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Mavericks Defeat Thunder Behind Nowitzki’s Record Performance

May 18 (Bloomberg) -- Dirk Nowitzki scored 48 points in a record-setting performance as the Dallas Mavericks beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-112 in the opening game of the National Basketball Association Western Conference finals.

Nowitzki hit all 24 of his free-throw attempts to set a new mark for the most foul shots without a miss in a postseason game. Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics set the previous record at 21 against the Indiana Pacers in April 2003.

“I made the first couple of shots and that’s always big for a shooter,” Nowitzki said in a televised courtside interview last night. “After that I just kept attacking. My team was feeding me and feeding me and I had some matchups with some smaller guys and I was able to take advantage.”

It’s the sixth time Nowitzki has scored at least 40 points in a postseason game. His tally was two fewer than his record in the playoffs and was achieved with no 3-point attempts on 12-for-15 shooting. Nowitzki also tied Michael Jordan for the most free throws made in a quarter in a playoff game, with 13.

Nowitzki’s performance overshadowed Kevin Durant’s contribution of 40 points, including 18-of-19 from the free-throw line, for the Thunder.

The win takes Dallas’ postseason winning streak to a franchise-record seven games. The teams return to the American Airlines Center in Dallas -- where the Mavericks are unbeaten in six playoff games this year -- tomorrow for Game 2.

Youth vs. Experience

Oklahoma City came into last night’s matchup after a seven-game series against the Memphis Grizzlies that included four overtimes. While the Thunder had one day to prepare for the Mavericks, Dallas had eight days off after sweeping the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

The series pits the youth of Oklahoma City against the experience of the Mavericks. While nine of Dallas’ 15 players are in their thirties, 11 of Oklahoma City’s 15-man roster are 26 or younger. The top four postseason scorers for the Thunder are aged 22 or under, while Dallas’ three highest scorers are 32 and 33.

Jason Terry had 24 points and Jose Juan Barea added 21 for the Mavericks, whose bench outscored Oklahoma City’s 53-22.

The winner of the best-of-seven-game series will play the Miami Heat or Chicago Bulls. That series resumes in Chicago tonight, with the Bulls leading 1-0 in games.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nancy Kercheval in Washington at nkercheval@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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