This just proved why Mark Cuban elected to sign Monta Ellis to a three-year deal and pair him up in Dallas with franchise-leader Dirk Nowitzki.
Nowitzki and Ellis combined to score 60 points, 44 in the second half as the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Phoenix Suns 101-98 on April 12 to secure a playoff spot.
Dallas makes a return trip to the postseason after missing out last season, which snapped a 12-year postseason-appearance streak.
Ellis dropped a career-high-tying 37 points on 15-of-23 shooting and hit 3-of-4 from behind the arc. He scored 23 in the second half.
A three from Devin Harris put the Mavs up 97-89 with 3:30 remaining, but the Suns would go on a 9-2 run to cut it to 99-98 with 52 seconds.
After Ellis went 1-of-2 from the line, Brandan Wright came up with the biggest defensive play of the year for the Mavs, blocking an Eric Bledsoe layup attempt with 12 seconds left.
Dallas still gave Phoenix a chance after Ellis went 1-of-2 from the line again, but Markieff Morris couldn’t knock down the game-tying 3-pointer with seconds to spare.
Nowitzki scored just two points at halftime, but came out to score 14 in the third and 21 overall in the second half. He sprained his ankle in the final quarter, but did return.
The game had a playoff atmosphere like everyone anticipated as the Mavs started off slow, but came away with a one-point lead after the opening quarter.
The Suns ended the final four minutes of the half with a 17-4 run after the game was knotted at 40 before Ellis’ floater beat the buzzer to give Phoenix an 11-point halftime lead.
Nowitzki and Ellis combined to score 15 of the team’s final 17 in the third, all from three, to cut their deficit to 78-75 entering the fourth.
Nowitzki and Ellis helped score 25 of the team’s 29 third-quarter points.
Bledsoe scored a team-high 29 points on 11-of-15 shooting while Channing Frye added 21 points, hitting his first five shots from downtown.
Wright had one of his better games of the season, finishing with a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards in a season-high 32 minutes. His previous high was 29 against Phoenix on Dec. 21, his fourth game of the year.
He added three blocks, some of which the biggest of the ball game. Aside from his big block on Bledsoe, that would’ve tied it, Wright blocked Goran Dragic’s attempt at the third-quarter buzzer. He also blocked Morris’ attempt at the end of a shot-clock violation before his brother, Marcus, hit a two early in the fourth.
Vince Carter needed seven points tonight to pass former Maverick Adrian Dantley for 25th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He scored 10 and now sits with 23,181 career points.
Carter knocked down a 25-foot 3-pointer at the 9:23 mark in the second to achieve the milestone.
Carter has averaged more than 900 points in his last four seasons, and if it that holds up next season, Carter has a chance to pass Robert Parish and Charles Barkley for 23rd all time with Allen Iverson right around the corner.
The Mavericks (49-32) have one game left in their quest to the 7th seed. Dallas has three days of rest before finishing the regular season on April 16 in Memphis, who is still fighting for the final playoff spot.
Dallas would hope to pair up with the Thunder rather than the Spurs, who have swept the Mavs in the past two years. The Mavericks are 2-1 this season against OKC.
Dallas is a game ahead of the Grizzlies for 7th and a game back of Golden State for 6th.
Both the Warriors and Grizzlies have three games remaining. Memphis will play the Lakers on April 13 and still has to play the Suns before finishing up with the Mavs. Phoenix now sits a half game out of the postseason, with another huge game against Memphis before finishing out with the Sacramento Kings on April 16.
Dallas owns the tiebreaker with the Grizzlies while the Warriors own the tiebreaker with the Mavs. Memphis owns the tiebreaker with the Suns.