Earl K. Sneed recaps Monday night's Game 1 between the Dallas Mavericks and two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, as the Mavs battled back from a 16-point deficit and took a 1-0 lead in the series behind Dirk Nowitzki's offense and Jason Kidd's late defense on Kobe Bryant.
LOS ANGELES — The challenge seemed great for the Dallas Mavericks coming into Monday night’s Game 1 matchup with the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.
Needing to win at least one game on the Lakers’ home floor in order to take the best-of-seven series, the Mavs stepped into the Staples Center not shying away from the challenge but instead feeding off it.
“If you want to be a champion you’ve got to go through the champs,” Mavericks center Tyson Chandler simply said heading into the first showdown.
Monday night, the Mavs got their first shot at the reigning champs in the postseason since the 1988 Western Conference Finals, and they took full advantage of the opportunity, stealing the home-court advantage with a come-from-behind 96-94 win in Game 1.
But the Mavericks faced some early adversity in the form of back-to-back NBA Finals MVP Kobe Bryant, as the Lakers’ superstar scored his team’s first seven points to get the home squad off to a quick start. However, back-to-back 3-pointers from the backcourt of point guard Jason Kidd and reserve Jason Terry brought the Mavs back with an 11-1 run, before taking a 25-23 edge into the second period.
The Mavericks’ 11-of-23 shooting in the opening quarter bettered 9-of-23 from the floor at the other end for the Lakers.
L.A. received a spark from its bench early in the second stanza, though, with Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom and reserve guard Shannon Brown powering the Lakers’ second unit. And although the Mavs turned to Terry and forward Dirk Nowitzki to briefly keep the Lakers at bay, the defending champs still emerged with a 53-44 lead heading into halftime after Terry’s foul on Odom’s desperation 3-point attempt — resulting in a 3-for-3 trip to the line — and a technical foul on Nowitzki for elbowing Ron Artest just before time expired to conclude a 14-2 run.
“The last 10 seconds of the first half are things that may never happen to this team again, ever,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “And so, we need to forget about that. We said one of the keys to the series was to be persistent and play out possessions. … Hey, it should’ve been a five-point game and it wasn’t, but there’s a lot of game left so you’ve got to keep playing.”
Led by Bryant’s 15 first-half points on 5-of-12 shooting to combat a combined 25 points on 10-for-17 from the floor for Terry and Nowitzki, the Lakers outshot the Mavs after 24 minutes of play, 47.6 percent to 42.9 percent. Meanwhile, L.A. dominated the glass and interior, turning a 26-17 rebounding edge into a 30-14 advantage in points in the paint.
Things would get worse before they got better for the Mavs in the third quarter, surrendering three turnovers on the first three possessions of the second half which led to a 7-0 spurt for the Lakers to open up a lead as large as 16.
“We felt like we had a bad start to the third quarter, we turned the ball over three or four times in a row, Kobe got hot in the third and we weren’t looking good. You just have to stick with it, try to get some stops, and not to turn the ball over. Just get a shot up every time and give ourselves at least a chance to make it,” Nowitzki said.
“Character was a big factor in tonight’s game. We lost our composure today at the end of the second quarter, and then came out and lost the ball three straight times and found ourselves down. But everybody’s role is to keep playing and try and cut into the lead and see what happens,” Kidd added.
The Mavericks would settle down, getting an offensive lift from little-used swingman Corey Brewer to lead the way to a 17-4 run to pull to within three.
“I saw [Brewer] in the tunnel at halftime. I told him to be ready. He came in, provided a spark and everybody has got to be ready in this series,” Terry said.
“It shows that the guys are counting on me,” Brewer added. “They want me to go in and do good for the team. And for a guy like JET [Terry] to tell me to be ready, ‘You know, we’re gonna need you,’ it means a lot. I just tried to go in and bring some energy, help the team any way I can.”
Behind Brewer’s all-around play the Mavericks inched to as close as two down. That is until Bryant singlehandedly willed his team to a 78-71 lead heading to the final quarter, after the perennial All-Star scored 30 points through the first 36 minutes of play.
The Mavs continued to charge hard early in the fourth period, with Peja Stojakovic and Nowitzki both swishing home 3-pointers to bring their team to within one, 80-79, with 8:46 left on the game clock. Turning to Odom and Bryant again, the Lakers tried to pull away, but an alley-oop from Kidd to Chandler continued to keep L.A.’s lead within an arm’s reach at three inside the final three minutes.
Aggressive moves by forward Shawn Marion and Nowitzki sandwiched a Bryant score to cut the deficit to just one, when Terry stepped in the passing lane on the defensive end of the floor and intercepted a pass intended for Derek Fisher. The Lakers’ point guard quickly fouled the Mavs’ star reserve, giving Dallas a chance to set up a play after using a final timeout with 20.3 seconds left to win the game.
With Kidd inbounding the ball, Pau Gasol committed a crucial foul that sent Nowitzki to the line with 19.5 seconds left, as the 7-footer calmly nailed a pair to give the Mavs a one-point edge. Then after committing a foul with one to give, Kidd forced a bad exchange between Gasol and Bryant, leading to a L.A. turnover and subsequent foul once the future Hall of Fame lead guard grabbed the loose ball.
