Dirk, Monta fade down stretch of OT loss

DALLAS -- For most of Friday night the Dallas Mavericks’ stars were spectacular.

Then they stunk up the gym with the game on the line.

The lines in the box score for Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis will still look awfully good in the morning. Nowitzki had 22 points on 10-of-22 shooting, along with nine rebounds and five assists. Ellis had his third double-double of the season with 21 points and 11 assists.

But their numbers from the fourth quarter and overtime of the 109-108 loss to the Toronto Raptors were ugly. They combined to score a grand total of five points on 2-of-14 shooting in the game’s final 17 minutes.

They both missed potential game winners. Nowitzki’s baseline fadeaway on the final possession of regulation didn’t go down. Ellis’ rushed floater at the overtime buzzer bounced off the back rim and out.

Ellis, who logged a season-high 46 minutes, left the locker room before the media entered. Nowitzki, whose 43 minutes also were his most this year, admitted he ran out of gas.

“It was a long stretch there, starting already in the third quarter,” said Nowitzki, who played the final 18 minutes, 29 seconds without a rest and missed his last six shots from the floor. “But obviously it’s a close game. You don’t want to get out of there in the fourth, not knowing that it was going to go to overtime, either.

“But it is what it is. I’ve got to make that last turnaround [in regulation].”

Jose Calderon got hot enough during the fourth quarter -- when he scored 11 of his season-high 23 points and dished out three of his nine assists -- to give the Mavs a chance to win a game they appeared on the verge of putting away in the first half.

But it’s hard for the Mavs, who blew a 19-point lead, to pull out a close win with their two stars going ice cold down the stretch.

Ellis is a streaky shooter, so a bad spell from him can’t be considered stunning. But it’s always surprising when Nowitzki, one of the NBA’s elite closers of the last decade, fails so miserably during crunch time.

Nowitzki’s last bucket was a 3-pointer with 3:28 remaining in the fourth quarter. He missed a 19-foot jumper and a pair of baseline fadeaways in the rest of regulation, then two more fadeaways and a 3-pointer in overtime.

“If you get in somebody’s face constantly, I feel that eventually he is going to get annoyed and piss him off,” Raptors power forward Amir Johnson said. “I believe that I got him a little frustrated. I was going to get some stops down the stretch and make him take contested shots and made him shoot the fadeaway.”

The Mavs are fine with Nowitzki shooting his fadeaway, one of the best go-to moves in the league these days. Johnson is right that he got Nowitzki a little frustrated, although the big German gives an assists to the refs.

“I thought I got fouled twice on some shots when they hit my elbow, [including] that one when I shot an air ball but didn’t get the call [and] complained about it,” said Nowitzki, who only attempted one free throw all night. “But there’s nothing you can do about those. But I just didn’t finish the way I would have loved to. Still had enough chances.

“That’s a game we can’t lose.”

The Mavs won’t win often when their dynamic duo disappears down the stretch.