MILWAUKEE — As soon as the boos poured down when his name was called with the rest of Dallas’ starting lineup, Monta Ellis knew he was going to hear it from the BMO Harris Bradley Center crowd all night.
Booed each time he touched the ball Saturday night in his return to Milwaukee, Ellis didn’t come out gunning for revenge and that’s probably why the Mavericks were victorious in the end.
Ellis scored a team-high 18 points with five assists and three steals to lead Dallas to a 91-83 win in Milwaukee.
“I knew I was going to get some,” Ellis said of the boos. “It’s part of it. I’m not worried about it. When I laced up here, I did everything I could to help this team win. The fans are going to feel the way they feel anyway.
“I kind of figured (it would happen). When I left, everyone in this organization knows that Monta Ellis played every night, every minute, and he played hard.”
Saturday night’s meeting between Dallas and Milwaukee would have been just another November game if it weren’t for the swapped shooting guards storyline. Through free agency this summer, O.J. Mayo went from Dallas to Milwaukee, while Ellis opted out from his contract with the Bucks and signed with the Mavericks.
Mayo downplayed the game having any personal meaning, but his stares at the Dallas bench after his made shots said otherwise.
In similar fashion, Ellis said he didn’t have any extra juice Saturday night, but a few of his teammates rushing to congratulate him after the final horn showed there may have been a bit more on the line.
“That’s part of the business,” Ellis said. ” … It wasn’t weird at all. It felt good to be back. To come out with a win, it’s even better.”
For a good portion of the game, Mayo was all the Bucks had going for them offensively. He scored 13 of his game-high 28 points in the first quarter, but Milwaukee trailed 34-19 after one.
Instead of getting caught up in the back and forth, Ellis played under control and was the type of player Milwaukee needed him to be last season.
“I don’t play them games,” Ellis said of trying to match Mayo. “The only thing I was worrying about was winning, doing what I’ve been doing all season and that’s attacking the basket finding players. I don’t get into that back and forth.”
Acquired from Golden State in March of 2012 along with Kwame Brown and Ekpe Udoh in exchange for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson, Ellis ended up playing 103 games in Milwaukee.
Ellis averaged 19.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game while shooting 41.6 percent from the field, starting all 82 games for the Bucks last season.
In June, Ellis opted out of the final year of his contract that would have paid him $11 million for this season.
According to a league source, Ellis turned down a two-year extension with the Bucks worth a total of $36 million last fall. The deal would have included the $11 million player option plus an additional two years.
Ellis ended up signing a three-year deal worth $26 million with the Mavericks in July and has thrived in Dallas thus far, especially playing with Dirk Nowitzki. Nobody he played with in Milwaukee came close to having the ability to open space like the future Hall of Famer has.
Saturday’s output of 18 points matched Ellis’ season low, as the 28-year-old is averaging 23.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting 48.6 percent from the floor.
“He’s been great with the scoring and playmaking,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s done some good things defensively. We just need to keep working him in and get him used to us and vice versa.”
Though very early in a long season, Ellis has taken over a 3-pointer less a game this season with Dallas than he did last year in Milwaukee. That’s a good thing for the Mavericks, considering he was one of the worst 3-point shooters in the NBA last year at 28.7 percent.
“I’ve just been going with what’s worked for me,” Ellis said. “I’ll take it when it’s open or the shot clock is winding down, but the majority of the time I’m trying to attack and make plays for others.”
And that’s exactly what he did Saturday night. The Bucks were unable to keep Ellis in front of them all night, as he got into the lane at will and created more on offense than his final line shows.
In other words, this was the Monta Ellis the Bucks longed to see last season.
“Monta is an attacker,” Carlisle said. “He is going to get in the lane and cause problems. We need to get him the ball in the right situations and let him play his game. He made a couple of really smart plays down the stretch.
“He and Dirk are our two best players, and we expect a lot out of them every night and tonight they both came up big.”