Denver, CO (Sports Network) - Nene achieved a playoff career-high in leading Denver with 24 points, and the Nuggets overwhelmed the Mavericks down the stretch in a dominating fourth quarter, posting a 109-95 final in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series from the Pepsi Center.
Carmelo Anthony was solid with 23 points for Denver, which dismantled New Orleans in five games during the quarterfinals with point guard Chauncey Billups serving as catalyst.
"That's the special thing about us, you never know who (is going to step up). But you can bet that somebody is going to get going and have a good night," Billups said of Nene's performance.
Billups' presence this season helped second-seeded Denver earn home-court advantage in the playoffs for the first time since 1988, tie a franchise record for regular season wins with 54 and propel the club past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.
Billups ended with six points on just 2-of-8 shooting with six assists in the win. It was the bench that provided the extra spark in Game 1. J.R. Smith had 15 points, Anthony Carter 12 and Chris Andersen 11, tying a playoff career- high off the bench. The trio combined to log crucial minutes down the stretch.
"The second half, we buckled down on the defensive end. Everybody manned up, played team defense (and) got in the passing lanes. Our bench did a good job to come off and give us that spark," said Anthony.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 points for the sixth-seeded Mavs, who dispatched of San Antonio in five games in their first-round matchup. Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Josh Howard each chipped in 15 points in the setback.
Dallas drew within two, 82-80, on Terry's three-pointer and a Nowitzki jumper to open the fourth quarter but the Nuggets quickly doused any chance of the Mavs stealing a game in Denver to open this set.
Denver ripped off a 19-4 run with Dallas hitting just 1-of-7 shots from the floor and committing eight turnovers over the bleak stretch. Anthony provided nine points over the Nuggets' surge and Smith brought the crowd to its feet with a slam off a turnover, giving the hosts a comfortable 101-84 lead just past the five-minute mark.
A demoralized Dallas squad never recovered. Ryan Hollins' dunk ended a nearly six-minute stretch without a field goal and the Mavs subbed out their starters moments later after an Anthony three-pointer made it 106-89 with 2:51 to play.
The Nuggets shot 54.8 percent from the field and forced a staggering 20 turnovers from Dallas, which ended 48.8 percent shooting but got to the line just 13 times, making nine. The Nuggets were 25-of-36 at the foul line.
"Twenty turnovers for 25 points is going to be a losing number on the road. The free throw line disparity is something that was too much to overcome," Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said.
Game 2 is set for Tuesday back at the Pepsi Center.
Dallas opened with a 24-16 lead after 12 minutes of play. Nowitzki poured in the first 10 points for the visitors and ended the quarter with 13. Howard scored nine in the opening frame.
Denver went the final three minutes of the first quarter without a field goal with Billups held scoreless. Billups drained a three-pointer to start the second and the Nuggets turned up their offensive firepower in a 35-point second stanza.
Nene's slam polished off a 17-8 Denver run, started with Billups' three, as the hosts took a 33-32 lead.
Terry answered with a make from beyond the arc, but Nene muscled his way to the rim for a deuce and Smith followed with a dunk to retain the lead.
An Erick Dampier jumper tied the game at 43 with 2:12 remaining and the lead traded hands down the stretch. The Nuggets entered the break with a 51-47 edge on consecutive buckets by Andersen and Carter to close the half.
A three-point play by Anthony a short time into the third allowed for a 58-49 Denver margin but the Mavericks held their deficit in check as Nowitzki responded with a layup, Kidd stroked a three-ball and Howard capped the quick burst with a jumper for a two-point game.
The contest remained tight and Dallas used another quick 8-2 spurt to gain the lead. Kidd sank a jump shot and later banged home another triple to give the Mavs a 66-64 edge at the six-minute mark.
Two free throws from Dahntay Jones and a Billups three-pointer allowed Denver a four-point lead moments later and both teams experienced a bit of a cold stretch from there.
Denver exercised a small measure of control to close the frame before running away with it in the fourth, as back-to-back buckets by Smith and Carter ended a brief 11-4 run and helped the hosts lead by seven, 82-75, after three quarters.
Game Notes: Denver dominated its series with the Mavs in the regular season, winning all four contests but most of the games were very close. The Nuggets beat Dallas by three, 10, two and two points in the four contests...These teams have met just one time previously in postseason play, a 4-2 Dallas win in the West semis in 1988...Smith also had six assists for Denver...Nowitzki pulled down a game-best 10 boards for Dallas...Andersen had six blocks for Denver.