J.J. Barea helped the Dallas Mavericks to a win Tuesday night – and he managed to do so without taking a cheap shot along the way.
The 26-year-old guard, who was the victim of two flagrant fouls in the Western Conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers, scored 21 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Mavericks' 121-112 win.
The Mavericks kicked off the Western Conference finals in Dallas Tuesday night with the crucial win. They lead the seven-game series 1-0.
The winner advances to the NBA finals.
The star of the game was Dirk Nowitzki, who poured in 48 points.
Inside, outside and from the foul line, Nowitzki put up a total of 39 shots and missed just three. He scored 48 points, leading the Mavericks to a 121-112 victory and answering any question about whether the long layoff might've left his club rusty.
"I really looked for my shot early and was able to get a good rhythm," said Nowitzki, who also had six rebounds, four assists and four blocks. "For a shooter, obviously when the first couple go in, that's even better for the confidence, and I just attacked from there. So, yeah, it was a good game."
The Thunder, unlike the Lakers in the semis versus the Mavericks, were not embarrassed.
Two days removed from ending a tough second-round series against Memphis — it went seven games, plus four overtimes — the youngsters were down by 16 points early in the fourth quarter and didn't give up. They got within five with 3:42 left, and six with 48.5 seconds to play.
"We fought back and made it a game," Thunder star Kevin Durant said. "We've just got to keep pushing and stay positive and get ready for Game 2."
Game 2 is Thursday night in Dallas.
In addition to Nowitzki's outstanding performance, Dallas guard Jason Terry scored 24 points.
Barea, for his part, added 21 points in just 16 minutes. The Puerto Rican backup point guard shot made eight of the 12 shots he attempted, and made his only three free throw shots.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.