MILWAUKEE – Monta Ellis got the best of his former team, shaking off boos from the crowd while contributing 18 points and five assists as the Dallas Mavericks held off the Milwaukee Bucks 91-83 on Saturday night.
Dirk Nowitzki had 16 points and Shawn Marion added 14 for the Mavericks, who blew a big first-half lead with sloppy offensive play but managed to hang on in the fourth quarter.
O.J. Mayo had 28 points and Caron Butler added 19 for the Bucks, who were playing their second straight game without forward Larry Sanders. Mayo also was facing his former team.
It was the first time back since leaving Milwaukee for Ellis, who signed with Dallas as a free agent in the offseason after playing for the Bucks last season and a portion of the 2011-12 season.
Ellis, whose time in Milwaukee was marked by inconsistency and an inability to meld with then-fellow Bucks guard Brandon Jennings, was booed during pregame introductions and again whenever he touched the ball early in the game. He declined to speak to reporters before the game.
Ellis is off to a strong start with his new team, averaging 23.8 points per game coming into this game.
Milwaukee struggled on defense from the outset, falling behind 55-40 at halftime as the Mavs shot 50 percent from the floor.
But the Bucks began forcing turnovers and went on an extended 17-4 run to finish the third quarter, cutting the lead to 68-64 going into the fourth.
The Bucks stayed in the game, trailing by four with 2:23 remaining. But Mayo lost the ball and Nowitzki hit a turnaround jumper with 1:46 left to give the Mavs an 87-81 lead.
The Bucks were again without Sanders, who missed his second straight game with a right thumb sprain.
It has been a difficult week for Sanders, who issued a public apology after he was involved in an altercation at a nightclub. No charges were filed against Sanders, but it was a hit to the image of a player whose popularity and play both have been on the rise.
The Bucks have said his thumb injury happened in a game, not during the altercation.
NOTES: Bucks coach Larry Drew was unclear on the timeline for guard Luke Ridnour to return from back spasms. Drew said Ridnour recently received a second cortisone shot. ... Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said guard Devin Harris has been cleared to do some light workouts. He had surgery on his left foot Aug. 6. ... Guard Brandon Knight returned from a right hamstring strain for Milwaukee.