DALLAS — Serge Ibaka stood right up to Dirk Nowitzki, stretching his 7-foot-4 wingspan to make the view of the basket as tough as possible.And it hardly mattered.
Wherever he went, whoever he was up against, Nowitzki either nailed a shot or made his way to the foul line. He hit 10 of his first 11 shots from the field and an NBA playoff-record 24 straight free throws on the way to 48 points, leading the Dallas Mavericks to a 121-112 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday night.
“I thought Dirk was pretty good tonight,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said, laughing. “I thought we defended him as close as we can — obviously, too close.”
Nowitzki finished 12 of 15 from the field and a perfect 24 of 24 at the line. It was the most points by anyone this postseason and two shy of his most ever in a playoff game. He credited some late-night shooting sessions he put in during Dallas’ nine-day wait for this series, and the confidence boost of hitting his first few shots.
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“I was really looking to shoot early and was able to get my rhythm after the first couple of shots,” said Nowitzki, who had six rebounds, four assists and four blocks. “I kept attacking and my teammates kept feeding me and feeding me and I was able to take advantage over some smaller players.”
Jason Terry scored 24 points, and J.J. Barea added 21 as the Mavericks picked up where they left off in a sweep of the Lakers nine days before. They broke open a tight game with a 13-0 run late in the second quarter and never trailed again, stretching their franchise-record postseason winning streak to seven games.
Game 2 is Thursday night in Dallas, where the Mavericks are 6-0 this postseason.
The Thunder — fresh off a seven-game series against Memphis that included a total of four overtimes — led by nine points early in the second quarter, then went 6:28 between baskets. They missed 10 shots during that drought and were down by 11 when it ended. They eventually trailed by 16 before clawing within five points with 3:42 left and six with 48.5 seconds to play.
“We can’t get discouraged,” said Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant, who finished with 40 points but was whistled for two fouls against Nowitzki in a five-second span during the third quarter. “He’s going to make shots. He’s going to make off-balanced shots with a hand in his face.”
Russell Westbrook went from a triple-double in his last game to 20 points, three assists and three rebounds. He missed 12 of his 15 shots, including 10 of his first 11.