NBA: Nowitzki leads Mavs past Spurs 100-94 in opener
AP Sports Writer
DALLAS — Dirk Nowitzki opened the playoffs in a high gear, making 12 of 14 shots and scoring 36 points to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 100-94 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday night.
The Spurs did a good job of slowing Nowitzki in the first round last year, usually by swarming him with two and sometimes three defenders. They went with only one most of this game and paid the price.
Nowitzki shot over guys his size and went to the basket when covered by someone smaller. He took 12 free throws and made them all, adding to a streak of 74 straight made free throws during the regular season.
Among his highlights were a 7-0 stretch midway through the third, which actually ended up putting Dallas ahead for good. He scored only four points in the fourth quarter, but his presence was huge as the Mavericks often ran their offense through him. His passing and shooting prevented San Antonio from getting any closer than five points, with Dallas' lead peaking at 100-88 before the Spurs made it closer during garbage time.
Caron Butler scored 22 points and Brendan Haywood added 10 in their playoff debut for Dallas. Both were part of a major trade in February that turned a good Mavericks team into a much better one. They came into the playoffs having won eight of 10 and five straight.
Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker all looked in prime playoff form — but didn't get much help.
Duncan had 27 points and eight rebounds, Ginobili scored 26 and Parker had 18 points and four assists. George Hill started at point guard, but was scoreless with two turnovers in 18 minutes.
A change at point guard might be one move San Antonio makes for Game 2 Wednesday night in Dallas. Don't be surprised if the Spurs also pull out last year's defensive game plan by daring someone other than Nowitzki to beat them.
Jason Kidd had 13 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds for the Mavericks, and Erick Dampier had five points, 12 rebounds and lots of bruises from bumping against Duncan.
The Spurs actually tried a Hack-a-Damp defense midway through the third quarter, but he foiled it by hitting 4 of 6 free throws. Kidd also made San Antonio pay for leaving him open on 3-pointers, making 3 of 6, including a biggie down the stretch in the fourth quarter.