The star of Rajon Rondo's debut with the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night was Monta Ellis -- the teammate whom the Mavericks hope helps Rondo form a lethal backcourt combination that will make them championship contenders.
Ellis equaled his season high with 38 points, including 11 during the final four minutes, as the Mavericks rallied late to beat the depleted San Antonio Spurs 99-93. Ellis broke a 93-93 tie with a driving basket with 1:48 to play to give Dallas the lead for good. He hit 15-of-23 from the field and made four steals.
The Spurs dropped their fourth straight, including three-overtime games on Wednesday and Friday.
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"I felt it," Ellis said of his late surge. "It's in my blood. Those guys were tired from last night, and their defense let up, so we took advantage."
Rondo, the four-time All-Star who played his first eight-plus seasons with the Boston Celtics, scored six points on 3-for-11 shooting. Acquired Thursday in a multi-player trade, he had nine assists, seven rebounds.
"It was exciting," Rondo said. "Best part was we got the win."
Dirk Nowitzki, limited to 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting, said of his new teammate: "I actually think that he knows the plays better than some of our own guys."
Marco Belinelli led San Antonio with 21 points. Aron Baynes added a career-high 16 points.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich dressed 10 players and played only eight. Veterans Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, who logged 90 and 71 minutes in the triple-overtime games, respectively, were left home. Danny Green and Tiago Splitter dressed but didn't play. They already were missing injured Tony Parker (hamstring) and Kawhi Leonard (hand) while Patty Mills (back) has yet to play this season.
"Giving up 25 points off turnovers on the road is not going to make it easy to win a game," Popovich said. "But I thought the effort and the play out of these guys was really spectacular."
Rondo missed his only two field-goal attempts of the opening half and scored his first points as a Maverick with 7:59 to play in the third quarter on a drive that ended with goaltending by Boris Diaw.
"Rondo's definitely a great player," the Spurs' Cory Joseph said. "He fills the stat sheet. He definitely can rebound. He can always pass the ball, so you've got to be aware on the weak side."
The Spurs used a 12-point run starting in the final minute of the opening quarter to break a 21-21 tie and lead going into the fourth quarter. The Mavericks trailed 47-42 at intermission having scored their fewest first-half points of the season.