Things were looking dicey for the Mavs with under six minutes to go when Channing Frye hit a three pointer to cut the lead to five. It looked like Dallas was ready to blow a 27 point lead on the road to a young Magic team. But Monta Ellis took over from there.
After a timeout, he assisted on a Tyson Chandler score then poured in six points of his own before Dirk Nowitzki hit two free throws. Over the fourth quarter as a whole, Ellis recorded 12 points and 2 key assists. Dallas recorded only one field goal in the quarter that he wasn't directly involved in.
As players including Nowitzki have pointed out, Ellis has become the Mavs' fourth quarter closer tonight and there might be no better example this season than tonight's game.
His 25 point, 13 assist performance was especially important tonight with Chandler Parsons sidelined for the second game in a row by an illness and Rajon Rondo taken out of the game early in the first quarter by a collision with Richard Jefferson.
The win pushes the Mavs to 32-17 overall on a night when several other West rivals are playing significantly tougher matchups that could impact the standings.
Observations from the win:
- Jefferson has been solid filling in for Parsons. The Mavs would always prefer to have their starting small forward but RJ has been efficient as an emergency starter on this Florida road trip, hitting 63 percent of his shots and knocking down four of six three point attempts.
- After a solid shooting performance that helped key the Dallas comeback against Miami Friday, reserve big man Charlie Villanueva struggled to make a similar impact Saturday. He made two three pointers in the second half but had a couple other shots fall short and missed all four of his free throw attempts. It feels like Charlie might be getting into his own head too much.
- Ellis and Chandler stepped up big as Nowitzki continues to put up modest numbers. With both Rondo and Parsons out, the Mavs were going to need a productive night from their remaining stars. But it was Chandler who poured in 20 points off of lobs at the rim and smart cuts to the basket. Dirk scored just 11 points on seven shots. He hasn't scored more than 14 since Jan. 25 against the Pelicans. It seems worth asking when he will start to break out again.
- Al-Farouq Aminu looks to have displaced rookie Dwight Powell in the rotation--for now. Powell received his second DNP-CD in two games while Aminu scored 6 points to go with 8 rebounds and two steals in 27 minutes. It was Aminu's third consecutive game of at least that many minutes after being buried in the rotation for most of January.
- Dallas appeared to struggle with Barea running the point tonight. He scored 10 points but often dribbled the ball for too long while the shot clock drained away, forcing several tough shots. He didn't record an assist in 18 minutes tonight and had the worst plus/minus score of anyone on the team tonight.