Game 81: Mavs vs. Suns

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Mavs eclipse Suns

Monta Ellis scores 37 points with Dirk Nowitzki adding 23 points as the Mavericks beat the Suns and clinch a playoff berth Saturday night.

DALLAS — It was an opportunity the Dallas Mavericks had waited for all season long.

Taking the American Airlines Center floor Saturday night for their regular-season home finale, the Mavericks stood one win away from earning a playoff berth. However, in their way stood the Phoenix Suns, who along with Memphis entered the night one-half game back of the Mavericks in the three-team race for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference standings.

Still, even after falling down by double-digits, the Mavs wouldn’t be denied a chance to return to the playoffs for a 13th time in the last 14 years. And after rallying from a 13-point deficit to capture a 101-98 win, the Mavericks (49-32) redeemed themselves for missing out on the playoffs last season by securing a guaranteed postseason spot.

“That was our goal and it’s been a hard fight,” 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki said after helping to lead the Mavs back to the postseason. “It’s been a lot of ups and downs, which is normal in a long 82-game season, but we grinded it out. … We felt like our playoffs started early this year and that was a playoff game tonight again. Just a fun game to be a part of against a very good and explosive team. It feels good to be back in the big dance. I mean, that’s where competitors want to be — on the big stage and in the playoffs. It’s fun to be back.”

Looking to bounce back after having their four-game win streak snapped following Thursday’s 109-100 home defeat to San Antonio, the Mavericks attempted to get off to a fast start against a Phoenix squad that was on the second night of a back-to-back. But, following a 112-104 loss Friday in San Antonio, the Suns (47-33) would come out clicking on all cylinders as big man Channing Frye found early success from the perimeter with four 3-pointers in the first period.

But, thanks to the play of an aggressive Monta Ellis and a late 3-pointer by rookie Shane Larkin, the Mavs still managed to finish off the opening quarter with a 27-26 edge.

Entering the night just seven points away from passing Adrian Dantley (23,177) for 25th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, sixth man Vince Carter looked to assert himself early in the second stanza. Carter then rained in a 3-pointer from the wing with 9:23 left in the second period to pass Dantley, giving the Mavs a 33-28 lead in the process.

The eight-time All-Star also received some help from his fellow Tar Heel, backup big man Brandan Wright, a short time later. However, Frye would continue to stroke the hot hand as the Suns regained control and a double-digit lead following a 15-2 run. And after Ellis’ floater in the lane just did beat the buzzer, the Mavs found themselves on the downside of a 57-46 deficit entering the halftime break.

“We didn’t finish the half the way we wanted to and didn’t get a single stop,” Nowitzki said. “They got hot … and on the other end we didn’t score, so that wasn’t the way we wanted to close the half. But, you know, this was a big game and we talked about just staying in the moment and keep fighting.”

Led by 33 combined points from guard Eric Bledsoe and Frye on 11-of-14 shooting, the Suns’ 60.5 percent from the field bettered the Mavs’ 42.2 percent at the other end. Meanwhile, Ellis did his best to keep the Mavericks in the game, scoring 14 first-half points on 7-of-11 shooting.

With Nowitzki struggling through a rare off-shooting night, the Mavericks’ offense continued to run through Ellis as the second half got underway. Nowitzki then began to shake off his 1-of-6 start, finding a rhythm on the offensive end to help will the Mavs back into the game.

But it would be Ellis that would lead the Mavericks within an arm’s reach, connecting on back-to-back 3-pointers to bring the Mavs within five, 69-64, with 4:36 left in the third. Nowitzki followed suit, hitting back-to-back bombs from behind the arc as well to inch the Mavs even closer in the period. Still, after another shot from long range by Ellis brought the Mavericks within one, the home team slid into the fourth down 78-75.

“I thought there Monta just got hot,” Nowitzki said with high praise for his teammate. “He shot us back in it with two threes in the corner and then the three behind the screen when I set the screen to pull within one. He was phenomenal tonight and he was shooting it well. He left it all out there on both ends of the floor.”

