Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dirk Nowitzki's historic Game 1 leads Mavericks past Thunder

DALLAS — If this is the rusty version of the Dallas Mavericks, the Oklahoma City Thunder could be in for a short stay in the Western Conference finals.

The Mavericks, coming off a nine-day layoff after sweeping the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, rode Dirk Nowitzki's 48 points Tuesday to defeat the Thunder 121-112 for their seventh consecutive postseason victory.

Game 2 is here Thursday (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET). The Thunder haven't lost two in a row since April 2.

      BOX SCORE: Mavericks 121, Thunder 112
      PHOTO GALLERY: Top images from the NBA playoffs
      SCHEDULE: Complete matchups, dates and results

The Thunder had no answer for Nowitzki, who shot 12-for-15 from the field and a record 24-for-24 from the free throw line, including a playoff record-tying 13-for-13 in the third quarter. "He's reading situations extremely well," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said of Nowitzki's sixth 40-point playoff effort.

Thunder power forwards Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison picked up their fourth fouls early in the third quarter trying to contain the 7-footer. Oklahoma City was forced to use 6-9 Kevin Durant and Thabo Sefolosha, a 6-5 shooting guard who also picked up three of his four fouls guarding Nowitzki.

Although noted for his long-range shooting, Nowitzki didn't take a three-point shot. He made the extra dribble to get a higher-percentage shot or the extra pass to get a teammate an open look as Dallas shot 53.4% from the field.

"I was really looking to shoot early and was able to get my rhythm after the first couple of shots," Nowitzki said. "I kept attacking and my teammates kept feeding me and feeding me and I was able to take advantage over some smaller players."

The Thunder — fresh off a seven-game series against Memphis that included a total of four overtimes — led by nine early in the second quarter, then went 6:28 between baskets. They missed 10 shots during that drought and were down by 11 when it ended. They eventually trailed by 16 before clawing within five points with 3:42 left, and six with 48.5 seconds to play.


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