DALLAS, April 21 (Ticker) -- Steve Nash
gave the Dallas Mavericks
momentum. Dirk Nowitzki
gave them the win.
Nash's long 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer triggered a
decisive run for the Mavericks, who rode Nowitzki's 30 points
and 15 rebounds to a 101-94 victory over the Minnesota
The opener of the Western Conference first-round series between
fourth-seeded Dallas and fifth-seeded Minnesota was everything
it was supposed to be as both teams raced up and down the court
and fired away from all angles.
The third quarter featured a dozen lead changes, with Minnesota
holding a 73-70 edge in the final seconds. A long miss bounced
to Nash, who dribbled up the left sideline and threw in a
running 38-footer at the horn, sparking the sellout crowd at the
American Airlines Center.
NBA TV highlights from|
Nash from halfcourt:
Dirk Nowitzki was a monster in the Mavs' win, posting 30 points and 15 rebounds.
"It was amazing," Nowitzki said. "They kind of had momentum
going their way. They were making easy baskets and running on
us and finishing some easy buckets. That was the thing that got
it turned around and got the momentum going back to us."
"That was the biggest shot of the second half, Steve hitting the
long buzzer-beater," Dallas guard Michael Finley said. "For us
to see that ball go in, I knew good things were going to come
for us because of that shot. When Steve hit that shot it gave
us a little spirit. We carried that shot with us into the fourth
Before Nash sank the shot, Minnesota coach Flip Saunders had a
"As soon as it left Steve's hands, I knew it was going in," he
Dallas scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter to
open an 82-73 lead. The Mavericks led the rest of the way,
thanks to Nowitzki.
The Timberwolves closed to 85-83 on a follow shot by Rasho
Nesterovic with 4:56 left. On the next possession, Nowitzki
drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing to rebuild the lead to
The Mavs held on by making 9-of-10 free throws in the final
minute, including two by Nowitzki.
"Can you imagine what kind of game we would have had without
Nowitzki?" wondered Dallas coach Don Nelson.
Nash scored 21 points, Nick Van Exel added 18 and Michael Finley
16 for Dallas, which made just 7-of-23 3-pointers but many at
Chauncey Billups scored 25 points and Kevin Garnett added 19 and
21 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who will try to get even here
on Wednesday in Game Two of the best-of-five series.
"The first game, you have a lot of butterflies, a lot of
anticipation with yourself," said Garnett, who never has won a
playoff series in five tries. "Everybody wants to do well, so a
better game from us wins it."
After Nowitzki's 3-pointer, Nesterovic scored again. But
jumpers by Eduardo Najera and Michael Finley widened the lead to
92-85 with 1:44 to go. Minnesota got no closer than five
Van Exel also made a big shot, sinking a 3-pointer after the
Wolves regrouped to close to 82-79 with 6 1/2 minutes to go.
Nowitzki made 10-of-19 shots and 9-of-10 free throws. He kept
the Mavs afloat in the first half as they started slowly and
nearly were shot out of the game by the Wolves. Minnesota shot
52 percent (12-of-23) in the first quarter, opening a 31-22 lead
as Billups scored 12 points.
"Playing these guys, I've got to be real aggressive because both
of their point guards are very aggressive players," Billups
said. "That's two All-Stars basically, in Nick and Nash, so one
thing I know is I've got to keep some pressure on those guys
Nowitzki scored 10 points in each of the first two periods. In
the second quarter, his teammates pitched in and the Wolves went
cold, making just 4-of-21 shots while committing six turnovers.
Dallas led 50-47 at halftime.
"We've been doing a great job lately of getting to the foul
line, so I just tried to drive a little more and post up a
little more and it worked out well for me tonight," Nowitzki
said. "They started with a smaller guy on me (Sam Mitchell) and
I just tried to drive a little more with the smaller guy on me.
I think it worked out pretty well."
"In the first quarter I told our guys, when they were a little
frustrated over Nowitzki scoring, 'It's a team. You know,'"
Saunders said. "If we had to, if Dirk would have a big game,
but we contained their other people, we'd be in good shape.
What happened was we let some of their other people, mainly Van
Exel, came out in the second quarter and kind of got their
momentum going back in their way."
Raef LaFrentz scored 10 points for the Mavs, who shot 44 percent
(37-of-84) and commited just nine turnovers. Dallas committed
the fewest turnovers during the season.
Nesterovic had 16 points and nine boards and Wally Szczerbiak
added 15 and eight for the Wolves, who held a 58-39 rebounding
edge. However, Minnesota shot just 40 percent (36-of-90) and
committed 19 turnovers.
"As I told our guys afterwards, we should be disappointed
because I thought that we did some things well enough to have
opportunities to win," Saunders said. "It's difficult to beat a
team on the road. When you're 58-39 on the boards and you have
26 second-chance points, those are positive things. The things
we didn't do -- we turned the ball over more than you'd like."