- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS -- The turnovers of the “dumbass” variety concern Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who used that term a few times after watching his team cough up the ball 17 times Sunday night, bringing Dallas’ three-game turnover total to an unacceptable 53.
But Carlisle doesn’t want the primary culprit to play cautiously.
Monta Ellis has 18 turnovers in the past three games. That includes a couple of eight-turnover outings.
Some of those were certainly not smart plays, but Carlisle understands that’s part of the package with a guard who attacks the basket more than anybody in the league, according to the NBA’s player tracking data.
“He has the ball so much -- and we ask him to be aggressive -- that there’s going to be nights when there are turnovers,” Carlisle said. “He knows that he’s got to be a little more patient at times, but his wiring is that he’s an attack-first guy. I’ve got to be careful as a coach not to diminish the thing that’s his ultimate strength.”
Ellis, who is averaging 19.7 points per game and shooting his best field goal percentage (46.2) since 2007-08, doesn’t seem to be sweating the turnovers. He basically shrugged when the subject was broached.
“It’s basketball,” Ellis said of Sunday’s eight-turnover outing. “It happens. Let that one go and move on.
“It happens sometimes. Sometimes I’m going to have three turnovers. Sometimes I’m not going to have any turnovers. It’s just part of the game. I’ve just got to keep attacking and make the simple plays and not make careless turnovers.”
Ellis will usually have at least three turnovers. He is tied for sixth in the league with 3.4 turnovers per game, which actually puts him in pretty good company. The players who average more turnovers: Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, John Wall and LeBron James.
As far as Ellis sometimes not having any turnovers? Well, we’re still waiting for one of those nights from him in a Mavs uniform.
In fact, he has committed at least one turnover in his last 111 games dating to last season in Milwaukee. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s more than twice as long as any other active turnover streak.
Ellis’ turnover issues are balanced by sharing a backcourt with Jose Calderon, who protects the ball historically well. Muggsy Bogues and John Paxson are the only players in NBA history with a better assist-to-turnover ratio than Calderon, who averages 4.12 dimes per turnover for his career and 3.89 this season. It also helps that Dirk Nowitzki's turnover percentage is annually one of the lowest among starters in the league.
The Mavs have committed the eighth-fewest turnovers in the league this season, averaging only 13.5 per game.
Carlisle’s harping on the issue is a case of preventative maintenance as much as anything. But the coach can’t afford to overcorrect when it comes to Ellis and negatively affect the primary reason the combo guard is an asset for the Mavs.
“We need him to be aggressive and play his game,” Carlisle said. “The turnover thing, it’ll improve.”
That’s probably wishful thinking. The reality is the Mavs can live with a few turnovers per game from Ellis, as long as they aren’t the kind that make a coach curse.