DALLAS — If the Dallas Mavericks’ season opener Wednesday night against Atlanta is any indication of just how potent the team’s offensive attack figures to be this season then fans have plenty of reasons to get excited.
Grounding the Hawks’ attack and flying to a 118-109 victory, the Mavericks (1-0) tipped off the regular season in style. Meanwhile, new addition Monta Ellis made his Dallas debut one to remember, scoring 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out eight assists to lead the Mavs to the victory.
“Man, I’ve loved my team since the day I signed,” Ellis said after the win. “I think we’ve put a great group of guys together. We came out and played Mavs basketball. We played together, made some mistakes, but we stuck with it.”
He added: “I just took what the defense gave me. If they sagged off, I took one or two dribbles and pulled up. If they stayed with me then I got past them, attacked the basket and got to the free-throw line. When they closed in I was able to find shooters. That’s what [Mavs coach Rick Carlisle] wanted me to do, so I did it.”
Already recognized as a top-tier scorer before joining the Mavericks as a free agent this offseason, Ellis has surprisingly dazzled his teammates and coaches since the start of training camp with his ability to create for others. That playmaking ability was on full display Wednesday night, adding another dimension to Dallas’ two-man game alongside 11-time All-Star power forward Dirk Nowitzki.
With Ellis attacking, Nowitzki took advantage of less double-teams while scoring 24 points of his own on 8-of-14 shooting and 4-of-6 from behind the 3-point arc. The Mavs’ freelance pick-and-roll offense also flourished with Ellis and point guard Jose Calderon running the show, dishing out 31 assists as a team, connecting on 57.1 percent from the field and knocking down 11-of-24 from 3-point range.
But it’s Ellis’ attacking style that Nowitzki credits with opening everything else up for the offense, as the cat-quick point guard may have taken the reins from the 7-footer as the team’s lead offensive weapon.
“He was great and his shot looked comfortable,” Nowitzki said of his newest sidekick. “When they were playing up on him in the pick-and-roll he just beat both guys around and got to the basket. If they collapsed on him, he found the right guy and found the shooters. I mean, that’s what he has to do for us all season long and that’s being aggressive. He’s going to get tons of pick-and-roll looks out there at all angles, from everywhere, and he’s one of our playmakers.
“I said it all preseason. I think his overall game impressed me more than his ability to score. I knew he could score. I knew he could score with the best of them in this league, but his ability to make plays for others … was phenomenal. Those are the plays that make his teammates better, and that’s what we need out of him.”
Nowitzki now hopes Ellis can carry that success over to Friday night, when the Mavs travel down Interstate 45 for a Southwest Division matchup against the Houston Rockets.
Note: The Mavericks return to action Friday night on the road against the Houston Rockets. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7 p.m. CT.
On the second night of a back-to-back, the team returns to American Airlines Center to take on the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.