DALLAS (AP) – Monta Ellis figures the Dallas Mavericks are better off mentally than the last time they played a Western Conference contender.
Armed with three straight wins against losing teams and their best record in almost two years, the Mavericks have to get ready for three games against playoff-worthy foes in the West.
Ellis scored 21 points, Dirk Nowitzki added 15 and the Mavericks beat Orlando 107-88 Monday night, extending the Magic’s longest skid of the season to eight games.
The Mavericks bounced back from a blowout loss to defending West champion San Antonio and now get set for a trip to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, less than two weeks after blowing a late lead after Chris Paul left with a shoulder injury that still has him sidelined.
“I think our mindset is different heading into this game on a three-game winning streak,” said Ellis, who scored 14 in the first half to help build an 18-point lead that withstood a few challenges after halftime. “Hopefully we continue with it.”
Jameer Nelson scored 21 and Glen Davis added 19 points and eight rebounds for the Magic, who got swept on a swing through five Western Conference cities and lost by an average of 20 points.
“I’m disappointed that it didn’t go the way we felt it should have went or could have went, but at the same time we get the opportunity to go home, see our families, sleep in our bed,” Nelson said. “You get to play in front of your home fans.”
The Mavericks (23-16) moved seven games over .500 for the first time since the end of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season — the year after they won the franchise’s first championship.
Nowitzki did most of his damage in the first half with 10 points, two nights after scoring 20 in the third quarter on his way to a season-high 40 against New Orleans.
Vince Carter, who had 17 points, was 3 of 4 from 3-point range and had consecutive 2-point baskets in an 8-0 run that finally put Orlando away in the fourth quarter. The spurt included a long pass from Jae Crowder to Brandan Wright for a dunk that put Dallas up 97-82.
Orlando was playing its second straight game without leading scorer Arron Afflalo (strained right foot) and starting center Nik Vucevic, who was back in Florida after sustaining a concussion at the Clippers in the opener of the long road trip.
“This is a team that is depleted because of injuries and stuff, but they’re an NBA team,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “They made a couple of runs at us. We did a good job of getting the lead back up in the game.”
Jose Calderon scored 13, including a 3 at the shot-clock buzzer that gave the Mavericks their biggest lead of the first half at 58-36. The shot came after Ellis missed badly on a wild layup, but Wayne Ellington grabbed one of his season-high seven rebounds and found Calderon beyond the arc.
Nelson played despite injuring a finger in a loss at Denver two nights earlier and had seven assists
The veteran guard’s supporting cast tried to keep the game close early in the second half, with Davis scoring the first six Orlando points after halftime as part of a 21-5 run that got the Magic to 63-57. Davis scored 12 during the run.
“I was being more aggressive,” Davis said. “I had nothing to lose. I ended up making a nice run and kind of getting the game under control a little bit. They just came back and made another run.”
Calderon hit another 3-pointer to get the Dallas lead back to 13, and Ellis pulled up from long range with the shot clock running down to finish a 12-0 spurt that put the Mavericks up 75-57.
Ellington had a season-high 12 points.
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