When it comes to a closer mentality? Ellis showed a glimpse of Jet’s best attribute Tuesday night.
Like Jason Terry before him, Monta Ellis is showing a knack for coming up big in clutch situations.
Terry earned a reputation as one of the league’s top clutch players during his time in Dallas. He was a fearless scorer in the fourth quarter, on countless occasions conveniently forgetting about the fact that he’d been in the midst of off nights to go on down-the-stretch scoring sprees.
That’s exactly what Ellis did to help the Mavs put away the Washington Wizards. Ellis misfiring on seven of his 10 shots in the first three quarters didn’t matter when coach Rick Carlisle called a play to put the ball in Ellis’ hands at a critical juncture, following a run by the Wizards to trim Dallas’ lead to five points with a little more than eight minutes remaining.
Ellis responded by knocking down a 16-footer despite being fouled to start a 10-3 run that stretched the lead back to a dozen points. Ellis accounted for every bucket during that spurt, drilling four midrange jumpers off the dribble and dishing to Shawn Marion for the other score.
“I love that moment of the game; born for it,” Ellis said, sounding like Terry. “But [Carlisle] still had the confidence in me to call those plays when I was having a bad shooting night. It let me know how much confidence he has in me.”
Ellis has earned that confidence. He’s numbers in the final frame this season (6.1 points on 60.7 shooting) are by far his best of any quarter.
This was a test of Ellis’ mental toughness because he had struggled offensively in the game up until that point. He passed with flying colors, scoring 10 of his 19 points in the fourth.
“He was patient and disciplined and in the fourth, we just kind of went to him and got it going and we rode him,” Carlisle said. “He really helped us finish the game off.
“He stepped up to the moment. He’s going to need to be a main playmaker for us in those situations all the time. He won’t necessarily have to carry the major part of the scoring load, but he’s going to have the ball in his hands a lot.”
Dirk Nowitzki has been one of the league’s elite clutch scorers of his generation, but he can’t carry that burden by himself, especially at the age of 35. That was a major problem last season, when the Mavs seemed to find ways to lose close games. O.J. Mayo had some clutch scoring flurries, but he never earned the team’s trust in those situations in large part because of his tendency to commit turnovers.
Whether he’s hot or not, Ellis will be one of the Mavs’ primary offensive initiators when it’s time to win games.
“He’s going to keep attacking,” Nowitzki said. “That’s who he is. That’s his mindset. All good scorers in this league gotta have short-term memory. You can’t really dwell what happened in the first half or the first three quarters. It’s winning time, and he really carried us there.”