SAN ANTONIO, May 19 (Ticker) -- Dirk Nowitzki
, Michael Finley
Dallas Mavericks clearly have been working on their free throws.
Nowitzki made all 17 of his free-throw attempts and Finley all
10 of his shots from the line as the Dallas Mavericks rallied
from two large deficits for a 113-110 victory over the San
Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
The Mavericks came back from an 18-point second-quarter deficit
but trailed, 101-87, after Kevin Willis
nailed a jump hook with 8:05 left in the final period.
Dallas stormed back, going 20-of-20 from the stripe in the
fourth quarter to pull close, then taking its first lead since
the first quarter on Finley's hook shot over David Robinson with
14 seconds left.
"In the huddle, coach said he was going to give me a chance to
make a play," Finley said. "The big thing in my mind was to
just stay aggressive. No matter what I did, I wanted to be
aggressive because that's how you make things happen. I knew I
had to go strong to the basket and either get fouled or get the
baskeet. Fortunately, I was able to get in the lane and get the
NBA MVP Tim Duncan
who burned the Mavs for 40 points, 15
rebounds and seven assists, tossed an airball over Nowitzki and
with six seconds left, and Nowitzki calmly nailed
two from the line to make it 113-110 with four seconds to play.
After a timeout, the Spurs elected to keep their best three-point
shooter, Bruce Bowen
, on the bench because he makes free throws
at just 40 percent. In the second quarter, Dallas fouled him
repeatedly to send him to the line.
"Nelly (Dallas coach Don Nelson) has done that before," Spurs
coach Gregg Popovich said. "We fully expected it, if not
tonight, then another time. We didn't take Bruce out of the
game (in the first half). I think it was important for his
confidence. In the second half, they didn't foul him that way."
"The way that we were fouling him in the first half, Pop
probably thought we would go back to it," said Mavs guard Nick
, who scored 14 points and was 7-of-7 from the line.
The ball was inbounded to Duncan, who was fouled with three
seconds to play. Needing to make the first free throw and
intentionally miss the second, Duncan missed both. Steve Nash
grabbed the rebound and ran out the clock.
Nowitzki contributed 38 points and 15 rebounds, Finley scored 26
points and Nash 22 for Dallas, which made its final 49 free
throws in a 49-of-50 effort.
"Thank God for free throws," Nelson said. "We're better than
anyone in basketball. We're the only team in the league with a
free-throw coach, and tonight we needed it. We've taken extra
practice the last few days."
"We played very well on the defensive end tonight and did a
great job of getting to the line," Nowitzki added. "We are
normally a good foul-shooting team but struggle at getting to
the line. Fifty is astounding, and we did a great job just
making plays and getting them into foul shots."
San Antonio missed 17-of-38 free throws.
"What affected us most was missing free throws," Popovich said.
"They shot 50 free throws, and it's not like we didn't shoot
any, we shot (48). When you shoot 49-of-50 and 31-of-47, you're
giving the game away. We know it's a weakness. When you get
to the final four teams, those things rear their head."
scored 18 points for the Spurs, who eliminated the
three-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the
Game 2 is Wednesday at the SBC Center.
Dallas led, 16-15, midway through the first quarter after a
three-pointer by Nowitzki, but the Spurs scored 14 straight points
over the next three minutes and took a 36-23 lead into the
second quarter. Duncan had 16 points and five rebounds in the
opening 12 minutes.
San Antonio took its biggest lead, 43-25, on a pair of free
throws by Stephen Jackson
with 10:21 left in the second quarter.
"We came out great, with a lot of energy," Duncan said. "We
jumped out on them. They had to find a way to kill it and they
did by fouling Bruce. That killed our energy."
The Spurs held a 66-57 halftime lead, despite shooting 61
percent (20-of-33) and limiting the Mavs to 43 percent
"We made major adjustments at halftime," Nelson said. "We
couldn't stop Tim, but we found something that worked a little
better. In the second half, we kept the pedal to the metal. I
didn't get to rest my guys very much, but I said, 'The heck with
Dallas tied it, 78-78, on two free throws by Finley with 3:34
left in the third period before San Antonio closed the quarter
on a 13-5 run.
Spurs center Malik Rose
exited with 4:16 to play
after taking an accidental knee to the back of the head from
Mavs forward Eduardo Najera
. He remained on the court for some three minutes before heading to the locker room.
"He took a charge and I was open for the rebound," Najera said.
"I felt his head hit my thigh. I had a lot of momentum going
up and he had a lot coming down. I felt the contact, but I
thought it was his back or knee. Later, I saw the replay and
saw it was his head."
Dallas won despite shooting just 40 percent (29-of-72) and
allowing San Antonio to connect at 49 percent (36-of-74).
"I'm glad we got to the line that many times, but hopefully, we
won't have to rely on a percentage that high throughout the
series," said Nash, who was 6-of-6 from the line.
"It was a heck of a game," Popovich said. "The bad guys won and
the good guys lost. They sure can shoot free throws."