Ellis and Nowitzki – A Dynamic Duo
For years, it was an automatic. Fourth quarter. Tight game. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry playing their two-man game on the right side of the floor. And most nights it meant a Mavericks victory. Fast forward 2014. Fourth quarter. Tight game. Dirk and Monta Ellis (in the Terry role) playing their two-man game on the right side of the floor. Most nights, it means a Mavericks victory. The biggest difference between the two is that in the first situation, the ball generally was finding its way back to Dirk for the biggest shot, and now it’s Ellis who is taking (and making) the biggest shot at a ridiculous clip.
Dirk has been the master of clutch for a long time, but it appears Ellis is ready to take the mantle from him and run with it (which Dirk is quite OK with BTW). In the last two minutes with his team either leading or trailing by three points, Ellis has scored thirty-seven points on 63.2 percent shooting. Next on that list is LeBron James who has scored twenty such points and shot 57.1 percent.
Thirteen times this season Ellis has scored at least ten points in a quarter, including nine times in the last 13 games. Four times he has scored fifteen points or more in a quarter. Much of the pyrotechnics have come in the most crucial moments. The fifteen fourth quarter points at Toronto. The sixteen points in the fourth and in overtime at Chicago. The final eight points in the last 1:34 at Milwaukee including the game winner at the horn. And Wednesday night vs. New Orleans there were thirteen consecutive points in the final 4:27 that pulled the Mavericks to another win.
What’s interesting with Ellis is that he often times takes the shot that the analytics people despise – the long two point shot. And yet, that is the shot he is most comfortable taking. He’s never been a great three point shooter (30.8 percent this year), but get him two steps inside that line and he’s much better (49.6 percent from sixteen feet out to the three point line). That he can make enough of those shots forces defenders to honor him and when they get too close, he then blows by them and finishes with an incredible array of layups and floaters.
Is Monta an All-Star? He’s certainly playing like one, but the chances of him reaching the All-Star Game for the first time is still unlikely given the plethora of high quality guards in the West. The Mavericks are not without their issues (defense and rebounding being the two biggest), but they know that when they do get into tight spots they have two guys (let’s not forget that Dirk hasn’t forgotten how to do this, he’s hit 50 percent of his shots in the similar situation we documented for Ellis) they can count on. Indeed, the late game two-man game is thriving. In the Mavericks world, that means a lot of wins.