“This just felt like a playoff game,” Ellis added. “You know, we made one and the crowd got into it. We made two or three and it was like they never sat down, so we all were keyed in. In an environment like that when we’re at home, it just gives us a different kind of boost. I just think it was the environment and the energy in the building.”

Opening the fourth with a jumper by Ellis, the Mavericks looked to build on the momentum of the previous quarter. Ellis then drove in for a three-point play to make it an 85-84 deficit with 9:01 on the clock to keep the Suns from pulling away.

The Mavericks would soon have to overcome a blow, however, as Carter was forced to sit with 8:45 remaining after picking up his fifth personal foul. Still, with Ellis and Nowitzki running the two-man game to perfection, the Mavs surged to an 88-87 lead, forcing a Phoenix timeout with 6:38 left to play.

After taking their first lead since 35-34 with 7:28 left in the first half, the Mavs turned to the defensive end to try to close the game out with a string of stops. Nowitzki and Ellis, meanwhile, supplied the offense as the Mavs began to create a separation of their own on the scoreboard. Devin Harris lent some assistance, drilling a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the home team up 97-89 with 3:30 left to hold on.

However, the Suns wouldn’t fade away quietly as Nowitzki limped to the bench with an apparent left ankle injury. Nowitzki then returned with 2:30 on the game clock, hoping to close the visiting Suns out from there. But the Mavs still wouldn’t be out of the woods safely following Bledsoe’s steal and score to make it a two-point Dallas lead with 1:15 remaining. And after a loose-ball foul on Ellis with 52.7 ticks left, Bledsoe brought the Suns within one at 99-98 following a 1-of-2 trip to the free-throw line.

Ellis answered by padding the lead to two after hitting one of two foul shots with 20.9 seconds remaining. But the Dallas defense would rise to the occasion as Wright met Bledsoe at the rim for a big rejection at the other end of the floor.

“We could have taken bets to see if anybody thought we could hold them under 100 after the first half, but we stepped it up,” Wright would later say. “That’s what we needed. We needed all those stops. And if we didn’t get those stops, we probably wouldn’t have won the game.”

Still, Ellis couldn’t put the finishing touches on the win, splitting a pair of free throws before the Suns secured a defensive rebound and called for a timeout down three with 9.4 seconds to tie it. And after Markieff Morris’ three-point attempt misfired, the Mavericks galloped off their home floor with their ticket punched to the postseason.

Tying his season high with 37 points on 15-of-23 shooting, Ellis led four Mavericks in double figures while also grabbing down four rebounds and dishing out five assists.

“I don’t think it was just me. I think we came together as a team,” Ellis modestly said. “Even when we were down [13], we came together as a team, got stops, got out, ran and got some open threes in transition. We played Mavs basketball, so I think it was a total team effort. It wasn’t something that I said I have to do. It was one of those nights where the ball was going down and my teammates did a great job of getting me open.”

Nowitzki added 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Meanwhile, Wright recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds in a reserve role and Carter finished with 10 points off the bench.

“The reason we won is because we have one of the best players on the planet in Dirk and because Monta Ellis at the time we needed him most stepped up and had his biggest game of the year, and he played the whole second half. We couldn’t get him out of the game,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle confessed. “Those two guys led the way … and just holding the line when they made the run. It’s pretty clear we are not a perfect team, but with our imperfections we have to have an understanding that we really need each other. That kicked in, in the second half, and that made the difference.”

Bledsoe led three Suns in double figures with 29 points on 11-of-15 shooting. However, the Mavericks finished the game outshooting the Suns, 49.4 percent to 46.2 percent, overcoming the 24 points they allowed off 19 turnovers by forcing 18 Phoenix giveaways.

“We set a goal in training camp,” Ellis said. “You know, people doubted us, never gave us a chance, but as of today … we’re in the playoffs and got this win. We’ll be ready for the playoffs.”

