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Nowitzki, Mavericks come up big

He hits 24 straight free throws in win

Associated Press / May 18, 2011

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Dirk Nowitzki showed no rust from a long layoff, making 10 of his first 11 shots and an NBA playoff-record 24 straight free throws on the way to 48 points, leading the Mavericks to a 121-112 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals last night in Dallas.

Jason Terry scored 24 points and J.J. Barea added 21 points as the Mavericks picked up where they left off in a sweep of the Lakers nine days before. They broke open a tight game with a 13-0 run late in the second quarter and never trailed again, stretching their franchise-record postseason winning streak to seven games.

Game 2 is tomorrow night in Dallas, where the Mavs are 6-0 this postseason.

The Thunder — fresh off a seven-game series against Memphis that included a total of four overtimes — led by 9 early in the second quarter, then went 6:28 between baskets. They missed 10 shots during that drought and were down by 11 when it ended. They eventually trailed by 16 before clawing within 5 points with 3:42 left, and 6 with 48.5 seconds to play.

Kevin Durant followed his 39 points in Game 7 of the previous round by scoring 40, one shy of his most ever in a playoff game. While Nowitzki dominated, Durant’s scoring binge merely helped his team stay close.

Russell Westbrook went from a triple-double in his last game to 20 points, 3 assists and 3rebounds. He missed 12 of his 15 shots, including 10 of his first 11. Despite his poor aim, he had taken more shots than Durant at one point late in the third quarter, fueling the critics who say he’s too much of a scorer and not enough of a distributor.

The Thunder’s big problem, though, was Nowitzki.

Six guys tried stopping him, and the big German either shot over them or put them in foul trouble. He made 13 free throws in the third quarter alone. And when Oklahoma City sent a second defender at him, Nowitzki usually passed to the teammate left open.

Nowitzki finished 12 of 15 from the field and a perfect 24 of 24 at the line. He was 2 points shy of his most ever in a playoff game. He also had six rebounds, four assists and four blocks.

Cavs hit lottery Just as they did eight years ago when the Cavaliers won a chance at drafting LeBron James, Cleveland fans erupted when their team won the NBA draft lottery.

Hundreds of fans who gathered at the team’s draft party counted down the final picks and then screamed and chanted “Let’s Go Cavs’’ moments after the team wound up with the No. 1 overall pick. The Cavs were doubly lucky: they also have the No. 4 overall pick.

In 2003, the Cavs won the lottery and used the pick to select James, who gave them seven great seasons.

Minnesota will select second and Utah turned New Jersey’s pick from the Deron Williams trade into the No. 3 selection.

The Timberwolves continued their unbelievable lottery losing streak, falling to 0 for 14 and dropping for the eighth time. They had a 25 percent chance of winning after finishing with a league-worst 17-65 record.

The Cavs will likely decide between point guard Kyrie Irving of Duke or Arizona forward Derrick Williams.

Bird eyes candidates Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird said interim coach Frank Vogel, Mike Brown, and Rick Adelman are among candidates he wants to talk to about filling the coaching position.

Bird said Vogel is the front-runner. He took over at midseason when the Pacers fired Jim O’Brien, finished the regular season with a 20-18 record, and led the team to the playoffs.

But he made no guarantees.

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