Dirk-Monta among most explosive duos

DALLAS -- Maybe it's time to start mentioning Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki in discussions about the NBA's most explosive offensive duos.

It's awfully hard to argue against them after watching Ellis and Nowitzki torch the Houston Rockets for a combined 72 points, carrying the Dallas Mavericks to a wild 123-120 comeback win Wednesday night.

Ellis scored a season-high 37 points on 13-of-18 shooting. Nowitzki scored a season-high 35 points on 13-of-20 shooting. They were at their best in the fourth quarter, combining for 22 points and only a pair of missed shots while the Mavs rallied from a 14-point deficit in the final frame to pull out a statement win over their Interstate 45 rivals.

"If me and Dirk are going like that," Ellis said, "the other team has a problem."

It's not as if Houston has been the only team to have a problem defending this duo.

Ellis ranks eighth in the league with 23.3 points per game. Nowitzki (20.6) ranks 20th. The only higher-scoring tandems in the league are Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and Minnesota's Kevin Love and Kevin Martin.

The 8-4 Mavs weren't projected to be legitimate contenders, but the offensive success of Ellis and Nowitzki can't be considered too surprising. After all, Nowitzki is the 15th-leading scorer of all-time after passing Reggie Miller during the second quarter Wednesday night. And Ellis has the highest career scoring average of any active player who hasn't been an All-Star.

But there were plenty of doubts about the duo to begin the season. Could Ellis be an efficient co-star in Dallas after his shooting percentages plummeted while being forced to carry the offensive load in Milwaukee the last season and a half? Could Nowitzki consistently perform at a level approaching his standard at the ripe age of 35?

It has been only a dozen games, but those questions marks look more like exclamation points so far.

Ellis is shooting 49.5 percent from the field and has been phenomenal as a distributor, too, averaging 5.7 assists. Ellis had eight assists against the Rockets, including a couple on the Mavs' last two baskets, driving and drawing two defenders before kicking it out to a wide-open Shawn Marion in the corner for a go-ahead 3-pointer.

"He's setting me up," Nowitzki said. "He's been phenomenal. I don't know how he does it. He plays 40 minutes a night and we run probably 100 pick-and-rolls for him. That energy he has to attack, attack, attack all game long is special. He's one of a kind.

"I knew he could score with the best of them. He can get to the rim like no other small guy, but his ability to make plays for others is really what's set us apart so far."

Nowitzki has looked as if he's still in his prime over the last week. His numbers during that four-game stretch: 25.3 points per game on 59.3 percent shooting.

Their performances against the Rockets were simply the peak so far. It marked the first time two Mavs had scored at least 30 points since Nowitzki and former sidekick Jason Terry did it against the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 24, 2010. Dallas hadn't had a duo produce a pair of 35-plus-point games since Jason Kidd and Jamal Mashburn did it on April 11, 1995 against the Rockets.

And the Mavs needed all the production they could get from Ellis and Nowitzki, with the Rockets roaring out of the gates for 40 points in the first quarter and 68 in the first half, prompting Dirk to crack that it felt like the assistant trainer could come off the Houston bench and knock down a 3.

"We needed to keep the scoring up," Nowitzki said. "We felt like we couldn't get a stop to save our lives for a long time. The only way to really stay in this game was really keep up scoring."

When Ellis and Nowitzki are in a groove, the Mavs might never be out of a game.