Mavs earn elusive victory over Nuggets

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks got an important rebound victory Friday night over a team that has been a thorn in their side.
Guard Monta Ellis scored 14 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter as Dallas beat the Denver Nuggets for the first time in four tries this season, 122-106 at the American Airlines Center.
Two nights earlier, Dallas lost a five-point lead in overtime to fall to the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team out of playoff contention. This win, combined with the Memphis Grizzlies losing at Miami, pushed Dallas back into the No. 7 seed in a wild three-team playoff chase that also includes the Phoenix Suns for the final two spots.
"Our biggest thing right now is to get as many wins as we can do it as team collectively like we did tonight," Ellis said. "It was a great team win, but we needed this win tonight to erase the overtime loss from the other night. We did a great job of bouncing back. They kept coming at us, but we kept our composure and made plays on both ends when we needed to."
Dallas (42-28) built a 15-point cushion they would never relinquish with a 21-6 surge midway through the second quarter, turning a 32-32 tie into a 53-38 lead with 5:32 to go in the first half. Reserve forward Jae Crowder, who had recently lost his spot in coach Rick Carlisle's rotation, provided a huge boost with 12 points in the period on perfect 4-for-4 shooting from beyond the arc.
"As soon as the ball left my hands it felt like it was going to go in and I felt like I was in rhythm early so I just kept shooting," Crowder said.
Denver (31-38), playing well of late having won four of five games but well out of playoff contention, put up several runs and got as close as 99-96 with 6:25 to go, but Dallas answered each charge with a run that blew the game wide open in the final minutes.
"We didn't have enough in the tank to get over the top," Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. "We cut the lead down to three at one point. We had dug such a hole for ourselves we had to spend a lot of energy to get back into the game. We just didn't have enough to get over the hump."
Ellis finished with seven assists and was 11-for-14 from the floor, and was 6-for-6 in the final period.
"Ellis closed the game for us. He was fantastic," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "He made drives, he made outside shots and he made assists. He is always going to be aggressive. He is always going to be in attacking mode. The thing that we have to do as a team, and me as a coach, is get him in the best possible situations. He really answered the bell down the stretch. He was struggling halfway through the third (quarter). That was a spectacular run to end the game. We needed every ounce of what he was giving us."
Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki finished with 21 points and forward Shawn Marion had 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Center Brandan Wright produced 13 points off the bench, as did swingman Vince Carter, who hit three more 3-pointers.
As a team, Dallas shot better than 53 percent overall and from beyond the 3-point arc where they went 12-for-22.
"They pretty much beat us in every facet of the game and we made a lot of mistakes offensively and defensively," Shaw said. "We don't have a large margin for errors. All the credit goes to them. They're fighting for their playoff lives and protecting the position that they have. They played with a sense of urgency and that's why they won the game."
Denver, which led 29-26 after the first quarter but fell behind 61-53 at halftime, was led by center J.J. Hickson's 18 points and eight rebounds off the bench. Guard Ty Lawson had 17 points and nine assists and Randy Foye had 15, all of which came on five 3-pointers.
NOTES: Nuggets F Wilson Chandler returned to the starting lineup from a left hip injury that kept him out of one game. ... Nuggets G Ty Lawson returned to the starting lineup after a sinus infection kept him out of the team's last game. ... Denver won the first three games of the regular-season series, marking only the fifth time since the 1996-97 season that the Nuggets won multiple games against Dallas. ... Friday was Dallas' third game during its franchise-long eight-game homestand spanning 16 days. ... The Mavericks entered the game with 41 wins, equaling their total number of wins from last season.