MEMPHIS, Tenn., May 1 (Ticker) --Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas
Mavericks appear to be ready for their next challenge. The
Memphis Grizzlies again show they weren't ready for the postseason.
Nowitzki scored 27 points as the Mavericks coasted to a 102-76
victory over the Grizzlies to complete a 4-0 sweep of their
Western Conference first-round series.
NBA TV highlights from Mavericks-Grizzlies:
Play Press Conference:
Josh Howard added 24 points for the fourth-seeded Mavericks, who
took the lead for good midway through the first quarter and
pulled away in the second half en route to sweeping a
best-of-seven series for the first time in franchise history.
"I thought this was our best performance of the series," Dallas
coach Avery Johnson said. "We talked about playing tough,
hard-nosed defense to try and close out this series."
Nowitzki provided what may have been the crushing blow in Game
Three on Saturday, when he hit a tying 3-pointer with 15 seconds
remaining in regulation in a contest that Mavs eventually won
in overtime and all but deflated the fifth-seeded Grizzlies.
"I thought Game 3 was the big difference for us," said
Nowitzki, who finished 3-of-3 from behind the arc. "I thought
they still came out strong tonight, but we came out firing today
and fortunately we're moving on."
On Monday, Nowitzki had his fourth straight huge game to give
the Mavs at least five days off before they would start the
conference semifinals against either top-seeded San Antonio or
eighth-seeded Sacramento. He made 12-of-21 shots and failed
attempt a free throw after getting to the line 35 times in the
first three games.
"We have some guys banged up and we'll get some rest. But we
can't relax too much," Nowitzki said. "We've still got to get
some work done this week, work on some defense location stuff
that we messed up this week and just, you know, stay sharp."
Nowitzki scored 13 points in the first half, helping the Mavs to
a 48-39 lead at the break. The 7-foot German superstar poured
in 11 more points in the third as Dallas extended the advantage
to 79-61 entering the final period.
In the series, Nowitzki scored at least 30 points in three games
and averaged 31.2 points overall.
"I was looking forward to the playoffs for the last few months,"
Nowitzki said. "I was so fired up about the playoffs starting
it was hard to keep my emotions under control. I'm glad my shot
was falling this series and I was able to help the team win.
It's different from last year when I struggled in the playoffs."
After the Grizzlies scored the first four points of the third
quarter, Nowitzki drilled a 3-pointer and a jumper to a trigger
a 14-4 surge. His shot from the arc at the 6:37 mark capped the
surge and gave the Mavs a 62-47 cushion.
Dallas forced three of Memphis' six third-quarter turnovers
during the spurt. The Grizzlies committed 14 turnovers overall,
and finished with 64 in the series.
"I think our offensive execution was poor and our defensive
execution was poor when it really mattered," Grizzlies forward
Shane Battier said. "Part of that is their team. They execute
like a championship team should."
Making their third straight playoff appearance, the Grizzlies
fell to 0-12 all-time in the postseason. The 12 straight losses
are an NBA-playoff record.
"They came out to break our spirit and they did it in the second
quarter," Grizzlies coach Mike Fratello said.
Pau Gasol scored 25 points to lead the Grizzlies, who showed
little fight in the second half in their latest playoff debacle.
"It's hard to overcome mentally when you are down 3-0 and they
make a run," Gasol said. "They get comfortable when they get in
a lead, and it's hard for us to come back and make a run."
Jerry Stackhouse added 19 points off the bench for Dallas, which
shot just below 50 percent (39-of-79) and finished 7-of-12
from the arc.
"I thought we grew up in this series, especially with that win
in Game Three," said Mavs guard Jason Terry, who scored 12 points
and handed out five assists. "But I think it says more what we
did in Game Four - coming in and closing them out on the road.
Now we get to rest up and get ready for the next series
against San Antonio or Sacramento."