Dallas Mavericks: Dallas Mavericks
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.
The Grizzlies made sure the game would be meaningful with a victory Monday night over the 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.
Ellis led the Mavericks to a 2-1 record with wins over the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns. He averaged 25.7 points, 4.7 assists, four rebounds, one steal and 40 minutes per game during that stretch while shooting 51.6 percent (32-of-62) from the field and 44.4 percent (4-of-9) from 3-point range.
Ellis scored 37 points (15-of-23) on Saturday night in a 101-98 victory over the Suns to help the Mavs clinch a playoff berth.
Dirk Nowitzki won Western Conference Player of the Week honors last week, making this the first time in franchise history that two Dallas teammates have garnered the honor in back-to-back weeks.
That will be a trend that continues into the playoffs.
Nowitzki played 39 minutes in Saturday’s win over the Phoenix Suns, which was essentially an early playoff game. That’s the most minutes he’s logged in a game that didn’t go to overtime this season.
Nowitzki played between 38 and 40 minutes in the Mavs’ four overtime games on the previous homestand.
There’s a decent chance that the Mavs could be locked into the Western Conference’s seventh seed by the time their heads hit the pillow tonight. That would be the case if the home teams prevail in the Minnesota-Golden State and Memphis-Phoenix games.
If the seventh or even sixth seed is at stake, the Mavs obviously go all out to beat the Grizzlies in the regular-season finale. What if the Mavs can’t move up or down in the standings?
“We’re prepared for Wednesday at this point in time as a game we need to win,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Beyond that, right now, that’s where we’re at. I don’t think it’s a good idea to get into answering kharmically flawed questions like that. I’ll politely decline that. I would even say respectfully decline.
“We’ll watch the game tonight. The games tonight are going to be of great interest to everybody. But we’re working at getting better for Wednesday’s game and the playoffs in these next two days. That’s what we need to do. We got a lot of things to work on.”
The regular-season finale could also factor into whether the Mavs give up their top-20 protected pick this summer, but that's the furthest thing from Carlisle's mind.
There weren’t any wild celebrations, but there was a sense of temporary satisfaction.
Monta Ellis, a nine-year veteran who had been a part of only two previous playoff teams. "We set this goal at the beginning of training camp. Everybody doubted us and for us to come and be here in the playoffs, and then add our goal to get 50 wins, we got one more game to do that and get ready for the playoffs."
As Vince Carter said, the Mavs are back where they feel like they should be. This is a franchise that considers missing out on the postseason, as it did last year to end a streak of 12 straight playoff appearances, to be a massive failure.
But there are only two players on the roster who have been part of a playoff win in a Mavs uniform, something that hasn’t happened since they popped champagne bottles after Game 6 of the 2011 Finals.
The Mavs made major roster renovations for the second straight summer, making upgrades this time instead of just adding players as temporary placeholders, but there were certainly no guarantees that this team would play more than 82 games. In the deep Western Conference, it took 81 games and a lot of ups and downs before Dallas punched its playoff ticket.
Until Mavericks center Brandan Wright came flying from the other side of the floor to block a shot that ranks really high on the list of the biggest plays of his career.
“It’s probably No. 1,” Wright said after the Mavs punched their playoff tickets with a 101-98 win Saturday night.
And this was probably the most meaningful performance of Wright’s six-year career.
Wright, whose playing time fluctuates based on matchups and coach Rick Carlisle’s whims, posted his second double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds in a season-high 32 minutes. He also came up with three blocks, including the one that potentially prevented overtime.
“Man, he was great,” Monta Ellis said. “He got a lot of rebounds that we needed. He got some big blocked shots that we needed. He played a heck of a game.”
This wasn’t a game suited for Mavs starting center Samuel Dalembert. The Suns play at too fast of a pace to go with a traditional big man. But that style is suited for Wright, a phenomenal athlete who isn’t as physical as most centers.
