Monta Ellis shined in his debut with Dallas, pouring in a game-high 32 points in 37 minutes of action, and helped the Mavericks top the Atlanta Hawks 118-109 in the season opener on Wednesday night.
Ellis, who is usually an inefficient scorer, was very efficient against Atlanta as he shot 64.7 percent from the field (11-of-17), while adding eight assists, four rebounds and two steals. The only blemish on Ellis’ stat line was his unsightly seven turnovers.
16-year Maverick Dirk Nowitzki scored 12 of his 24 points from 3-point range, Vince Carter dropped 21 off the bench and Shawn Marion chipped in with 12. The three veterans combined to shoot 58.9 percent from the field (23-of-39), while not one shot less than 56.2 percent overall.
Dallas jumped out of the starting gate with a 9-0 run after Hawks all-star Al Horford scored the first basket of the game. The Mavs controlled a single-digit lead throughout the quarter and led 33-28 after the first period. Atlanta fought back in the second and tied the game 47-47 thanks to a 3-pointer from backup swingman Cartier Martin with 4:43 left in the half, and later took a 55-53 lead into halftime after Paul Millsap sank a six-footer with 11 seconds remaining.
After five lead changes early in the third quarter, Millsap’s layup at the 5:48 mark gave Atlanta a 70-67 advantage. However, Carter ignited a 17-2 run shortly after to put Dallas up 84-72 with 1:50 left in the third. The Hawks kept scrapping in the fourth, cutting the lead to just three points on a Kyle Korver jumper with 9:45 remaining, but Dallas knocked down six 3-pointers down the stretch to seal the victory.
Jeff Teague was the high scorer for Atlanta with 24 points on 7-of-13 shooting, and also led the team with nine assists. New power forward Paul Millsap padded the stat sheet in his Hawks debut with 20 points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block, while leading the team in minutes played (36) and shot attempts (15). DeMarre Carroll, who like Millsap was also making his Hawks debut Wednesday night, finished with 14 points and seven rebounds. Horford had shooting and rebounding struggles, only scoring 11 points on 12 shot attempts with just five boards, but was very active on the defensive end with five steals and four blocks. Sharpshooter Kyle Korver wasn’t in double-figures (8pts), but did knock down a trey midway through the fourth quarter to keep his 3-point streak going at 74 straight games. Cartier Martin was a pleasant surprise for the Hawks as he scored 17 points off the bench, including three bombs from behind the arc.
The Hawks converted an astonishing 93.3 percent (14-of-15) of their free throws in the first half, but cooled off after halftime and hit 13-of-20 (65%) foul shots in the second half. Atlanta’s defensive activity was apparent all game long as they finished with 16 team steals — the most of any team in the NBA on opening night.
Dallas (1-0) heads to Houston to take on Dwight Howard, James Harden and the Rockets (1-0) on Friday at 8:00 p.m.
Atlanta (0-1) hosts their home opener on Friday against Toronto (1-0) at 7:30 p.m.