- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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How it happened: The Dallas Mavericks managed to finish the job this time. Man, they made it interesting, though.
There was a definite déjà vu feeling in the fourth quarter when the Portland Trail Blazers sliced a Dallas lead that had swelled to 17 during the third quarter down to one point. It felt an awful lot like Game 4, when Portland rallied from 23 points down to stun the Mavs.
But the Mavs never lost the lead. They finished off the series by knocking down clutch free throws to snap an eight-game playoff road losing streak.
The Mavs built the big lead on the backs of Dirk Nowitzki (33 points, 11 rebounds) and Jason Terry (22 points, eight assists), the only two players from the 2006 NBA Finals team that remain on the Dallas roster. Nowitzki came through as the Mavs’ closer with 13 points in the fourth, the third time this series he’s scored at least that many points in the final frame.
What it means: Bring on the Los Angeles Lakers. The Mavs move on to the second round for only the second time since their 2006 run to the NBA Finals. They earned a weekend of rest before traveling to Los Angeles for Monday’s Game 1 at Staples Center.
Play of the game: Dirk Nowitzki drove hard to the basket, took contact from Blazers backup big man Chris Johnson and finished a lefty layup for an and-1. He celebrated the basket with a holler that offended Johnson, the D-League defensive player of the year. Johnson raked his hand across Nowitzki’s face after a rebound on the ensuing possession, drawing a flagrant foul. This sparked a 13-2 run that erased Portland’s 11-point lead. Nowitzki had the first nine points in the spurt.
Stat of the night: Jason Terry scored at least 20 points in three of the last four games of the series. He had a total of four 20-point games in the Mavs’ previous four playoff series.
4dMarc Stein and Tim MacMahon