“Every night, I feel like I’m needed,” said Wright, who averaged 13.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in three games against the Suns, well above his norms. “I felt good about tonight. I felt good about our chances. I already had two good games against those guys, so I didn’t see why he wouldn’t go to me. I’m glad he went to me. It paid off for us.”
It’s possible for the Mavs to land anywhere from sixth to eight in the Western Conference. That means first-round matchups with the No. 1 seed San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder (almost certainly second seed) and Los Angeles Clippers (almost certainly third seed) are all still possibilities.
A quick look at the potential scenarios for each seed:
Sixth seed: If the Golden State Warriors lose their last three games and Mavs win in Memphis
Seventh seed: If Mavs win in Memphis or Grizzlies lose another game
Eighth seed: If Grizzlies win out, including beating Mavs
The remaining schedules for the teams relevant to the Mavs’ seeding:
Sunday: at Portland Trail Blazers
Monday: vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
Wednesday: at Denver Nuggets
Sunday: at Los Angeles Lakers
Monday: at Phoenix Suns
Wednesday: vs. Mavs
With a little less than three minutes remaining, Nowitzki rolled his left ankle when Phoenix Suns guard Gerald Green stepped on it. Nowitzki hobbled around for the rest of the possession and checked out of the game with 2:49 remaining.
He missed one possession and checked into the game 19 seconds later after limping around the Mavs’ bench area.
"He kind of chopped me, so I rolled my left ankle for the millionth time in my career," Nowitzki said. "I was able to go out, walk it off a bit and was able to finish the game somehow."
Nowitzki has developed a reputation for having rubber ankles, having quickly recovered from many ankle sprains during his 16-year career. He has suffered at least 10 significant sprains, but he missed a total of only 16 games due to those injuries.
This one isn’t considered significant, but Nowitzki would have at least gone into the tunnel to walk it off for a few minutes if there was more time remaining in the game.
"Usually, the first couple of minutes hurt, then I wait and it’s fine," Nowitzki said. "It was OK to go back in. There wasn’t anything great about it, but it was good enough to go back in."
With three days off, Nowitzki has no concern about his status for Wednesday’s regular-season finale in Memphis, where the West’s seventh seed could be at stake.
"This was obviously the best timing," Nowitzki said. "We’ve got plenty of time between games."
It’s a way-too-familiar feeling for Monta Ellis, whose teams made the playoffs only twice in his first eight seasons, and the second time should perhaps have an asterisk attached to it since it came with a sub-.500 Milwaukee Bucks squad that he couldn’t wait to escape last summer.
The Mavs’ top two guns weren’t going to let this team miss out again. They seized a sweet opportunity Saturday night, combining to score 60 points to carry the Mavs to a playoff berth-clinching, 101-98 win over the Phoenix Suns in the regular-season home finale.
This is how the Mavs hoped this duo would work when they signed Dirk’s new scoring sidekick to a three-year, $25 million deal this summer.
Truth be told, Ellis has significantly exceeded the expectations of a Dallas front office that wouldn’t have had the cap space to sign him until Devin Harris’ three-year deal was pulled after a pre-signing physical revealed that he needed toe surgery.
DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks punched their playoff ticket with a 101-98 win over the Phoenix Suns.
How it happened: After big nights by Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs held on in the final seconds to pull out the wild win.
That duo combined for 44 points after the break to allow the Mavs to erase an 11-point halftime deficit, leaving the Suns and Memphis Grizzlies battling for the West’s last playoff spot.
Nowitzki recovered from a horrendous first half (two points on 1-of-5 shooting) to finished with 23 points and eight rebounds. He was 7-of-10 from the floor in the second half, including a 3-pointer from the left wing with 4:34 remaining that gave the Mavs the lead for good.
Ellis was simply sensational all night. He tied his season high with 37 points on 15-of-23 shooting.
The Mavs led by eight with less than three minutes remaining, but the Suns responded with a 9-2 run to pull within one point. Guard Eric Bledsoe, who had 29 points and six assists, fueled that spurt with five points but missed what would have been a tying free throw with 52 seconds remaining.