Note: The Mavericks will now conclude the regular season on the road, traveling to take on the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night. Dallas leads the season series 3-0. The game will air locally on TXA 21 at 7 p.m. CT.

Single-game tickets for the first two Mavs home games of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs are on sale now. Tickets are available at the American Airlines Center box office, online at or by calling (214) 747-MAVS. There is an eight ticket limit per game. Dates and times for the first two games have not been announced but will be posted on by April 17.


All Stats

P. Tucker, F 31 2-7 0-2 2-3 2 3 5 1 4 0 3 4 -8 6
C. Frye, F 34 7-13 5-6 2-2 0 6 6 0 1 1 1 3 11 21
M. Plumlee, C 16 2-2 0-0 0-0 3 3 6 0 1 2 1 1 8 4
G. Dragic, G 40 6-18 0-3 1-3 1 4 5 4 1 0 2 4 5 13
E. Bledsoe, G 40 11-15 2-2 5-7 0 4 4 6 4 1 7 2 6 29
M. Morris 31 2-8 0-1 4-4 4 2 6 2 2 0 0 1 -11 8
G. Green 27 2-9 1-3 4-4 1 6 7 0 2 0 3 1 -11 9
M. Morris 14 3-4 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 1 1 0 1 2 -13 6
I. Smith 3 1-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -2 2
L. Barbosa 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
D. Christmas 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
A. Goodwin 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
A. Len 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
E. Okafor 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
S. Randolph 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
TEAM   36-78 8-17 18-23 12 29 41 14 16 4 18 18   98
    46.2% 47.1%                      

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All Stats

S. Marion, F 33 3-6 1-2 0-0 1 5 6 1 3 0 3 1 -10 7
D. Nowitzki, F 39 8-15 3-6 4-4 0 8 8 3 2 1 4 2 3 23
S. Dalembert, C 14 2-5 0-0 2-2 3 2 5 0 0 1 0 0 -4 6
M. Ellis, G 43 15-23 3-4 4-7 0 4 4 5 2 0 5 3 -2 37
J. Calderon, G 17 0-3 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 2 0 0 1 0 -9 0
B. Wright 32 5-8 0-0 2-2 5 6 11 1 1 3 1 3 6 12
D. Harris 31 1-4 1-4 0-0 0 2 2 6 1 0 2 3 13 3
V. Carter 21 4-13 2-6 0-0 0 5 5 2 2 0 3 5 10 10
J. Crowder 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 0
S. Larkin 5 1-2 1-1 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 3 3
D. Blair 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
W. Ellington 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
B. James 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
R. Ledo 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
G. Mekel 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
TEAM   39-79 11-24 12-15 9 33 42 21 11 5 19 18   101
    49.4% 45.8%                      

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Postgame: Monta Ellis

Mavs G Monta Ellis dishes on his 37-point effort against Phoenix, accomplishing the goal of getting back into the postseason and more.

Postgame: Dirk Nowitzki

Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki comments on Saturday's big win over the Suns, how good it feels to be back in the big dance and more.

Postgame: Shawn Marion

Mavs F Shawn Marion talks about clinching a playoff berth, the goal of winning 50 games, Monta Ellis' big night and more.

Arena Link: Brandan Wright

Energetic big man Brandan Wright joins GameTime to talk about the Mavericks big win over the Suns.

Big Time Block

With the game on the line, Eric Bledsoe drives strong for the layup and Brandan Wright gets the big block to keep the points off the board.

Clutch Gene

Monta Ellis gets the steal and takes it all the way in for the fast break layup.

Close The Distance

Goran Dragic drives in traffic and spins past the defense but Brandan Wright flies in and rejects the shot emphatically.

No No Monsieur

Goran Dragic blows into the lane and tries to finger roll the layup and Samuel Dalembert blocks it high out of bounds.


