Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis have carried the Dallas Mavericks all season long.
So it’s fitting that Dallas is now in the playoffs because those two combined for 44 second half points Saturday night, turning an 11 point halftime deficit into a 101-98 Mavericks win at home.
With the victory Dallas secures a playoff spot in the West. They likely will be the seven seed and draw Oklahoma City in the first round (mathematically Dallas could get the six or eight seed).
The loss was a body blow to the Suns, who had their chances late but couldn’t convert.
Now the Suns are the nine seed, half a game back of Memphis and needing help to make the playoffs. To snag the eight seed Phoenix needs to beat Memphis on Monday and Sacramento Wednesday — then get help from the Lakers on Sunday or Dallas next Wednesday beating Memphis. That’s a problem. The Lakers suck, and with Dallas having secured their playoff spot they likely rest key guys on Wednesday night. It’s a tough spot for Phoenix.
But that’s where they left themselves after missing their chances in Dallas.
In the first half Eric Bledsoe attacked and carved up Ellis, scoring 17 points on 6-of-7shooting, plus he had five assists. He looked like the Bledsoe the Suns thought they traded for, the one who could be a franchise cornerstone. Channing Frye had 15 first half points hitting 5-of-5 from three. The Suns scored 57 first half points and played with the desperation you expect from a team fighting for its playoff lives.
But in the second half the Mavs played like former champions fighting for their playoff lives.
Nowitzki and Ellis were scoring but everyone was making plays. With 12.9 seconds left and the Suns down two Phoenix got the ball to Bledsoe on a curl around the free throw line and he drove for a game-trying layup, but Brandan Wright slid across and blocked it. Then when Markieff Morris had a shot at a three to tie it at the last second, but there again was Wright with the contest.
Ellis finished with 37 points, Nowitzki had 23. Bledsoe had 29 to lead the Suns, Goran Dragic was held to 13 points on 6-of-18 shooting.
After the game the Suns locker room was dejected, according to reports. They knew they needed this one, and they almost had it. However it got away from them.
Dirk Nowitzki has done that to a lot of teams over the years.