MILWAUKEE — If Monta Ellis was wondering what to expect in his first trip back to Milwaukee, he found out pretty quickly.
Boos during introductions and, for a while at least, every single time he touched the ball against the team he played for last season.
"I knew I was going to get something out there," Ellis said. "When they called my name and they booed, I knew what (kind of) night it was going to be. Like I said, 'It's part of it. I'm not worried about it.'"
Dirk Nowitzki had 16 points and Shawn Marion added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Mavericks, who blew a big lead with sloppy offensive play in the third 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.
Like Ellis, Mayo also was getting his first shot at the team he played for last season.
"Guys definitely do get jacked up for it," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "When you're going against your old team, you play to try to prove something. Sometimes it can work for you, sometimes it can work against you."
For his part, Mayo insisted playing the Mavericks wasn't anything special to him.
"Nothing," Mayo said. "Just another game on the schedule."
Ellis 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.
So far, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle says the team is getting exactly what it expected — a player who can challenge defenders and provide a strong scoring punch alongside Nowitzki.
"He and Dirk are our two best players," Carlisle said. "We expect a lot out of those guys every night. Tonight, they both came up big."
Ellis did have some big games in Milwaukee, but fans apparently recall inconsistency and his inability to meld with then-fellow Bucks guard Brandon Jennings.
"When I laced up here, I did everything I could to help this team win," Ellis said. "The fans, they're going to feel the way they feel anyway."
Milwaukee struggled on defense from the outset, falling behind 55-40 at halftime as the Mavericks 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.
After a hot first half, Ellis had only six points and no assists after halftime.
"We kind of let him get away from us in the first half," Drew said. "And Monta's a good player. He's very explosive."
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 Mavericks an 87-81 lead.
Carlisle was pleased with his team's defense, something that has been an issue on the road early this season.
"We talked about it this morning," Carlisle said. "We talked about how our chemistry on the road hasn't been good. The guys made a stand tonight."
Drew, meanwhile, has had enough of watching his team dig big holes early and then try to climb out of them.
"I'm tired of playing comeback basketball," Drew said, citing earlier games against Boston and New York. "I really am. It just takes too much out of you."
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, 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: Drew said there is no specific timeline for guard Luke Ridnour to return from back spasms. Drew said Ridnour recently received a second cortisone shot. ... Carlisle said guard Devin Harris has been cleared to do some light workouts. He had surgery on his left foot Aug. 6. ... Knight returned from a right hamstring strain for Milwaukee.