DALLAS, April 19 (Ticker) -- Dirk Nowitzki
carried the load, and the
Dallas Mavericks needed it.
Nowitzki poured in a playoff career-high 46 points and grabbed
10 rebounds as the Mavericks used a big second half to rally for
a 96-86 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in the opener
of their Western Conference first-round series.
On a night on which his teammates struggled offensively,
Nowitzki did it all to help Dallas fight back from a 13-point
deficit. The Mavericks also limited the Trail Blazers to 12
points in the pivotal third quarter.
"Nowitzki's performance was just amazing to us," Dallas coach
Don Nelson said. "I told him at the end of regulation that he
will eventually be one of the best all-around players to play
The 46 points broke the team playoff record. The old mark of 43
was set on April 18, 1985 by Rolando Blackman, who is currently
a Dallas assistant.
"I just tried to be aggressive, that's the major thing,"
Nowitzki said. "I tried to get to the basket on them, and that
always helps get you to the free-throw line."
Nowitzki had 23 points in the first half - more than half of his
team's total - as Dallas trailed at intermission, 52-42. No
other Maverick reached double figures in the opening half.
A jumper by Nowitzki sparked a 15-1 burst that gave Dallas the
lead for good at 66-61 with 1:38 left in the third quarter. He
totaled 10 points during the run and Michael Finley
, who missed
his first six shots, capped it with a 3-pointer.
The Blazers, who dropped their eighth straight playoff game,
shot a woeful 19 percent (4-of-21) in the third quarter.
"We didn't shoot the ball as well in the second half as we did
in the first half," Portland coach Maurice Cheeks said. "I
don't think we moved the ball as well as we did in the first
"The speech at halftime, we had to guard and and rebound because
we know we can make shots," Nelson said. "We really went to
work in the second half and did a much better job and Dirk
carried us. And we needed him to because we were struggling
A basket by Scottie Pippen
pulled Portland within 83-80 with
6:24 remaining. But Nowitzki made a layup, Steve Nash
basket and Eduardo Najera
added an easy bucket to restore a
Nowitzki made 16-of-27 shots and drained 10-of-11 free throws in
47 minutes. The German All-Star drained four of the Mavericks'
"Dirk played awesome," Finley said. "He's been playing All-Star
ball all year, but this was definitely MVP status. He did
everything he had to just to keep us in the ballgame."
scored 26 points for Portland but turned his
ankle and had to sit out a few minutes in the third quarter.
That allowed Dallas to embark on the 15-1 run that turned around
Finley scored all 13 of his points in the second half and Nash
added 10 and nine assists as the duo combined to make just
8-of-23 shots. Aside from Nowitzki, the Mavericks shot just 39
"We can go back and recoup," Portland guard Damon Stoudamire
said. "We can work on things we need to work on. We need to
pay a lot more attention to Dirk. He had a heckuva game
Defensively, Shawn Bradley
and Raef LaFrentz
things up inside in the second half. Bradley had seven rebounds
and five blocks while LaFrentz pulled down seven rebounds.
"It's all about being tough on defense," Nowitzki said. "We
really moved well on defense. The zone was working and we were
doing all of the little things you have to do."
Stoudamire scored 13 of his 16 points in the first half,
including six in a 10-2 tear that put Portland in front, 39-31.
' jumper gave the Trail Blazers their largest lead
at 49-36 with 2:29 to go before halftime.
Wallace's teammates sputtered in the third quarter and starters
and Derek Anderson
played sparingly in the second
half due to ineffectiveness.
collected 13 points and 10 rebounds and Davis also
pulled down 10 rebounds as Portland won the battle on the glass,
48-40, and had a 20-8 edge in second-chance points.
But the Blazers shot just under 36 percent (15-of-42) in the