DALLAS -- It's not often that Mark Cuban's boys feel as though the whistles are on their side -- or maybe it's just Cuban who feels that way. But, that was the case in Game 1 as dumbstruck Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan watched Mavericks go to the free throw line 19 times in the decisive fourth quarter compared to two attempts for his team.
The Mavs outscored Portland 18-1 at the line in the final quarter and took 29 free throws for the game compared to 13 for Portland. McMillan noted the disparity every chance he got after Dallas' 89-81 win. McMillan found it odd that his team could score 46 points in the paint, yet not get to the line, while the Mavs had just 18 points in the paint, but kept going to the line.
"We’ll continue to do what we were doing, continue to be aggressive and attack the basket," McMillan said Sunday. "That’s the game plan for us and for Dallas. They were rewarded with getting to the free throw line. Hopefully on Tuesday, we’ll get there."
That's what coaches do when the calls go all lopsided. They complain and hope the next game things even out, or even tilt the other way. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle seemed to take exception to the notion that bellyaching will somehow turn the tables.
"You're asking me if I think the coach's comments are going to influence the officials?" Carlisle questioned. "I believe the officials are going to make every effort to make the calls that are there. I said it the other day, our officials are the best officials in sports and they have the toughest job. Our job is to make sure we're as aggressive as possible and that we play our game as well as we can.
"If you want to get in a debate about officiating, there's plenty of calls that could have gone the other way as well."
The Mavs and Blazers both rank in the bottom five in the league in free throws attempted (Dallas attempts 22.6 per game and Portland attempts 22.4). Dallas went to the line at least 29 times in just four of its last 22 games.
Dirk Nowitzki made all 13 of his free throw attempts in the fourth quarter after taking none in the first three quarters. To find the last time Nowitzki took at least 13 free throws in a game -- let alone one quarter -- you have to go all the way back to Nov. 24 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He earned double-digit free throw attempts just 12 times during the regular season. Saturday's 13 attempts made the Mavs 13-0 when Nowitzki does so.
Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge chuckled when asked if Nowitzki turned more aggressive to earn his march to the stripe.
"He was driving the whole game. He just got fouled more in the fourth," Aldridge said, diplomatically. "But, he was driving the whole game. We just did a good job of containing him. In the fourth quarter, I guess he did a better job of just drawing the foul."