“Jason Kidd is one of the few guys capable of having a possession like that against a top player. There was a reason we try to keep him off Bryant a lot of the game. It’s just too much, takes too much energy. We need him to do so many other things for us. That was a great sequence. We dodged a bullet at the end, but the guys earned it,” Carlisle explained.
Carlisle’s crew wasn’t out of the woods yet, after Kidd only converted on 1-of-2 at the foul line with 3.1 seconds remaining, giving the Lakers a chance to tie or win it on the final play. And Lakers coach Phil Jackson went back to his leading scorer, with Bryant getting the ball with an opportunity to go for the victory from the right wing.
But after finding a way to will the ball into the basket all night, he couldn’t do so with the game on the line, back-rimming at the buzzer from 3-point range with a shot over Kidd’s outstretched arm to give Game 1 and the home-court advantage to the Mavericks.
Bryant finished with a game-high 36 points on 14-of-29 from the floor, with Gasol and Odom the only other Lakers in double figures with 15 points apiece.
“It’s just Kobe. You’ve just got to keep your focus. He’s one of the greatest players of all-time, and he does some amazing things out there. But regardless of what he does you’ve got to stick to your principles and continue to play,” Chandler said of the big night by the Lakers’ go-to player.
Nowitzki’s 28 points on 11-of-22 shooting to go along with 14 rebounds led the Mavs, while four others scored in double figures including 15 points off the bench for Terry.
Chandler finished just shy of a double-double, scoring 11 points and pulling down nine rebounds. Marion and Stojakovic pitched in 10 points apiece, while Kidd dished out 11 assists to go with seven points.
Despite being outrebounded, 44-40, the Mavs finished the game outshooting the Lakers, 49.4 percent to 42.9 percent. The Mavs also overcame a 46-36 disadvantage in points in the paint by connecting on 9-of-20 from behind the 3-point arc, compared to 5-for-19 from deep for the Lakers.
“We felt like we held our own on the boards,” Nowitzki said. “That’s a big key for us, that we rebound with them. I think we kept the rebound game within four or five rebounds. I think we gave ourselves a chance to get out there and win the game.”
Meanwhile, both teams scored 15 fast-break points and committed 11 turnovers for the night, with Dallas scoring 11 points — one shy of L.A.’s 12 — off the Lakers’ miscues. And led by Kidd, the Mavericks finished with 30 assists on their 39 makes, while the Lakers shelled out just 21 helpers to get their 36 field goals.
The Mavericks will now take Tuesday to clean up their mistakes with a practice before returning to the Staples Center looking for a 2-0 advantage with a win in Game 2 Wednesday night.
“We can say that we didn’t play our best game, but we found a way to win. That’s the bottom line this time of year,” Kidd pointed out. “You want to be the first team to four, and we found a way to win Game 1. But again, the Lakers have been in this position a lot of times and they’ve found a way to win the series. So, we haven’t done anything yet.”
“Definitely a great win for us,” Nowitzki added, “but if you look at their last series, they lost Game 1 and they came right back and won the next two and had the series back in control. …We know they’re going to come out in the second game and be even better, so we’ve got to make sure we show up as well.”
Note: Game 2 of the Mavericks’ second-round series with the Lakers will tip off Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m. CT, airing nationally on TNT.
Tickets for the first two home games of the Second Round of the 2011 Playoffs will are on sale now. Tickets are priced $19 and up for Round 2. Tickets will be available online at mavs.com, via phone (214-747-6287 or 1-800-4NBA-TIX), the American Airlines Center® North Box Office* and all Ticketmaster outlets (Fiesta Grocery Stores, Simon Mall in Garland and Shops at Willow Bend).
The first-round series between the two teams continues as follows:
Game 2 – Wed May 4 9:30 p.m. CT TNT
Game 3 – Fri May 6 TBD ESPN
Game 4 – Sun May 8 2:30 p.m. CT ABC
Game 5 * Tue May 10 TBD TNT
Game 6 * Thu May 12 TBD ESPN
Game 7 * Sun May 15 2:30 p.m. CT ABC
The Mavs will host a FREE watch party for fans Wednesday night when the Mavs take on the Los Angeles Lakers for Game 2 of the second round of the 2011 Playoffs. The party starts an hour prior to tipoff.
Fans can join the Mavs Dancers, ManiAACs, Street Team, Ali Dee and Ro Parrish to watch the game on the HD big-screen TV on the AT&T Plaza. Fans will also have a chance to win 2011 Mavs Playoff tickets and Mavs autographed prizes.
The South Plaza Fan Shop will be open for fans to purchase their 2011 Playoff t-shirts and other Mavs apparel.
Parking will be available in the Platinum Parking garage and is $5. Food and beverages will be available for purchase (no outside food or beverages will be allowed). Fans will also need to bring their own seating.
Pira Restaurant will be open starting at 7:30 p.m. and will have a special watch party menu available for fans.
Special thanks to 106.1 KISS FM, ESPN and ESPN Deportes for their support of the watch parties.