Although the Dallas Mavericks failed to land Dwight Howard in the offseason, the player they ended up with has turned out to be quite a consolation prize.
Monta Ellis looks to continue his outstanding start and lead the surging Mavericks to their best home start in 10 years Friday night against a Utah Jazz team still searching for its first road win.
After Howard chose to sign with Houston over Dallas and three other teams during the summer, the Mavericks (8-4) had to settle on Ellis and fellow guard Jose Calderon as their key acquisitions in free agency.
Ellis, however, hasn't disappointed since coming over from Milwaukee, giving Dallas a prolific scorer alongside Dirk Nowitzki. He ranks in the league's top 10 with 23.3 points per game to go along with a team-best 5.7 assists.
The veteran guard is coming off his best game, finishing with a season-high 37 points on 13-of-18 shooting and eight assists to help the Mavericks rally for a 123-120 victory over Howard and the Rockets on Wednesday.
Dallas trailed by 18 late in the third quarter before shooting 74 percent and outscoring the Rockets 36-19 in the fourth.
''We're really just playing off of him,'' said Nowitzki, who had 14 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter. "He's been aggressive, he's been shooting the ball well, but what's been great is that he has been making plays for others. He's making all of us better.''
Ellis hopes to extend his scoring surge at home, where he's tied for second in the NBA with 26.7 points per game. That isn't likely to be a problem since he's scored 32 or more in four of his last five games against the Jazz (1-12).
The Mavericks seek their fourth straight win overall and first 7-0 start at home since opening the 2003-04 season with 10 consecutive victories on their own floor. They're also going for their 18th win in 20 home meetings with Utah.
While Dallas ranks second in the league with 112.8 points per game and third with a 49.9 field-goal percentage at home, the NBA-worst Jazz have given up 107.3 points on 50.0 percent shooting in their last three road games.
Utah has dropped its seven road contests by an average of 14.0 points following a 105-98 loss at New Orleans on Wednesday.
Enes Kanter led the Jazz with 19 points while Gordon Hayward missed 16 of 17 shots en route to a season-low six points, though he did contribute a career-high 11 assists.
Hayward, averaging a team-best 18.2 points, may be able to regroup since he's scored 18.8 per game on 48.9 percent shooting in his last four against the Mavericks.
Utah rookie guard Trey Burke had 11 points Wednesday after missing the first 12 games because of surgery on his right index finger, while Marvin Williams is expected to return after having surgery on his broken nose and sitting out against the Pelicans.
''This is who we have and this is who we are going to be," said coach Tyrone Corbin, whose club ranks 29th with 89.3 points per game. "We can't manufacture anyone else to put on the floor. We have to learn through it on the fly here.''
The Jazz took two of three from the Mavericks last season, with the home team winning each meeting.