LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 points and hit two go-ahead free throws with 19.5 seconds left before Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant made a crucial turnover, and the Dallas Mavericks rallied for a 96-94 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night in Game 1 of their second-round playoff series.
Nowitzki had 14 rebounds for the Mavericks, who dramatically came back from a 16-point deficit in the second half of the perennial playoff teams’ first postseason meeting in 23 years.
Bryant scored 21 of his 36 points in the second half for the Lakers, but he fell down while trying to get the ball from Gasol with 5 seconds to play.
After one free throw by Jason Kidd, Bryant missed a 3-pointer just before the buzzer.
Game 2 is Wednesday night at Staples Center.
Gasol had 15 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists for the second-seeded Lakers, who lost their second straight series opener.
Their loss to New Orleans two weeks ago was much more surprising than this loss to the playoff-tested Mavs, but the Lakers’ lack of poise down the stretch should be scary to anybody anticipating a threepeat.
The Mavericks trailed 92-87 with 3:32 to play, but finished on a 9-2 run — showing all the late-game poise that’s expected of Bryant and the two-time defending champions.
Lamar Odom scored 15 points for Los Angeles, which nursed a small lead throughout the second half until Nowitzki scored in the lane with 40 seconds left to trim the deficit to 94-93. After Jason
Terry swiped the ball from Bryant, Gasol fouled Nowitzki on the Mavericks’ inbounds play, allowing the 7-footer to give Dallas its first lead since the second quarter.
Terry added 15 points for Dallas, which struggled on the boards and in the paint before the comeback.
The Mavericks too often settled for jumpers early on, and they lost their cool with 90 seconds left in the first half after offsetting technical fouls for Gasol and Tyson Chandler, who jawed all the way down the court after jockeying for rebounding position.
The Lakers leaped to a 53-44 halftime lead with four points in the final 0.7 seconds, thanks to an ill-advised foul by Terry and a technical foul on Nowitzki.
Dallas made a 20-6 run shortly after falling behind 60-44 in the third quarter, but Bryant singlehandedly kept the Lakers ahead with 12 consecutive points.
Both teams finished the regular season with 57 victories apiece, but Los Angeles won two of three in their series, including a blowout victory March 31 that was marred by several ejections. Matt
Barnes was suspended for getting involved in a confrontation between Steve Blake and Terry, who appeared to shove Blake to the court after a foul.
After a brief Twitter battle between Terry and Barnes, whose sportswear company made up T-shirts commemorating the clash, both teams put aside the ugliness of their last meeting while preparing for the franchises’ first postseason meeting since the 1988 Western Conference finals.
Even Lakers coach Phil Jackson and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban declined to rekindle their history of mutual sniping in the media, instead praising each other in recent days. Jackson even said Cuban would be an excellent prospective owner for the troubled Los Angeles Dodgers, although Cuban declined to comment on the much-rumored prospect before Game 1.
Both clubs finished off their first-round series in six games after splitting the first four. The Lakers blew their opener against the Hornets before finally taking control despite an unimpressive series from Gasol, while the Mavericks bounced back admirably after blowing a 23-point lead in a Game 4 loss to Portland.
Terry scored 13 points in the first half while hitting five of his first six shots, but the Lakers took a 53-44 halftime lead with a 14-2 run — including that productive final second.
Terry got too close to Odom’s last-ditch heave from halfcourt right before the buzzer, and Odom made three free throws.
Nowitzki then got a technical foul for throwing an aggressive elbow under the hoop while scrapping with Ron Artest, and Bryant hit a final free throw.
NOTES: Bryant had the 81st 30-point game of his playoff career,trailing only Michael Jordan (109) in NBA history. Bryant hasscored in double figures in 156 straight postseason games. … Fansnear courtside included Jack Nicholson, Eddie Murphy, Justin Timberlake, David Beckham (on his 36th birthday), Gordon Ramsay,Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, January Jones, Jennifer Carpenter, singer Seal, Mekhi Phifer, Anthony Kiedis, New York Jets TE Dustin Keller and Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis.