Ellis scored a career-high 45 points and also kept his teammates involved in the offense as the injury-riddled Warriors beat the Indiana Pacers 126-107 on Monday night.
"He's starting to know how to not be the focal point," Smart said. "Step out of it for a while, let your teammates play a little bit, then get away from the play and the ball will find you. That's what leaders do. Be the focal point when it's needed. We needed a great burst in the third quarter and he provided that."
Ellis went 15 for 27 from the floor, made 14 of 16 free throws and added five rebounds and five steals in topping his previous best of 42 points while leading Golden State (6-10) back from a 15-point deficit in the first half to win for only the third time in eight games.
The Warriors team captain had 18 points in the first quarter, five in the second and 13 in the third -- including a spinning 180-degree layup over Granger that turned into a three-point play. He then scored the first seven points in the fourth quarter to give Golden State a 92-83 lead before fouling out with just over six minutes remaining.
"My wife asked me to get 50 tonight [and] I was going for it," Ellis said. "When I fouled out she threw her thumb up and said, 'Hey, 45 and a win is cool for me.' So I'm happy."
The Warriors couldn't be more pleased with Ellis, who played in only 25 games last season after injuring his ankle in an offseason moped accident. This year he leads Golden State in nearly every offensive category, leads the NBA in steals and has scored 30 or more in four of his past five games.
"He's the boss," Indiana's Mike Dunleavy said of Ellis, his former teammate. "Pretty much everything goes through him and he gets a lot of reps and he's just tough to stop in those pick and rolls. His quickness and explosiveness attacking big guys ... he's tough to beat."
Dunleavy, who played his first four-plus seasons with the Warriors, came off the bench with 22 points while Danny Granger added 22 points and seven rebounds for Indiana (6-9).
Anthony Morrow added 18 points and six rebounds for Golden State, which played its fourth consecutive game without head coach Don Nelson, who has pneumonia. Nelson is expected back Thursday against Houston.
The Warriors, who were coming off a 33-point loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, were also without starting center Andris Biedrins (back) while backup Ronny Turiaf was slowed by a sore knee. They also lost forward Anthony Randolph to a foot injury in the second half.
It didn't matter, not on a night when Ellis was virtually unstoppable.
"Monta has been playing at a level that's been pretty incredible," Smart said. "It's like watching my two boys. They start to grow and they start to get it and then they start to put it all together. Watching him evolve into this guy we all knew could be special, he's starting to do that."
Indiana, which entered the game with the NBA's fifth-best field goal defense, had no answer.
The Pacers, who led 39-25 early in the second quarter, controlled the boards but committed 25 turnovers and scored only two baskets over the final 7:25 minutes of the third quarter when Golden State took control.
Indiana, which beat the Warriors 108-94 on Nov. 11, has lost six of its past seven overall.
"We just didn't get the job done defensively and defend at a very high level," Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said. "It's practice and video, and a lot of time it's up to the team to sometimes bring it to another level. We haven't been able to do that on a consistent enough basis."
Dunleavy, who was traded to the Pacers during the 2006-07 season, provided a silver lining for the Pacers. Playing in only his second game after undergoing surgery on his right knee in March, the former Warrior struggled from 3-point range but moved around well and gave Indiana a much-needed burst off the bench.
Ellis scored the Warriors' final 16 points in the first quarter but the Pacers got a big lift off the bench from Dahntay Jones, who had eight points and an assist while Granger added five points, five rebounds and a block to help Indiana take a 33-25 lead.
Jones finished with 21 points and T.J. Ford added 17 for Indiana.
The Pacers extended their lead to 14 points early in the second quarter and led 57-51 at halftime.
- The Pacers were attempting for their first season sweep of the Warriors since 2005-06.
- Granger averaged 38.0 points in his previous three games against Golden State but went 7 for 17 from the floor in the loss.