DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki scored 18 of his game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter and the Dallas Mavericks defeated Portland 89-81 Saturday night in Game 1 of their Western Conference first round series.
Even though Nowitzki struggled from the field most of the night, making only 7 of 20 shots, he came through when the Mavericks needed him most.
Nowitzki scored 12 consecutive points in the game-turning spurt in the closing minutes when Dallas tied the game and eventually went ahead to stay.
Jason Kidd added 24 points, including a playoff career-best six 3-pointers.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points for Portland and Andre Miller had 18.
Soon after Portland had its largest lead of six points, the Mavericks got back within 72-70 when Nowitzki made two free throws with 4:49 left.
After Kidd rebounded a Miller miss, Nowitzki got fouled and hit two more free throws to tie the game.
Miller scored with a finger-roll, but Nowitzki hit a 3-pointer from the right side to put the Mavs ahead to stay with 3:40 left.
Even after he was fouled hard to the floor and rubbing his left elbow before getting up on the next possession, Nowitzki made two more free throws.
Aldridge then had a scooping shot before Nowitzki spun between two defenders at the free throw line and made the shot while being fouled. His free throw made it 80-76.
Dallas, the No. 3 Western Conference seed, survived in Game 1 against a fiesty bunch of Trail Blazers who have become a chic pick for a first-round playoff upset. Partly because the Mavericks have been knocked out in the first round three of the last four years since taking a 2-0 lead in the 2006 NBA Finals.
Game 2 is Tuesday night in Dallas.
The 38-year-old Kidd, in his 122nd playoff game over 15 NBA postseasons, was 9-of-14 shooting — including six 3-pointers. He also had four assists and two steals.
Portland built its lead to 72-66 when Brandon Roy turned and saw Nicolas Batum charging along the baseline and passed him the ball for an easy dunk.
That came during a span with Dallas missed 10 consecutive field goals over a stretch of nearly 11 minutes after building a 10-point lead. Kidd's stepback jumper with 5:28 left in the game ended that miserable spurt before Nowitzki took over.
Aldridge got off to a fast start with 11 points in the first 7 1/2 minutes of the game. That included eight points in a span of less than 2 minutes that he bookended with a pair of alley-oop dunks from Marcus Camby to put the Blazers up 15-14.
A long 3-pointer by Jason Terry put the Mavericks up 33-26. Portland cut the gap to 35-33 on Batum's bounce pass through the lane to Miller for a basket.
A putback dunk by Brendan Haywood ignited a half-ending 12-4 run. That was the first of seven straight points for Dallas before Aldridge had another high-flying dunk with 3 minutes left in the half — this one on a pass from Miller — for his first basket since his early scoring flurry, and only other one before halftime.
After Portland scored the first six points of the second half, cutting the gap to 47-43, Kidd consecutive 3-pointers. Kidd ended up with the ball after miss another from beyond the arc, then got the ball to Shawn Marion for a 16-footer. Less than 2 minutes later, Kidd hit another long jumper for a 57-47 lead.
Less than two weeks ago in Portland, Kidd was scoreless while missing all six of his shots — five of them 3-pointers.
Notes: Portland has lost 14 of its last 16 road playoff games. ... After Rudy Fernandez opened Portland's scoring in the second quarter with a 3-pointer for a 25-23 lead, Peja Stojakovic hit consecutive 3s for Dallas. The second one he front rim and bounced high in the air before falling through the hoop. ... Mavericks G Rodrigue Beaubois was out with a sprained left foot. ... The last time Dallas and Portland met in the playoffs, the Mavericks took a 3-0 lead in their 2003 first-round series before having to win Game 7 to advance.