DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — “This was a ball-buster game,’ said coach Rick Carlisle, whose Mavs survived all the ‘busting’ with a 118-109 season-opening win over visiting Atlanta on Wednesday.
Among the chief ‘busters’? The explosive Monta Ellis, who recorded a memorable offensive debut with 32 points and eight assists.
The Mavs unveiled themselves as potential offensive juggernaut, a team with close-out ability and a team with unity in this victory in the season-opener for both teams at the AAC.
The difference-maker? Ellis, who scored 32 points and recorded eight assists – an effort that ranks as one of the greatest debuts in franchise history.
The last time a Dallas guard put up those sort of numbers in any game? That was Jason Terry, circa 2010. The last time a Mav performed this well statistically in an opener? That was Dirk, who scored 34 to begin the 2009 season.
“Monta is sensational in pick-n-rolls looking aggressively to score, or if he doesn’t have it, finding open shooters,” said Nowitzki. “And that’s fantastic.”
Nowitzki was fantastic enough as well, with 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting. Vince Carter came off the bench to score 21 on 9-of-16 shooting. Shawn Marion chipped in with 12 points and eight boards.
The Mavs opened impressively as Ellis and Nowitzki combined to score 14 of the Mavs’ first 16 points. Dallas went on a key 12-0 run in the third. But maybe most important of all as the Mavs try to put last year’s 41-41 finish behind them: Dallas asserted itself most of all to close the game, led by the quarterbacking of Jose Calderon and his 11 assists. Calderon hit a 3-pointer late — one of seven Mavs makes from the arc. In that same final period, Nowitzki hit two in a row and Ellis canned one as well for a 118-102 lead with 1:18 remaining.
In the fourth quarter, Nowitzki and Ellis combined for 5-of-8 shooting (and 4-of-4 from the arc) for 16 points.
In total, Dallas shot 57.1 percent from the floor, totaled 31 assists and kept its foot on the accelerator to seal the win. Maybe the biggest mop-up issues come in two areas. Ellis did have seven of turnovers, causing coach Rick Carlisle to say, “He’s just got to be a little more disciplined…I don’t think he’s ever played with a team like this.”
And then there is the defense, which figures to be a season-long challenge.
“The only downer was I don’t like we weren’t great defensively and gave up 109 points on our home court,” Nowitzki said. “(But) listen, the home opener is always tough and we’ll take the win and move on…We’re not going 0-82, so that’s great.”
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