Monta Ellis brings it up and lobs it to Brandan Wright who flushes home the alley-oop jam.

DALLAS — Not much needed to be said following the Dallas Mavericks’ Saturday morning walkthrough.

Well aware of the opportunity that awaits them, the Mavericks (48-32) wrapped up their Saturday shootaround with their eyes set towards collecting a win over the Phoenix Suns. And after learning that with a victory they can secure the 19th postseason appearance in franchise history and 13th playoff berth in the last 14 years, the Mavs concluded their morning practice session with one goal: win by any means necessary.

“Well, these are ultimate games. If you don’t like this, you’ve got to get into another line of work,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle confidently said. “You know, you work all year for opportunities to play in games like this. And we’ve played in a lot of them, but none quite to this magnitude tonight. Hey, it’s all about playing together and competing. That’s going to be what our approach is going to be tonight.”

Finishing up the season against the two squads behind them in the three-team race for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference, the Mavs will have a chance to secure the seventh seed while also collecting a 50-win season. However, after splitting the previous two meetings against the Suns (47-32) in Phoenix, the Mavs know they’ll have to first take care of business on their own home floor before concluding the regular season next Wednesday in Memphis.

“I mean, it is what it is,” four-time All-Star Shawn Marion explained. “We knew it was going to be a tough battle. Everybody least expected the Suns to be there, but at the same time they’ve played it out and played with a chip on their shoulders all season, and that’s what it’s about. It’s going to be intense, it’s going to be fun, and we know what’s at stake here. … What it’s about is finishing on a winning note, regardless of how you look at it. If we can get that 50, we’ve got to go for it. But we’ve got to get to 49 first.”

Note: The Mavericks return to American Airlines Center on Saturday for their regular-season home finale, hosting the Phoenix Suns. The season series is tied at 1-1. The game will air locally on TXA 21 at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting

DALLAS — After fighting their way through the course of a grueling 82-game season, the Dallas Mavericks are down to two final contests against the teams they’ve battled most of the way for the final two Western Conference playoff spots.

Before concluding the regular season on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies next Wednesday, however, the Mavericks (48-32) will square off against the Phoenix Suns Saturday night. The Mavs will also try to give their hometown fans one more treat at American Airlines Center in their final regular-season home matchup. And with a chance to redeem themselves for seeing the franchise’s streak of 12 straight playoff appearances come to an end following the 2012-13 campaign, the Mavericks will attempt to seize the season series against the Suns (47-32) and the all-important tiebreaker between the two teams.

“I just think everyone’s locked in to what we’re trying to do,” sixth man Vince Carter said. “We’re trying to make that playoff spot and it means something. And a lot of these guys weren’t here last year for the disappointment of breaking the streak, but it feels like they were because it all means something. And everybody is coming together and ready to go.”

Looking to get back on track after a 109-100 home defeat at the hands of the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs Thursday, the Mavericks will try to regain their playoff stride after having their four-game win streak snapped following an unbeaten road trip. The Mavs will also try to take advantage of the Suns’ tired legs, welcoming the Phoenix team to town after a 112-104 road loss Friday in San Antonio.

And while entering the night one-half game up on Memphis and Phoenix in the three-team race for the final two playoff spots, the Mavs will look to secure the seventh seed by finishing the regular season strong.

“I mean, you know, from a competitive standpoint it doesn’t get any better than this,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of the round-robin situation to end the regular season.

He added: “We’ve got to respond to how poorly we played (Thursday night). And there are a lot of similarities between the Spurs and the Suns, but the personnel is different. You can argue [the Suns] are a more physical team and in some ways even more athletic. So, hey, this is what it’s about, being able to bounce back from a bad night and you’ve got to make it a good night. That’s what our goal is going to be.”

Note: The Mavericks return to American Airlines Center on Saturday for their regular-season home finale, hosting the Phoenix Suns. The season series is tied at 1-1. The game will air locally on TXA 21 at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting