The Mavericks hit seven 3-pointers to pull away in the fourth quarter, including two in a row from Nowitzki followed by one from Ellis for a 118-102 lead with 1:18 remaining.
Ellis joined the Mavericks with questions about his efficiency on offense, but answered those concerns at least for one night. He was 11 of 17 from the field and had eight assists. The only downside was seven turnovers.
Nowitzki finished 8 of 14, including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc, after missing last year’s opener and the next 26 games following right knee surgery.
Jeff Teague led Atlanta with 24 in Budenholzer’s first game, which came against a familiar opponent since he was a longtime assistant to Gregg Popovich in San Antonio.
The Mavericks opened with a win over an Eastern Conference playoff qualifier from last season after they missed the postseason in the West for the first time since Nowitzki’s second season in 2000.
Until Nowitzki and Ellis put it away, the Hawks stayed close in their first game without Josh Smith since he left in free agency.
Teague also had nine assists, and Paul Millsap finished with 20 points on 9 of 15 shooting operating inside. DeMarre Carroll had 14, and Al Horford scored 11.
Jose Calderon, Ellis’ new backcourt mate and another of the nine new faces in Dallas, struggled offensively until the fourth quarter. Calderon had five points and a game-high 11 assists.