- Tim MacMahon, ESPNDallas.com
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HOUSTON -- The 2011 champions in the Dallas Mavericks’ starting lineup did their parts in Saturday night’s Game 1.
Power forward Dirk Nowitzki kept the Mavs in the game with his shooting, knocking down 10 of 14 attempts from the floor during his 24-point performance. Center Tyson Chandler posted an 11-point, 18-rebound double-double, taking advantage of Houston Rockets counterpart Dwight Howard’s foul trouble.
But it wasn’t nearly enough, as the Mavs opened the series with a 118-108 loss to their Interstate 45 rivals.
Dallas needs much more from the two other members of the current Mavs’ core who were the franchise’s major free agent acquisitions the last two summers. If Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons can’t deliver, this likely won’t be a long series.
The seventh-seeded Mavs’ wings combined for only 26 points on 31 shots. Ellis had 16, going 5-of-16 from the floor despite making a couple of 3-pointers, ending a personal 25-day drought from behind the arc. Parsons had 10 points on 5-of-15 shooting in his return from a six-game absence due to a sore right knee that remains a major problem.
“We had a lot of good shots that didn’t go in,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Shotmaking is one of those things that’s temperamental.”
Ellis, as temperamental as anybody in the NBA, never got in a rhythm in the series opener against the Rockets. For a moment, it seemed like his falling-out-of-bounds 3 at the end of the third quarter, which trimmed Houston’s lead to seven, might be the momentum boost the Mavs and Ellis needed.
But Ellis, who tends to be at his best in the fourth quarter, was a nonfactor in the final frame, when he scored only three points on 1-of-4 shooting.
Actually, that’s not true. Ellis was a negative factor in the fourth quarter due to his defense, which was dreadful all night.
Ellis, who last spoke to the media after his 38-point performance in a March 24 win over the San Antonio Spurs, extended his streak of unavailability.
Parsons, on the other hand, glumly described the pain that he’s trying to fight through in his right knee. It got bad enough during the second quarter that Parsons retreated to the locker room to be evaluated by the Mavs’ medical staff, getting booed by the Rockets fans who cheered for him for three seasons until he departed to Dallas as a restricted free agent last summer.
Parsons played 37 minutes, but he was clearly favoring the leg for most of the game, which he probably wouldn’t have played in if not for the playoff stakes.
“I kind of had that collapse feeling again,” Parsons said of his knee, which he aggravated on the landing after a driving dunk. “It’s very painful. It’s just frustrating. I want to be out there. I want to be 100 percent.
“I want to help, and obviously I was a little rusty after not playing for two weeks, but I had no lift on my jump shots, had no lift on my finishes. I’ve just got to do whatever I can. Hopefully it doesn’t swell up and I’ll see the docs again tomorrow.”
Parsons was also frustrated that he missed wide-open 3s (0-of-4) and what he called “little chippy layups.” He expressed confidence that he’ll be sharper in Tuesday’s Game 2. However, Parsons has no control over how much his knee cooperates.
It’d be ideal if Ellis, the Mavs’ leading scorer this season, could pick up the slack. But Ellis struggled for most of the second half of the season, when his scoring average (17.0 points) and shooting percentages (42.2 percent from the floor, 16.9 percent from 3-point range) dipped significantly, in part due to a hip injury that is no longer an issue.
The Mavs have major defensive issues that they need to address during their two-day stay in Dallas for practice between games. They can’t let the Rockets get 50 points in the paint and hit 10 of 25 3-point attempts.
“We’ve got to take something away,” Chandler said.
The Mavs might just have to outscore the Rockets in run-and-gun fashion to pull off the upset. That’s not possible unless Ellis or Parsons, preferably both, perform much better than they did in Game 1.
The Mavs fell to the Rockets in Game 1 as Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons failed to provide much punch. This series won't last long if this keeps up.