DALLAS?Dirk Nowitzki scored 48 points and set an NBA record with a 24-for-24 free throw shooting performance to power Dallas over Oklahoma City 121-112 in Tuesday's opener of their NBA playoff series.
German playmaker Nowitzki went 12-of-15 from the field and sank the most free throws without a miss in a playoff game in NBA history as the Mavericks seized the lead in their best-of-seven Western Conference championship series.
"I was really looking to shoot early," Nowitzki said. "I was able to get my rhythm, make my first couple shots and really got going."
Nowitzki, seeking his first NBA title, staged a shooting clinic as well as swatting aside four shots in a spectacular effort, breaking the perfect playoff free throw mark of 21 set by Boston's Paul Pierce in 2008.
"He played great," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "Dirk spends a lot of time working on his game and keeping himself ready. He got going early, did a good job of mixing his drives with his jump shots."
Oklahoma City used six different players against Nowitzki to no avail.
Showing no sign of problems after a nine-day layoff since ousting the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers, the Mavericks won their seventh playoff game in a row by holding off a determined Thunder squad down the stretch.
NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant, the top playmaker on the NBA's youngest squad, scored 40 points while Russell Westbrook added 20 points despite 3-for-15 shooting from the field and Serge Ibaka contributed 17.
"Westbrook had a very sub-par game," Carlisle said. "We did some good things against him but I think he had a sub-par game."
Jason Terry added 24 points, including a game-sealing 3-pointer in the dying seconds, and J.J. Barea added 21 points for the Mavericks.
Nowitzki, two points shy of his career playoff high, scored 17 points in the third quarter as Dallas pulled ahead by as many as 16 points and led 90-79 entering the fourth quarter.
Durant pulled the Thunder within five points but the Mavericks did not miss a free throw down the stretch and Terry sank a 3-pointer with 28 seconds remaining to give Dallas a 119-110 lead.
"Durant made a lot of great plays in the fourth quarter but we were able to hang in there and beat them," Nowitzki said.