Mavericks-Timberwolves Preview

The Associated Press

Dirk Nowitzki has been content in allowing Monta Ellis to flourish as the Dallas Mavericks' leading scorer through the first five games of the season.

The veteran forward, though, hasn't completely stepped into the background and may need to assert himself against another of the NBA's best big men Friday night when the Mavs visit Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

While Ellis has added an explosive element to the Dallas offense that was missing since the Steve Nash era, Nowitzki has also been solid with 19.4 points per game while hitting 10 of his 19 3-point attempts.

Ellis is averaging 24.0 points during a 3-2 start for Dallas, which has been led in scoring by Nowitzki for 13 straight seasons. The last player other than the big German to lead the Mavs in scoring was Michael Finley in 1999-2000 - Nowitzki's second season in the league.

The steady play of Ellis, Shawn Marion (13.6 ppg) and Jae Crowder (10.6 ppg) has certainly eased the scoring burden on the 35-year-old Nowitzki after a 2012-13 season in which he missed the first 27 games following knee surgery.

Signed to a three-year deal in July, Ellis' attacking style has been paying off. He's shooting 51.9 percent from the field and has had two games with at least 30 points and eight assists - both victories.

"I think being aggressive opened everything up for us as a team," Ellis told the NBA's official website. "I've just got to continue to attack and make the right plays."

Ellis had 20 points in a 107-93 loss at Oklahoma City on Wednesday in the second game of a back-to-back. His aggressive play, however, did result in seven of the team's 21 turnovers, which led to 23 points for the Thunder.

"I mean, 23 points off turnovers on the road is going to be really hard to overcome," coach Rick Carlisle said after his team dropped the opener of a three-game trip. "And then we got beat on the boards (44-36) and we just didn't play well enough. It's a disappointing night, but we've got to get ready for the next one."

Crowder and Marion added 17 points each, while Nowitzki finished with 16.

Ellis and Nowitzki may need to keep the offense clicking against the Timberwolves (3-2), who were explosive during a 3-0 start before falling off a bit in the last two games.

Minnesota averaged 109.6 points in victories over Orlando, Oklahoma City and New York before dropping to 92.5 during its two-game skid.

Love, who missed most of last season with a broken hand, has been dominant through five games, averaging 26.2 points and 11.0 rebounds while also earning Western Conference player of the week honors along the way.

The Wolves' recent sluggish play has coincided with a minor slump for point guard Ricky Rubio, who had at least 10 assists in the opening three victories before averaging just six in the two losses.

Love had 25 points, 16 rebounds and six assists in a 106-93 loss to Golden State on Wednesday. Kevin Martin added 23 points for Minnesota, which shot 37.8 percent and turned the ball over 19 times. Rubio had seven points on 2-for-8 shooting with four turnovers.

"We have to find a way to keep things going and be more productive," said coach Rick Adelman.

The series has been relatively even over the last few seasons, with the Wolves winning four of the last seven after dropping 18 of the previous 19.

Mavericks forward Vince Carter won't play Friday, having been suspended one game without pay for throwing an elbow and making contact with the head of Thunder center Steven Adams on Wednesday.