Result: Dallas beat the Lakers 96-94 in LA
What that means: The Mavs take a surprise 1-0 lead in the series. But here’s a long way to go.
How it happened: When Kobe Bryant drained a three-pointer to put the Los Angeles Lakers up by 16 points in the second half, nobody would have been surprised if the Dallas Mavericks packed it in.
After all, these perennial underachievers aren’t exactly known for their playoff tenacity.
Their stirring comeback against the two-time defending champions showed that Dirk Nowitzki and his Mavs just might be capable of creating whole new reputations this spring.
Nowitzki scored 28 points and hit two go-ahead free throws with 19.5 seconds left, Jason Kidd forced a crucial turnover moments later, and the Mavericks escaped with a 96-94 victory in Game 1 last night when Bryant missed two late chances to steal it back for the Lakers.
Jason Terry scored 15 points and Nowitzki had 14 rebounds for the Mavericks, who erased that huge third-quarter deficit before the dramatic finish to the perennial playoff teams’ first postseason meeting in 23 years. The Mavericks trailed 92-87 with 3:32 to play, but finished on a 9-2 run.
“I thought we did a great job hanging in there,” Nowitzki said.
“It wasn’t looking good, but we talked about in the huddle. Just stick with it, try to get some stops, don’t turn the ball over, and get a shot up every time. Just at least give ourselves a chance to make it.”
They made it, all right — but only when Bryant, who scored 21 of his 36 points in the second half, couldn’t provide his usual late-game heroics.
“You’ve got to make plays, and you’ve got to dodge some bullets,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “We did both.”
After Nowitzki’s free throws gave Dallas its first lead of the second half, Bryant fell down while trying to get past Kidd to collect the ball from Pau Gasol with 5 seconds to play. After one free throw by Kidd, Bryant missed a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer off the back rim just before the buzzer.
“I think they always had hope,” Bryant said of the Mavs. “They’re in the second round. They’re here to play. I don’t really see it as a big deal. We’ve got to improve.”
Game 2 is tomorrow night at Staples Center.
As fans of Entourage will know – when it gets to the business end of the season in LA, the stars fill the Staples Center front row.
And the Kardashians go along too.