to play to his strengths, and Ellis has responded with a season that the Mavs front office considered a best-case scenario when they signed him.
That’s the case with Kevin Durant following in the one-legged footsteps of Dirk Nowitzki, as reported in great detail by ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.
Durant, the MVP favorite whose Oklahoma City Thunder might face Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks in the first round, has gone so far as to hire a Holger Geschwindner pupil to put him through workouts similar to those that helped Dirk develop from a skinny kid in Wurzburg, Germany, to the 10th-leading scorer in NBA history.
“I'm not even sure if he needs it,” Nowitzki said. “I mean, he's one of the best players on the planet. He's already got the whole package.
“Credit to him that he loves working out, he loves getting better. And he's already one of the best players ever or in the league now. He's constantly in the gym, working out on the road, working out at home. That's a credit to him being hungry and constantly improving.
“To me, he's got the whole package. He can shoot off the dribble, he can post, he can shoot from 3 anywhere. He's already pretty good.”
Pretty good, of course, is a great understatement with Durant. Once his fourth scoring title becomes official at the end of the regular season, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain will be the only players in NBA history to have more. At 25 years old, Durant is almost halfway to the exclusive 30,000-point club, which Nowitzki could join as the sixth member in a few years.
That’s what will be on the line during the Dallas Mavericks-Memphis Grizzlies regular-season finale Wednesday night at the FedExForum.
Phoenix Suns. That pulled Memphis even with Dallas at 49-32, making the tiebreaker the Mavs own over Memphis irrelevant.
The Golden State Warriors clinched the West’s 6-seed by beating the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday.
The Mavs-Grizzlies winner gets the No. 7 seed and most likely opens the playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder, although OKC needs a win Wednesday over the Detroit Pistons or needs the Los Angeles Clippers to lose one of their last two games to wrap up the No. 2 seed.
The Mavs-Grizzlies loser gets the No. 8 seed and a certain trip to San Antonio to face a team that has the NBA’s best record and has lost only four times since the All-Star break.
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