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Nowitzki leads Mavericks past Lakers, take 2-0 series lead

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Associated Press
5/5/2011 1:22:23 AM
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LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Dirk Nowitzki scored 24 points, Shawn Marion added 14 and the Dallas Mavericks stunned the erratic Los Angeles Lakers 93-81 in Game 2 on Wednesday night, taking a 2-0 second-round lead over the two-time defending champions with consecutive road wins.

Jason Kidd scored 10 points for the Mavericks, who pushed the Lakers halfway to playoff elimination with Nowitzki's stellar shooting, another steady defensive performance, and a decisive 9-0 fourth-quarter rally.

Kobe Bryant scored 23 points for the Lakers, who hadn't lost the first two games of a playoff series since the 2008 NBA finals — also the last series they lost. Only three NBA teams have come back to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first two at home, where the Lakers sent them off with boos and jeers.

Game 3 is Friday night in Dallas.

The Lakers also could be short-handed in Dallas: Ron Artest was ejected with 24.4 seconds left for apparently clotheslining Dallas guard Jose Barea, possibly leading to a suspension.

After years of playoff underachievement during owner Mark Cuban's tenure, the Mavericks certainly appear primed to change their reputation.

Dallas, which won just one playoff series in the past four years before this spring, was more aggressive and inventive than the champs, maintaining a steady lead before breaking it open with nine straight points down the stretch in the rally led by Barea, who highlighted it with an impressive short shot directly over Andrew Bynum. Barea had 12 points and four assists.

Los Angeles missed its first 15 3-point attempts in Game 2, only avoiding its first playoff game without a three-pointer since May 8, 2001, on Bryant's three-pointer with 2:43 left. Los Angeles finished 2 for 20 on three-pointers.

Cuban led the cheers behind Dallas' bench as the Mavs pulled away in the fourth quarter. Not even Bryant could save the Lakers, going scoreless in the fourth until hitting two free throws with 3:11 to play.

Bynum had 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Lakers, who haven't been able to control the paint with their usual vehemence against the Mavericks' three seven-footers. Pau Gasol had 13 points and 10 rebounds, but appeared tentative for long stretches while struggling to contain Nowitzki.

The Mavericks protected the rim and largely controlled the tempo, using their advantages in depth and athleticism to limit the Lakers' offence. Dallas took a six-point lead into the fourth quarter and stretched it to 10 moments later before coasting home with little opposition from the Lakers, who went 7 for 20 in the final period.

Gasol's struggles have been the Lakers' biggest mystery of the post-season. The Spanish all-star seven-footer barely contributed to Los Angeles' tough six-game victory over New Orleans in the first round, and he came back from a quiet opener against Dallas with another mediocre game, getting booed several times by the home crowd.

Dallas rallied from a 16-point deficit in the second half to win Game 1, finishing on a 9-2 run capped by four last-minute points from Nowitzki, who seems determined to erase memories of the Mavericks' past playoff failures on big stages. Nowitzki had 28 points and 14 rebounds in Game 1, including the go-ahead free throws.

Nowitzki came out firing again in Game 2, scoring 15 points in the first half with the 7-footer's usual array of impossible-to-block fallaway jumpers. Dallas took an eight-point lead in the second quarter, but Los Angeles made a 10-0 run catalyzed by Bryant before the Mavericks took a 51-49 halftime lead on another Nowitzki jumper.

The Lakers ran several defenders at Nowitzki, using Gasol and Lamar Odom before trying Artest in the second quarter. Artest gives up five inches to Nowitzki, who seemed to have little trouble in the matchup.

NOTES: Bryant has 5,246 career playoff points to 5,248 for Shaquille O'Neal, in fourth place on the NBA's career playoff scoring list. The former Lakers superstar is injured and sitting for the Boston Celtics this spring. ... Dallas is the most recent NBA team to win a series after losing the first two games at home, doing it in 2005. ... Fans near courtside included Larry David, directors McG and Brett Ratner, Bridget Moynahan, Eliza Dushku, George Lopez, Dax Shepard, Anthony Anderson, Holly Robinson Peete and Jaime Murray.

Dirk Nowitzki (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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