Dirk-Monta duo already dangerous

DALLAS -- There usually isn’t much that’s pretty about a preseason loss to a team that’s likely destined for another high lottery pick.

However, it isn’t hard to find the silver lining from the Dallas Mavericks’ 102-94 defeat by the Orlando Magic on Monday night.

We got a glimpse of just how good the two-man game with Dirk Nowitzki and new sidekick Monta Ellis can be during the second quarter. That duo ran the high pick-and-pop over and over during that frame, filling it up for a combined 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

“That’s probably going to be our bread and butter all season long,” said Nowitzki, who finished with 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting, although he was more focused on his failure to get a single rebound in 25 minutes.

As the sweetest-shooting 7-footer in NBA history, Nowitzki has made life a lot easier for several pick-and-pop partners throughout his career. But he’s never worked with a guard with the electrifying athleticism of Ellis.

Ellis’ best attribute is his ability to get into the lane, and that’s amplified by the attention Nowitzki demands from defenses. Ellis is also an underrated passer who averaged a career-high 6.0 assists per game last season despite playing on a team with limited offensive firepower, to put it politely.

That assist total could climb this season, although almost all of Ellis’ playing time is expected to come as a shooting guard. He’ll get plenty of opportunities as a pick-and-pop initiator, with Nowitzki setting the screen and shooters such as Jose Calderon and Vince Carter spacing the floor.

“He’s great attacking,” Nowitzki said of Ellis. “He can go both ways. He’s been shooting the ball well behind the screen as well, so we really have a lot of options there. When he comes off and really strings the big out and I’m open, I’m going to step in and take those shots when I’m there.”

Calderon has yet to play a game this preseason due to a sore hamstring. Carter had an off night Monday. But the Dirk-Monta duo clicked.

“It’s coming along well, but it’s only going to get better,” said Ellis, who had 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting, 5 assists and 4 rebounds in 27 minutes. “As the season goes on, as we continue to get a feel for one other, the more we’ll be on the court, the [more] dangerous we’ll be.”