The Mavs aren't certain how severe of an injury Ellis suffered to his right calf that sidelined him for the final quarter and a half Friday night at the AT&T Center. But it was bad enough that Ellis needed crutches to leave the arena.
The Dallas offense didn't exactly look healthy without its leading scorer. The Mavs scored a grand total of 22 points in the final 18:43 without Ellis, finishing with their second-lowest point total of the season.
Of course, the Mavs didn't quite light it up in the first half with a healthy Ellis, either. Dallas scored only 41 points in the first half, shooting 38.6 percent from the floor. But the Mavs closed the first half with a 10-2 run, capped by Ellis speeding through the Spurs for a coast-to-coast layup, and opened the second half with a 13-4 spurt to slash the Spurs' lead to four.
Then Ellis limped off the floor with 6:43 remaining in the third quarter, a little bit after he got kneed in the calf while defending Manu Ginobili, and took the life out of the Mavs' offense with him. Dallas didn't score for the next 3:03 and managed only 15 points in the fourth quarter.
Forwards Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons failed to pick up the slack with Ellis out. They both failed to score in double figures, combining for only 16 points, none of which came in the fourth quarter.
Was that hot mess a preview of the Mavs' offense minus Ellis?
"We’ll find out," Mavs owner Mark Cuban said before correcting himself. "Hopefully, we won't have to find out."
The Mavs will know more about Ellis' status on Saturday, but his streak of playing in 237 consecutive games is certainly in jeopardy. The Mavs' next game is Sunday night in Indiana.
"We just have to wait and see what the doctors say and how he feels tomorrow," Nowitzki said. "Hopefully, he will be OK. We all know he plays injured and sick and he is always there for his team."
It could be painful to watch the Mavs without their best creator by far, but it also might be in everyone's best interest if Ellis misses some time. The Mavs have no hope of making a playoff run if Ellis isn't at his best.
Ellis' toughness can't be questioned. He has proven repeatedly that he'll fight through pain and play through injuries. That doesn't mean it's a good idea, particularly with the playoffs weeks away.
Ellis refused to even consider missing any games after straining his left hip two games before the All-Star break. The injury bothered Ellis for weeks, a major factor in an extended slump he finally busted out of with his 38-point performance in Tuesday's home win over the Spurs.
"Our trainers will evaluate the situation, and we'll communicate with him," coach Rick Carlisle said. "I don't see us putting him out there if he's not feeling good. You can't underestimate his ability to bounce back from things. He's a fighter, he loves to compete and he hates missing games. That said, we aren't going to put him in harm's way."
It'd be ideal to have Ellis the rest of the regular season as the Mavs fight for the best possible playoff seed. But it looks awfully likely they'll land in seventh, where they currently sit with a 45-28 record, 1½ games behind the Spurs.
It's much more important for Ellis to be as healthy as possible when the playoffs begin.