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Kidd burns Blazers early, then foul disparity finishes job

by | Special to CBSSports.com
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DALLAS -- Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki took the postgame podium as the postgame heroes, the stat-sheet stars of the Mavericks' series-opening victory against the Trail Blazers. Kidd set a playoff career-high with six 3-pointers, while Nowitzki scored 18 of his 28 in the fourth quarter.

But the numbers that told the story of Dallas' 89-81 come-from-behind triumph, at least as far as Portland coach Nate McMillan was concerned, were 19 and 2. The former is the amount of free throws the Mavericks took in the fourth quarter. The latter, the Blazers.

"The free throws," McMillan lamented, "I just don't get that."

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Third-seeded Dallas did get them and a 1-0 lead in this first-round best-of-7 series that will resume Tuesday night here at American Airlines Center.

Portland found itself in position midway through the fourth quarter to steal the homecourt edge, leading 72-66 and relentlessly attacking the Mavericks inside. LaMarcus Aldridge was soaring and shooting over the stunned hosts, who appeared to running out of steam after leaning on the 38-year-old Kidd for much of the night.

Then the whistles starting coming. And coming. And coming. During a 14-6 stretch that gave Dallas an 82-78 lead, nine points came at the line. Nowitzki took 13 foul shots in the game. They all came in the fourth. He made every one. (Portland had 13 free throws the entire night.)

"They marched to the free-throw line, got easy baskets with the clock stopped, giving them momentum and the game shifted in their favor," Aldridge said.

Did the Mavericks turn up their aggressiveness, seizing control of a game that couldn't afford to lose? Aldridge shrugged.

"They didn't turn up any aggressiveness," he said. "They just got there. They played the same way the whole game."

The Mavericks weren't about to apologize about the 18 freebies they knocked down in the final quarter. Losing teams are hardly ever happy about the officiating.

"I don't think the officials were a favorite to either team," Kidd said. "Both teams are going to complain about fouls during a game. That's what we do."

Not that Dallas is known for taking it to the rim. The Mavericks were 27th in the league during the season in free-throw attempts. The Blazers, though, were 28th, so it's not as if their perceived shaft in calls is out of character. These are two teams with jump-shooting reputations.

And a lot more of those jump shots fell for the Mavericks. Kidd carried the load, shocking everyone watching, including himself, with a half-dozen 3-pointers on 10 attempts. His final triple with 25 seconds left and the shot clock running down gave Dallas an 85-78 lead, effectively sealing the victory.

"They want me to be aggressive," said Kidd, whose regular-season high was 21 points. "We all know that Dirk and [Jason Terry] are offensive guys and they put the ball up. But, in the playoffs, you have to have other guys step up and score, and I know that our opponents are going to give me that jump shot and I have to be able to knock it down.

"Tonight was a good example of that."

The Blazers won't have a problem giving Kidd those shots again, especially if it means Nowitzki going 7 for 20 from the floor. Even though Kidd's set shot is structurally sound and smooth, Kidd still isn't considered a shooter after 18 years collecting NBA checks. It doesn't seem to matter that the only guys with more career 3-pointers in league history are named Ray and Reggie.

"Nobody thinks of him as a shooter," Portland guard Brandon Roy said. "We didn't predict him to make six."

The Blazers will look back at more than just the barrage from Kidd and Nowitzki from different lines. They've got positives to build on, namely a 46-18 advantage in points in the paint. They had a chance to go up eight with less than six minutes left, but a costly turnover by Gerald Wallace on the break (he thought he was fouled) kept Dallas within striking distance.

"We can definitely play a whole lot better," Blazers center Marcus Camby said. "I think we only scored like 81 points or something like that. We held those guys down. They shot a low percentage (40.9) also. A couple of plays here and there, and the outcome might have been different."

But for McMillan, a couple of numbers in Game 1, were hard to get past.

"It's hard for our guys to know how to play out there when it's called a little different -- 19 to 2 in the fourth quarter," he said. "And I felt like we were attacking, and guys really didn't know how to play with the fouls that were being called. A lot of touch fouls."

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