- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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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.