DALLAS (AP) — Monta Ellis scored 23 points and the Dallas Mavericks won their first game without injured point guard Rajon Rondo, beating Minnesota 100-94 Monday night in Ricky Rubio’s return to the Timberwolves.
J.J. Barea had 10 points while starting in Rondo’s place. Barea was only 4-of-14 shooting, but had the first and last field goals by Dallas along with two free throws with 17 seconds left to help hold off a comeback try by Minnesota.
Rubio, sidelined since severely spraining his left ankle Nov. 7, had 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting with four assists in 21 minutes.
Dallas led throughout after scoring the game’s first 10 points. Rubio missed his first two shots before hitting a 21-foot jumper with 7:51 left in the first quarter to get Minnesota on the scoreboard.
The Timberwolves, with an 8-40 record that is the worst in the NBA, trailed by as many as 21 points in the second quarter. But the Timberwolves were within single digits by halftime, and down only 96-94 with 1:52 left when Mo Williams, back after missing two games with a sore hip, made two free throws after a questionable offensive foul called against Dirk Nowitzki.
Ellis missed a runner with 1:37 left, but Nikola Pekovic couldn’t make a hook shot around Tyson Chandler.
After that miss, Barea drove the baseline for a layup before falling to the floor with 52 seconds left.
Nowitzki had consecutive 3-pointers in a 27-second span early in the second quarter to start a 15-2 run.
The Mavericks were up 45-24 when Charlie Villanueva had a powerful dunk on a looping pass from Barea, who returned to the Mavericks as a free agent in October after playing the last three years and this preseason in Minnesota. Barea grabbed a long rebound of Villanueva’s miss before getting the ball back to him.
Barea made a running jumper for the first basket of the game, getting the ball back from Chandler after a pass that was almost a turnover.
Rondo sustained a broken orbital bone around his left eye and fractured his nose after being kneed in the face by teammate Richard Jefferson less than 2 minutes into Saturday night’s win at Orlando. Rondo tripped over the leg of Magic guard Elfrid Payton and was inadvertently struck by his teammate while trying to get up from the floor.
Rubio missed 42 games after getting hurt a week after agreeing to a $55 million, four-year extension with the Timberwolves. The point guard was averaging 9.4 points and a career-best 10 assists per game at the time.
Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said before the game the only limitations for Rubio would be “just a coach’s limitations” and that he expected the guard to play about 20 minutes.
Rubio came out with 4 minutes left and the Timberwolves trailing 92-89 after two free throws by Andrew Wiggins.
Timberwolves: After being down by 21 midway through the second quarter, Minnesota finished the half with a 23-9 run. Gorgui Dieng had a putback dunk just before the buzzer to pull the Timberwolves to 54-47 at the break.
Mavericks: Dallas swept the three-game season series and has won 25 of the last 33 regular-season games against Minnesota. The Mavericks won 131-117 and 98-75 in the other two games this season.
Minnesota is home Wednesday night against Miami.
Dallas plays Wednesday night at Golden State.
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