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Monta Ellis is proving critics wrong one win at a time Subscribe via RSS

Practice Report: Monta Ellis

Mavs G Monta Ellis says it's a great honor to win Western Conference Player of the Week, talks about how focused the team is on reaching the 50-win milestone and says the reason he and Dirk have meshed so well is because they both have a strong will to win.

Of all the people thrilled that Monta Ellis is a Maverick, Ellis himself is probably the most excited.

His outstanding season began under the microscope and ended with him earning Western Conference Player of the Week honors. The shooting guard said Tuesday that he’s a happier person since moving to Dallas and joining Dirk Nowitzki & Co. with the Mavericks.

“You’re gonna have challenges in life,” Ellis said. “I just think that I’ve grown up to be a better person and got back to the love of basketball. And with this great group of guys, it makes my life so much easier.”

Ellis’s performance against the Phoenix Suns on Saturday could have been enough to warrant the honor by itself. He scored a game-high 37 points on 15-of-23 shooting in a must-win, partnering with Nowitzki — last week’s West Player of the Week winner — to lead a Dallas comeback surge and send the franchise back into the playoffs. The two have been a dynamic duo all season, posing tremendous matchup issues for opponents and, in the process, making each other better.

“We both want to win,” Ellis said. “We both understand what it takes for us to win. Coach (Rick Carlisle) always says it starts with us two. I think that we’re on the same page of just being focused on more Ws and playing as a team.”

He’s saved his best for last toward the end of games this season, often carrying the load offensively while Nowitzki grabs a quick rest midway through the fourth quarter. Ellis is scoring 5.5 points per fourth quarter during the 2013-14 campaign, which leads the team. More importantly, he’s doing it at a 48.3 percent shooting clip, his highest mark in any quarter. Against Phoenix on Saturday, Ellis scored 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the final frame, adding two assists and two steals.

“He’s a rise-to-the-moment player,” Carlisle said following the win. “He’s been that, really, all year. He’s had a lot of huge games for us. He’s a great competitor.”

Many in the media have called Ellis an inefficient player during the past few seasons, due to the relationship between his field goal attempts per game and his shooting percentages. This year, however, the guard has rightfully shed that reputation. He’s shooting the fewest field goals per game (and at the highest percentage) since the 2007-08 season, and has done a good job of playing within himself and the offense throughout games.

Consequently, his per-game scoring average has also dipped to 19.0 points, but he’ll be the last to complain. He’s just happy to have shown critics who he can be when surrounded with veteran talent at a quality organization.

“That’s why I go out every night and play this game of basketball, my teammates, and for this organization: because of all of the critics,” he said. “I love proving people wrong, and this year we have done that.”

Now that he’s taken care of his personal business, silencing those who declared him inefficient, he’s on to the next order of business: winning in the playoffs. But first, the Mavericks play their final game of the season tomorrow against Memphis, a game with significant importance in terms of playoff seeding. A win would also give the Mavericks their first 50-win season since the 2010-11 campaign, and it’s a number the team has been aiming for since training camp.

The Mavs have essentially been in the postseason for two months already, as every game has had major playoff implications. The NBA season is as much a mental grind as a physical one, and Ellis’s internal peace has certainly impacted his on-court performance.

“I had to grow up and accept some of the things that were going on around me that I can control, which is my attitude — be more positive and put myself around positive people,” he said. “Being around this organization, and being with this group of guys, really got me back in love with basketball.”

His transformation into a happier, more efficient player is nearly complete. All that’s left is leaving his mark in the playoffs.