Monta Ellis shrugged and said it was just another game against a former team.
What stood out, however, was Ellis missing all eight of his first-half shots and failing to score a single point before intermission Wednesday night against the Dallas Mavericks.
The 11th-year shooting guard was the Mavericks’ leading scorer the past two seasons, averaging 19.0 and 18.9 points. Because his career scoring average is 19.1, the early summation of Ellis with Indiana is that he’s been struggling, beginning the night at 12.3.
But Pacers head coach Frank Vogel sees a different player than in the past, one who places winning ahead of individual statistics.
That said, Ellis the scorer got hot in a hurry after his 0-fer half. His first shot of the second half missed, too, but then he hit 7-of-8 to finish with 19 points as the Pacers pulled away in a 107-81 rout at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Pacers (15-9) had a 62-34 advantage in the second half against the Mavericks (14-12), who were held to a season low in points. It was also the lowest points Indiana has allowed this season.
“Well,” Ellis said with a hearty laugh, “the first half, I was broke. Had some good looks (shrug), but they just weren’t going down.
“Coach just told me to continue to attack and keep taking my shots and I was able to get out on transition at the beginning of the second half and get some easy buckets. Shots started falling.”
The Mavericks bench started talking to him in the second half. At one point, he turned and looked at his former teammates.
“It was all jokes and laughs,” Ellis said, smiling. “Probably got me going, but hey, we won.
“They know how I am. They know I’m a competitor. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. Like I said, I treat all the games the same. And they know that.”
Vogel called a play for Ellis to start the second half, but conceded the guard got himself going. While some might see the player’s scoring drop-off as struggling to fit with a new team, his coach disagreed that Ellis has been inconsistent.
“Monta is at a point in his career where scoring 25 points a game or 20 points a game isn’t what is most important to him,” Vogel said. “What’s important to him is winning every night. That’s a blessing and a welcome thing for a head coach, to have a guy that’s just going to go out and do whatever it takes to win a game. If that means scoring four points and we win, he’s happy. If we need his scoring, to go out and get 20 or 25 points to help us win, then that’s what he’ll go out and try to do.
“I love that he’s all about winning right now.”
Mavericks star forward Dirk Nowitzki knows Ellis well.
“Monta is a streaky shooter,” Nowitzki said. “Once he got a couple of baskets, he was on his way.”
Ellis has scored in double digits in four consecutive games, averaging 18 points in those games, three of them wins.
The Pacers have won nine of 10 at home. They fell behind by 21 points in the first quarter against Toronto Monday, then went on a 22-0 run in the opening quarter in a 106-90 rout of the Raptors.
Another slow start had the Pacers trailing 47-45 at the break, but they started hitting shots and clamped down on defense. Dallas managed a season-low 34 points in the second half.
It was the second consecutive game the Pacers allowed just three fast-break points. Indiana scored 20. Twelve Mavericks turnovers were converted into 17 Pacers points, whereas Dallas had five points off eight Indiana turnovers.
“Well, they scored 60-something points,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said of the Pacers picking it up after halftime. “They looked pretty damn good to me.”
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.