PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – The Dallas Mavericks have had trouble in the playoffs in recent years, so Dirk Nowitzki didn’t want to take too much away from conquering the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round.
Not with the Los Angeles Lakers looming.
“Once you’ve been in the playoffs for a number of years, you want to win it all. We understand that to win it all you have to take the first step and that’s winning in the first round,” Nowitzki said. “We feel good about that, but we know we have a long way to go. Now we’ll see the defending champions so we have our hands full.”
Nowitzki had 33 points and 11 rebounds, helping the Mavs hold off the Blazers 103-96 in Game 6 on Thursday night. Next up is the two-time defending champion Lakers.
Before this season, the Mavs had won just a single playoff series since reaching the NBA finals for the first and only time in 2006. They’d been bounced in the first round in three of the previous four years.
Since the start of the 2006 NBA finals — which the Mavs lost in six games to Miami after taking a 2-0 series lead — Dallas had gone just 2-18 on the road in the postseason.
Until Thursday at the Rose Garden.
“Not a lot of people picked us to win this series, and not a lot of people are going to pick us to win the next series,” Nowitzki said. “We’re just going to go out there and keep competing, play smart and play off each other the way we have all season. And we’ll see what happens.”
The Blazers led by as many as 12 points early after Gerald Wallace went on a tear with 13 first-quarter points. But Wallace left the game for much of the second quarter with a sore back and Portland surrendered the lead.
Wallace returned and finished with 32 points and 12 rebounds. LaMarcus Aldridge added 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Wallace’s fast-break dunk narrowed it to 86-85 with 5:24 to go, but Jason Kidd answered with a 3-pointer and Terry added a step-back jumper for the Mavericks.
After Wallace made a pair of free throws, Aldridge missed two for Portland and Shawn Marion’s hook made it 93-87 for Dallas.
Jason Terry added a jumper to put the Mavs ahead 95-89 with 1:42 to go. He finished with 22 points.
“No words can explain how we feel tonight,” said Brandon Roy, who powered the Blazers’ stunning comeback in a Game 4 victory. “It’s over. There’s no NIT in the NBA. It’s over, it’s tough.”
The Blazers went cold when Wallace headed to the locker room with lower back tightness, and the Mavericks went on a 16-4 run to tie it at 35.
Dallas extended its lead to 47-41 on Nowitzki’s dunk with 1:10 left, and the Mavs closed the half ahead 52-43 after Terry’s 3-pointer.
Third-seeded Dallas took control of the series with a 93-82 victory at American Airlines Center on Monday night in Game 5.
The Blazers have never been able to win a playoff series after falling behind 3-2. They’ve been bounced from the first round for three straight seasons.
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