Dallas rallied from a 16-point second-half deficit on Monday to shock the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers 96-94 in Game 1 of their NBA Western Conference second-round playoff series.
The Mavericks’ German star Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 points — including two free throws that gave Dallas the lead with less than 20 seconds remaining.
That was followed by a Lakers turnover with five seconds remaining, when superstar Kobe Bryant fell as he tried to get the ball from teammate Pau Gasol.
After Dallas’ Jason Kidd made one of two free throws, Bryant missed a last-gasp three-point attempt.
“Well, we went in the locker room and felt like we gave the game away,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “I’m not so sure Dallas didn’t out-play us, but the players felt like they gave it away. A couple of missed plays at the offensive end and that foul at the end to put them on the line kind of makes it difficult to win these kind of games.”
Bryant finished with 36 points, 21 of them in the second half. It was the 81st 30-point playoff game of his career, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the determined Mavericks in the first postseason meeting between the two teams in 23 years.
Nowitzki, who grabbed 14 -rebounds, scored to close the gap to 94-93 with 40 seconds remaining.
After Jason Terry stole the ball from Bryant, Gasol fouled Nowitzki as the Mavericks inbounded the ball and Nowitzki made his foul shots to give Dallas the lead for the first time in the second half.
After struggling early in the paint, the frustrated Mavericks lost their poise at the end of the first half, when Terry inexplicably fouled Lamar Odom as he attempted a half-court shot and Nowitzki earned a technical to help the Lakers score four points in less than a second to take a 53-44 halftime lead.
The Mavericks then turned the ball over on their first three possessions of the second half as they fell behind 60-44. They gave themselves the chance to win it, however, with a 20-6 scoring run.
Five Mavericks scored in double figures. Terry scored 15, Tyson Chandler added 11 points and nine rebounds and Shawn Marion and Peja Stojakvoic chipped in 10 points apiece.
BULLS VS HAWKS
Joe Johnson scored 34 points on Monday to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 103-95 victory over the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in the first game of their NBA Eastern Conference second-round playoff series.
In addition to the defeat on their home court, the Bulls saw Derrick Rose limp off at the end of the contest after he twisted an ankle when he stepped on Jamal Crawford’s foot in the waning seconds.
The Hawks jumped to an early lead, then saw Chicago go up by as many as six points in the third quarter before Atlanta engineered a 15-2 scoring run spanning the third and fourth quarters.
Johnson drained three three-pointers and scored 11 points in the surge, which saw the Hawks take an 80-71 lead with less than 11 minutes to play.
The victory was a vindication for an Atlanta team that felt overlooked at the end of the regular season when the Orlando Magic’s Jameer Nelson was caught on television telling Rose he would see him “in the second round.”
The Hawks made sure that did not happen by ousting Orlando in the first round, but they were again the underdogs against a Bulls team that won a league-best 62 games in the regular season.