Mavs welcome back the Ellis they need

LOS ANGELES -- All isn't quite well with the Dallas Mavericks, who needed to rally in the fourth quarter to avoid a disastrous loss to the Los Angeles Lakers and salvage a victory out of this three-game West Coast road trip.

But Monta Ellis having it all again sure was a sight for sore eyes.

Ellis busted out of his worst slump as a Maverick in breathtaking fashion, exploding for 26 of his 31 points in the second half Sunday at the Staples Center to lead Dallas to a desperately needed 100-93 win.

"It's nothing new to us," small forward Chandler Parsons said. "We've seen him do it a lot this year."

True. But man, it'd been a while since Monta worked his magic. He'd been miserable for about a month, averaging 12.5 points on 34.9 percent shooting. Not coincidentally, the Mavs sputtered through that stretch with a 5-6 record.

Ellis was especially awful during the first two games of this trip. He was 5-of-20 during his 12-point outing in Thursday's blowout loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Then he hit rock bottom the next night, scoring six points and going 2-of-14 from the floor while the Golden State Warriors routed the Mavs.

So Ellis' scoring spree in the second half couldn't have been much sweeter.

"Yeah, I'm back," Ellis deadpanned.

Not a moment too soon.

This was a game that Mavs center Tyson Chandler described as a "must-win situation," given the Mavs' recent struggles and the rough schedule ahead. And Dallas faced a nine-point deficit during the third quarter against the lottery-bound Lakers.

Fortunately for the Mavs, Ellis caught fire, scoring 18 points in the quarter. He knocked down seven of 11 shots from the floor in the frame, finishing it by swishing three 3-pointers in the final 61 seconds to pull the Mavs within a bucket.

Ellis added another eight points in the fourth quarter to help the Mavs complete the comeback. He finished 12-of-22 from the floor and matched a season-high by hitting five of seven 3-point attempts.

It seemed like the kind of night a go-to guy in a horrible slump certainly needed.

"Nah, it was more that we needed a win as a team," said Ellis, who repeatedly credited the Mavs' big men for setting good screens to free him up. "I never lose confidence."

The Mavs never lost confidence in Ellis, either. But they absolutely were concerned about him, as owner Mark Cuban mentioned during his pregame chat with the media.

Dallas depends heavily on Ellis' ability to create offensively. That was particularly true during the seven games that Parsons missed due to a left ankle sprain and bone bruise before returning Sunday and with power forward Dirk Nowitzki dealing with his own slump.

With an ineffective Ellis, the Mavs' offense was a mess.

"I'm a believer that you stay the course, you keep doing things you normally do, you stay aggressive and then things fall back in line," coach Rick Carlisle said. "That's what he did. He never wavered from what he normally does, and that is a fact.

"When you're having a rough go individually, or as we have as a team, it's going to get worse before it gets better sometimes."

Ellis made no excuses for his struggles, insisting that the hip strain he suffered on Feb. 9 wasn't an issue. He probably couldn't have passed a polygraph test, though. Most in the Mavs organization believed Ellis, who has suited up for every game since coming to Dallas in the summer of 2013, was playing hurt.

Nobody expects Ellis to shoot this well from 3-point range on a regular basis. He got into the kind of groove in the second half that comes along maybe once a month even for elite scorers. But the Mavs were giddy to get a glimpse of the explosiveness that makes Ellis one of the league's most dynamic off-the-dribble threats.

"It's just great to see him out there moving well, making shots, having a little bounce to his step," center Tyson Chandler said. "I knew it was just a matter of time. It was just about him pushing through it and busting out of it on his own. I've got faith in all my guys.

"No matter how many shots he misses, I feel like he's going to start a nice little streak."

The Mavs hope it's the start of a nice little stretch for Ellis. With four playoff teams coming to town during the upcoming five-game homestand, Dallas needs Ellis at his best now more than ever.