Dirk Nowitzki made two big free throws with 19.5 seconds remaining, as the Dallas Mavericks erased a 16-point deficit to beat the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, 96-94, in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
Nowitzki ended with 28 points and 14 rebounds for the third-seeded Mavericks, who needed six games to beat Portland in the first round. Jason Terry added 15 points off the bench.
Kobe Bryant finished with 36 points and five rebounds for the second-seeded Lakers, who defeated the Hornets in six games to advance.
Pau Gasol donated 15 points and 11 boards, while Lamar Odom tallied 15 and 12 in defeat.
The teams finished with identical 57-25 records during the regular season, but the Lakers won the season series, 2-1, to earn home-court advantage in the first playoff meeting between the teams since 1988.
The Mavericks came into Monday’s game with an 0-10 mark on the road against the Lakers in the playoffs.
Game 2 of the set will be Wednesday in LA.
Be sure to check out our Lakers vs. Mavericks hub for more on the series. For more on the Mavericks, visit Mavs Moneyball. For more on the Lakers, visit Silver Screen And Roll.