MINNEAPOLIS, April 28 (Ticker) --
A quick start by Dirk Nowitzki
Dallas Mavericks was enough to finish off the Minnesota
Nowitzki scored 17 of his 39 points in a scintillating first
quarter as the Mavericks completed a three-game sweep of their
Western Conference first-round series, holding on for a 115-102
victory over the Timberwolves.
NBA TV highlights from|
Nash's circus shot:
The fourth-seeded Mavericks advanced to the conference
semifinals for the second straight year and await the winner of
the series between top-seeded Sacramento and eighth-seeded Utah.
Steve Nash led a determined Mavs squad to sweep victory.|
"I love our team and I'm confident we can play well and beat
either Utah or Sacramento," Dallas coach Don Nelson said.
"We can play with confidence against either team," Nowitzki
added. "Sacramento is the best home team in the league, but we
played them tough in their place. We're trying to go all the
way this year. We're deep enough and talented enough, so why
It was the sixth straight first-round exit for superstar Kevin
Garnett and the Timberwolves, tying a record set by Portland
from 1993-98 and raising questions about Garnett's ability to
carry a team. He is 5-18 in the postseason.
"If you look at all of the other teams in the playoffs, their
core has been there consistently," Garnett said. "Every year
it seems to be a different blow to us. Look at a team like Utah
-- they've been there 30 or 40 years. The only consistency
here has been (vice president) Kevin McHale, Flip (coach Flip
Saunders), myself and Sam Mitchell."
"We need to grow together," guard Chauncey Billups said. "We
lost some games this year due to inexperience, and I accounted
for some of that. The only way you get better is if you stay
together. Hopefully, we'll all be back in this locker room next
year. I know everyone wants to be back."
While Garnett's problems continue, Nowitzki has become a playoff
monster. He had 17 rebounds as he posted his fourth straight
30-15 game. And he wasted no time setting a tone, making 6-of-6
shots in the opening period as Dallas raced to a 40-28 lead.
"He is a matchup nightmare," Minnesota guard Wally Szczerbiak
said. "He had 39 points and hit some really tough shots."
"It's about winning, not scoring," Nowitzki said. "You do
whatever it takes to win. Whether it's score 40 points or 20
points, winning is what matters."
The Mavericks led by as many as 20 points before the
Timberwolves made one final run on their home floor, closing
within 104-101 on a free throw by Garnett with 4:04 to play.
But forward Eduardo Najera, often overlooked among the Mavs'
many offensive stars, made three straight big plays. He drew a
charge, dove to the floor for a steal and put home a follow shot
to stop Minnesota's momentum. Najera helped hold Garnett
without a basket over the final 10 minutes.
"I thought Najera made the play of the game a la Dave Cowens in
Boston Garden, diving on the floor and getting a big steal,"
Nelson said. "Then he got a big putback basket."
Michael Finley scored 30 points and Steve Nash added 25 and 11
assists for Dallas, which has won playoff series in consecutive
seasons for the first time in club history.
"Dirk was our MVP and our superstar this series, with Mike being
a close second," Nash said. "But there are a lot of
performances, and a lot of hustle and a lot of energy."
Garnett had 22 points and 17 rebounds despite some foul trouble.
Szczerbiak and Anthony Peeler added 20 points apiece for
Nowitzki ended a 10-0 run by the Wolves with a fadeaway jumper,
giving the Mavs a 99-85 lead. But Minnesota kept coming as
Szczerbiak made two free throws, a 3-pointer and a jumper before
Garnett's free throw made it a one-possession game.
After Najera drew an offensive foul from Billups, he broke up a
2-on-1 fast break, diving to a loose ball and calling timeout
after Szczerbiak lost his dribble. At the other end, Finley
missed a short jumper that was put home by Najera with 2:36 to
"I knew I had Nick (Van Exel) on my side, so I didn't panic to
get it," Szczerbiak said. "I just wanted to grab it and restart
the offense. Then Najera made a great play to grab it and get
"(Nelson) kept me in the game in the fourth quarter, so I had a
chance to do a few things," Najera said. "I just did what I do
most of the time."
A 3-pointer by Nash and jumper by Nowitzki sealed it.
"That shot that Steve hit really put a nail in the coffin,"
Saunders said. "A pull-up three when you're up five with 1:05
to go -- that dictated how they played, their aggressiveness."
Dallas more than matched Minnesota's early energy, shooting 64
percent (14-of-22) in the first quarter. Saunders lost his cool
early in the second period and had to be restrained by his
assistants. Nash made the technical foul shot and Nowitzki hit
two from the line for a 49-30 bulge with 9:53 left.
Minnesota closed to 67-57 at halftime but stumbled again in the
third quarter. Finley scored 13 points in the period, including
six in a row to push the lead to 95-77 in the final minute.
Nowitzki added two free throws, giving the Mavs their largest
"I knew the first and third quarters were the most important
parts of the game," Finley said. "I took it upon myself to be
the aggressor. Coach called my number, and I hit some shots."
Dallas shot 45 percent (35-of-78), including 13-of-24 from the
arc, and made 32-of-35 free throws.
Billups scored 16 points for Minnesota, which shot 43 percent
(32-of-74) and took 44 free throws, making just 30.