The Mavs got a major scare early in that run when Nowitzki appeared to twist his left ankle and limped off the court. He returned to the game after missing only 18 seconds.
Phoenix’s Gerald Green had a chance to give the Suns the lead with 26 seconds remaining, but he missed a short baseline jumper in transition.
After a wild pass that was almost stolen by Bledsoe, Ellis went to the line, splitting a pair of free throws to push the Mavs’ lead back to three with 19 seconds remaining.
Bledsoe drove to the basket on the ensuing possession, but Brandan Wright (12 points, 11 rebounds) came up with the biggest blocked shot of his career.
Ellis couldn’t seal the door at the line, splitting another pair of free throws with 9.4 seconds remaining and leaving the door cracked for the Suns to force overtime.
Markieff Morris' 3-pointer on the final possession -- with Wright's hand in his face -- was way off.
What it means: The Mavs (49-32) clinched a playoff spot for the 13th time in 14 seasons. This win locked up a tiebreaker over the 47-33 Suns, who face the 47-32 Grizzlies on Monday. No matter what happens, the Mavs can claim the seventh seed with a win in Memphis during Wednesday’s regular-season finale.
Play of the game: After Nowitzki’s go-ahead 3-pointer with 4:34 to go, Ellis poked the ball loose from Channing Frye and went flying down the left side of the floor, finishing with a lefty layup despite being challenged by Bledsoe. That stretched the Mavs’ lead to five points with 4:00 remaining.
Stat of the night: The American Airlines Center’s two residents clinched playoff appearances with home wins on consecutive nights. The NHL’s Dallas Stars punched their playoff ticket Friday night with a win over the St. Louis Blues.
Dallas Mavericks teammate Vince Carter passed Adrian Dantley on a 3-pointer with 9:23 remaining in the second quarter of Saturday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns. Carter has 23,181 points in his 16-year career after scoring 10 in Saturday's playoff-clinching win over the Phoenix Suns.
"I’m speechless," Carter said. "To accomplish something like that is just amazing. Some of the people I’ve passed I’ve grown up watching and respected and considered them some of the all-time greats. When you throw those names out there – ‘You just passed such and such’ – it’s like, ‘Me? Really?’ So I’m very thankful. To do it in a big game like this, it was awesome. Just a great moment. Glad we won."
Nowitzki cracked the top 10 all time in Tuesday’s win over the Utah Jazz, passing Oscar Robertson. Kobe Bryant, Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Tim Duncan and Ray Allen are the only active players with more points than Carter.
Carter, an eight-time All-Star, is averaging 12.1 points per game as the Mavs’ sixth man this season. He averaged more than 20 points per game in 10 consecutive seasons earlier in his career.
DALLAS -- Never mind about magic numbers for the Mavericks.
Their path to the playoffs is simple: Win and get in.
All they need is one win at this point. It doesn't matter which game.
The Mavs can officially clinch a playoff spot by beating the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night, assuring the franchise's 13th playoff appearance in 14 seasons.
The Mavs already own the tiebreaker over the Memphis Grizzlies. Saturday night's winner gets the tiebreaker in the Mavs-Suns series.
If the Mavs beat the Suns, Dallas is assured of finishing no worse than 49-33. In that case, the loser of Monday night's Grizzlies-Suns game could finish no better than that, guaranteeing that the Mavs would be going to the playoffs.
A win over the Suns would assure the Mavs of finishing above Phoenix in the standings. The Grizzlies would have to win out to finish higher than the Mavs.
That's if the Mavs handle their business against the Suns. If not, the Mavs might have to win Wednesday night in Memphis to get in.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett at Mavericks media day to discuss his expectations for the upcoming season.
Play Podcast Mark Cuban joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Mavericks' new GM Gersson Rosas and much more.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.
Play Podcast Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.
Play Podcast Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.
Play Podcast ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.
Play Podcast Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.
Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.