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Mavericks' rally based on 49 straight free throws

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- The Dallas Mavericks missed their first free
throw and made their final 49. Yep, 49 in a row.

That superb free throw shooting -- along with a few defensive
gimmicks from Don Nelson's book of tricks -- was how the Mavericks
pulled off a stunning comeback and defeated the San Antonio Spurs
113-110 Monday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

"I didn't know we shot that well, but I don't expect us to
miss,'' Nelson said. "It was an incredible basketball game.

"We didn't have a great game, but we found a way to win.''

The Mavericks closed the game with a 24-9 run after falling
behind by as many as 18 points and trailing for nearly the entire
game.

Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 38 points, going 17-for-17 from
the line, and Michael Finley was 10-for-10 at the stripe while
scoring 26. Nick Van Exel was 7-for-7 at the line for 14 points,
and Steve Nash was 6-for-6 and scored 22.

"The big thing for us is we got to the line 50 times,''
Nowitzki said. "Usually we average 10 or 11 per game and get
outshot by about 20.''

NBA playoff history includes 10 games in which a team made all
of its free throws, with the best of the bunch a 28-for-28
performance by Phoenix in 1989.

That makes what Dallas did even more impressive, given that they
were 0-for-1 from the line after Eduardo Najera missed the first
one with 2:25 left in the first quarter.

That was the same first quarter in which this game looked
totally different from the way it ended. Tim Duncan was nearly
unstoppable, Dallas was frustrated, and it looked as though the
Spurs might turn it into a runaway.

The three-hour, one-minute game certainly didn't turn out that
way.

After Dallas fell behind 101-87 with 8 minutes left, the Mavs
made their comeback. Finley ended it by driving around his defender
and scoring on a floater over Duncan for a 111-110 lead with 14
seconds left.

Duncan shot an airball from in close while being double-teamed,
and Nowitzki made two free throws with 4 seconds left for a
three-point lead.

The Mavericks wouldn't allow the Spurs to attempt a tying
3-pointer, choosing instead to foul Duncan immediately after he
caught the inbounds pass.

Duncan missed both free throws -- a fitting ending on a night
when he missed seven of 19 foul shots and the Spurs missed 17 of
48.

"It came down to free throw shooting and being aggressive,''
Duncan said. "They're a high-octane team, and the whistle was
blowing left and right.''

The referees called a total of 72 fouls -- 36 on each team.

Duncan tied his career playoff-high with 40 points and had 15
rebounds, while Tony Parker had 18 points.

Bruce Bowen -- the object of Nelson's Hack-a-Bruce strategy --
added 13 points for the Spurs, who were outscored 30-19 in the
fourth quarter.

Duncan scored six of San Antonio's first eight points of the
fourth quarter, and Speedy Claxton had the defensive play of the
night when he lived up to his nickname, chased down Nowitzki on a
breakaway, deflected the ball away and saved it to a teammate while
falling out of bounds. Kevin Willis had a follow shot on the Spurs'
next possession to give San Antonio a 14-point lead, 101-87.

But it wasn't over.

A 7-0 run made it a seven-point game, and Duncan picked up his
fifth foul while battling Nowitzki for a rebound with 5:47 left.

Nowitzki made those foul shots, Van Exel made three after being
fouled on a 3-pointer, and all of a sudden it was 101-99. San
Antonio held a small lead for the next five minutes, but it was
only 110-109 when the clock ticked inside the final minute.

A missed drive by Parker gave Dallas a chance to go ahead, but
Van Exel missed on a drive and Raef LaFrentz missed a tip. With
Nowitzki covering Duncan on the inside, the Spurs kept the ball on
the perimeter and Parker missed a 20-footer with Finley's hand in
his face.

Finley put the Mavs ahead for good on the next possession.

The Mavericks couldn't do anything to stop Duncan early, trying
to defend him with LaFrentz, then Shawn Bradley, then Nowitzki.
After Duncan finished the first quarter with 16 points, five
rebounds and three assists, the Mavericks switched into a zone and
finally had some success.

The referees called 26 fouls in a second quarter that took 44
minutes to complete, and the Mavericks -- who had trailed by as many
as 18 -- were able to pull as close as seven with 1:58 left.

A big part of that comeback was Nelson's strategy to have one of
his reserves intentionally foul Bowen, a 38 percent foul shooter
during the postseason. The Mavericks did it five times within seven
possessions, with Bowen making only half of his 10 attempts.

"We knew they were going to do it, but we didn't take him out.
He was 5-of-10, but he did hit his last three,'' Spurs coach Gregg
Popovich said.

Duncan reached 30 points on a tip-in with 7:15 left in the third
to give San Antonio a 74-63 lead, but Dallas went back to a zone,
dared Parker to take 3-pointers and caught up in a manner of
minutes. Two free throws by Finley tied it at 78-78 with 3:34 left
in the third.

Duncan didn't score again in the quarter, but San Antonio closed
it with a 13-5 run to take a 91-83 lead into the fourth.

Game notes
Spurs F Malik Rose was kneed in the back of the head by
Najera late in the fourth quarter. A stretcher was brought onto the
court, but he walked off under his own power. ... The last team to
shoot 100 percent from the foul line in a playoff game was
Philadelphia against Toronto in 2001. ... The record for fouls in a
game is 106 by Syracuse and Boston in a four-overtime game in 1953.
... San Antonio's 36-point first quarter was its highest scoring
quarter of the postseason, as was the Spurs 66-point first half.