If the Dallas Mavericks want to have any chance of getting past the San Antonio Spurs, Monta Ellis is going to need to step up in a big way. While Ellis is the easy choice when it comes to determining the Mavericks’ X-factor, he is also the correct one.
Ellis had a solid season for the Mavericks, but if he continues to have the type of game he played on Sunday, there is absolutely no hope for the Mavericks. Monta Ellis was absolutely lost in Game 1 versus the Spurs.
The Mavericks guard, who was second on the team in scoring this season, went 4-of-14 in Dallas’ opening playoff game, including shooting 1-of-10 after the first quarter. Ellis, who like his team as a whole, lacks any defensive prowess, became completely useless for Rick Carlisle. Although Ellis was playing poorly, he still managed to log 36 minutes, which, in retrospect, probably cost the Mavericks the game.
The Mavericks lost Game 1 by a score of 90-85 and blew a 10-point lead in the final 7:45 of the game. After rewatching the game, I couldn’t help but notice how poorly Dallas looked in many stretches with Ellis on the court and, in turn, how the Mavs really never looked bad with Ellis off the court.
After going through the numbers, I found that in the 36 minutes that Ellis played, the Mavericks were outscored 68-45, putting his plus/minus at minus-23, far worse than any of his teammates’. While those numbers are pretty telling, they do not give the whole story.
What does tell the whole story is what the Mavericks did with their starting shooting guard on the bench. In the mere 11:51 that Ellis spent sitting, the Mavericks outscored the Spurs 40-22. Let me say that again. While Monta Ellis was on the bench, the Mavs dominated the Spurs by a score of 40-22.
Ellis took bad shots, seemed disinterested on defense and still attempted to be the hero, something he loves to do, in the final minutes. So, why is Ellis the team’s X-factor? Because while he did not show it in the Mavs’ playoff opener, he is actually one of their best players.
Ellis is a guy who averaged 19 points and nearly six assists per game this season and is someone who is extremely dangerous when getting in the lane and creating. He’s a player who is not a good defender, but usually at least tries to defend well.
If Ellis can play even remotely well, it is clear the Mavericks can compete. Dallas lost by a slim margin in Game 1 and proved it will be a tough out in these playoffs. If Ellis can improve his game, Dallas could make things interesting, but if he does not step it up, it has no chance at all.
All statistics in this article via Basketball-Reference.com.