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DALLAS (105.3 THE FAN) – Amidst the clutter, dirty laundry, and empty cans of Red Bull sit three items featured prominently in the locker of Mavs’ guard Monta Ellis.
- A picture of the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.
- A highlighted article discussing the defensive liabilities of the Mavericks’ backcourt.
- And a note that simply says, “Prove them wrong.”
In his debut with the Mavs, Ellis silenced his critics, pouring in a game-high 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting as Dallas topped the Hawks 118-102.
“The way he played in the second half was fantastic,” said Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle.”He really did a great job of distributing, scoring, and attacking…He played a terrific game.”
Ellis and forward Dirk Nowitzki were efficient in using the pick-and-roll, combining for 56 points on just 31 shots. Ellis also contributed eight assists on the night, consistently finding shooters and cutters moving towards the basket.
“When they played up on him in the pick-and-roll, he beat both guys and got to the basket,” said Nowitzki following the win. “If they collapsed, he found the right guy. That’s what he has to do for us all season long – be aggressive.”
Ellis struggled in his final four preseason games, shooting just 14-for-50 (28%) in extended minutes. But the first year Maverick attributes the improved performance to his aggressive mentality — and a tip from Coach Carlisle.
“Coach showed a lot of clips in preseason, how teams were playing me,” said Ellis. “Tonight I just wanted to come and be aggressive and take what the defense gives me and make the right plays.”
Ellis has shined in season openers before, collecting 46 with Golden State to open the 2010-11 season. But the performance in a Dallas uniform was the greatest on opening night since Dirk scored 36 against Houston in 2008.
Ellis has set quite an expectation with Mavs’ fans — but that doesn’t bother the ninth-year guard.
“I can hold up to them. You’ll see,” said Ellis.
Ellis couldn’t win a trophy on Wednesday night, and he surely didn’t abolish the ‘defensive liability’ label that’s often slapped on him.
But he quieted his critics — at least for one night.
And if he hopes to continue silencing his detractors, he’ll have to continue scoring at a high rate — which might just require more Red Bull.
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