The Mavericks had a host of memorable moments last season. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll rewind the tape and take a look back at five of our favorite games from the 2013-14 campaign. Comments? Suggestions? Drop us a line below.
With 1.9 seconds left and the score knotted at 106, Jose Calderon delivered an inbounds pass to Monta Ellis, who curled off a triple-screen from the baseline to the top of the three-point line. Moving at full speed, Monta gathered the pass, took one dribble, squared up, faded away, and released a 25-foot heave over LaMarcus Aldridge. Bucket. Dallas wins.
We’d see the play in several more games throughout the season, often with slight variations, including in one of Mavs.com’s future Games of the Year. That play put such tremendous pressure on defenses all season, as Dallas used its three best scorers and a bevy of screens to free up a shooter. But the play’s debut alone wasn’t enough to make the Mavs’ last-second win in Portland one of the five best games of the year.
Heading into that evening’s tilt, Portland sat atop the Western Conference with a 17-3 record, including a 9-1 mark at home. Portland’s Moda Center has long been one of the toughest environments in the NBA, and that night was no different. The crowd was rocking and the Blazers’ offense hummed along to the tune of 106 points, scoring 30 in both the first and fourth quarters. Dallas, meanwhile, had struggled away from home to that point in the season. The 12-8 Mavs were just 3-6 outside of the friendly confines of the American Airlines Center, and had yet to beat an eventual playoff team on the road. It would take a strong offensive performance to beat the high-powered Blazers attack, led by Aldridge and Damian Lillard and engineered by head coach Terry Stotts, the lead offensive assistant during the Mavs’ 2011 championship run.
Dirk was excellent all night, scoring 30 points and shooting 13-of-23 from the field. Jose Calderon hit a season-high seven two-pointers, scoring 15 points without hitting a single three-point shot. The Blazers allowed Calderon to drive into the lane, and he made them pay by hitting several uncontested layups. Simply put, the Mavericks scored from all over the floor with ease that night — Dallas hit better than 50 percent from the field and exactly 50 percent from beyond the arc, one of eight times during the 2013-14 season the Mavs would hit both of those marks.
The efficient offense was nearly all for naught, however, when Lillard’s circus-shot three-pointer found the net to tie the game at 106 with 1.9 seconds left. Dallas responded with a timeout, and Mavs fans were left to anxiously wait and see who’d get the call. Would it be Nowitzki, one of the game’s best fourth-quarter players? Or perhaps the red-hot Calderon? Maybe the veteran Vince Carter? No, no, and no. In an odd bit of fortune, Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle already knew which play he’d call. As it turns out, Carlisle had drawn up the set during that morning’s shootaround — proving yet again that timing is everything. Monta Ellis came off the designed curl, and the rest is history.
“You know, it was a play coach drew up today, this morning,” Ellis told reporters after the game. “We didn’t expect to use it tonight, but we did and came out with a shot. That was the first option. If that wasn’t open, the second option was for Vince in the corner or Jose coming off of a screen. But we got the first option and came out with the win.”
It doesn’t matter whether it was sheer luck or a bit of fortune-telling that led Carlisle to design the eventual game-winning play — and a staple in the Mavericks’ fourth-quarter offense for the rest of the season — just hours before the game. All that matters is that it happened, and that Monta gave the Mavs an all-important road win against a conference juggernaut and a shot we’ll all remember for a while.