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Dallas 96, Portland 86
Dirk, Mavs Bust Up Blazers in Game 1

Dirk Nowitzki scored in double digits in each quarter on Saturday.
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DALLAS, April 19 (Ticker) -- Dirk Nowitzki carried the load, and the Dallas Mavericks needed it.

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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 game."

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 half."

"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 offensively."

A basket by Scottie Pippen pulled Portland within 83-80 with 6:24 remaining. But Nowitzki made a layup, Steve Nash had a basket and Eduardo Najera added an easy bucket to restore a nine-point cushion.

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' eight 3-pointers.

"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."

Rasheed Wallace 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 the game.

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 percent (18-of-46).

"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 tonight."

Defensively, Shawn Bradley and Raef LaFrentz helped tighten 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. Jeff McInnis' 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 Dale Davis and Derek Anderson played sparingly in the second half due to ineffectiveness.

Bonzi Wells 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 second half.



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