Dirk Nowitzki opened the playoffs in a high gear, making 12 of 14 shots and scoring 36 points to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 100-94 victory over the visiting San Antonio Spurs on Sunday night.
The Spurs did a good job of slowing Nowitzki in the first round last year, usually by swarming him with two and sometimes three defenders. They went with only one most of this game and paid the price.
Nowitzki shot over guys his size and went to the basket when covered by someone smaller. He took 12 free throws and made them all, adding to a streak of 74 made free throws during the regular season.
Among his highlights was a 7-0 stretch midway through the third, which actually ended up putting Dallas ahead for good.
Caron Butler scored 22 points, and Brendan Haywood added 10 in their playoff debuts for Dallas. Both were part of a major trade in February that turned a good Mavericks team into a much better one. Dallas came into the playoffs having won eight of 10 and five straight.
Tim Duncan had 27 points and eight rebounds, Manu Ginobili scored 26, and Tony Parker had 18 points and four assists. George Hill started at point guard but was scoreless.
Lakers 87, Thunder 79: Pau Gasol scored 19 points, Andrew Bynum added 13, and host Los Angeles used their two 7-footers to dominate inside against Oklahoma City in the opener of their playoff series.
Kobe Bryant added 21 points on 6-of-19 shooting after missing four of the final five regular-reason games to rest his swollen right knee and broken right index finger.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 24 points - under the 30.1 average of the NBA's youngest-ever scoring champion. Former UCLA star Russell Westbrook added 23.
Game 2 is Tuesday night at Staples Center.
Celtics 85, Heat 76: Kevin Garnett had 15 points and nine rebounds, and host Boston played Miami-style defense to beat the Heat in their Eastern Conference series opener.
With 40 seconds left in the game, Garnett connected with an elbow to Richardson's face during a sideline skirmish, resulting in two technical fouls against Garnett, an automatic ejection, and one each to Boston's Glen Davis and Miami's Udonis Haslem and Quentin Richardson.
Garnett was suspended for Tuesday night's Game 2 and fined $25,000 by the NBA.
Trailing 44-41 at halftime, the Celtics held the Heat to 32 points in the second half. And with substitute guard Tony Allen shadowing Dwyane Wade, the Heat star scored 26 points after averaging 33.7 in three regular-season games against Boston.
Allen scored a career playoff-high 14 points, and Paul Pierce led Boston with 16. Richardson added 15 for Miami.
Nuggets 126, Jazz 113: Carmelo Anthony scored a playoff career-high 42 points, and J.R. Smith's fourth-quarter flurry of 3-pointers helped host Denver beat Utah in Game 1 of the Western Conference playoff series.
Anthony, whose previous playoff high was 41 points against Dallas in the second round last year, benefited from the absence of Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, who re-injured his strained left calf in practice Thursday and won't play in the series.
Although forward Carlos Boozer (rib) returned to Utah's lineup and scored 19 points, the Jazz lost center Mehmet Okur, who tore his left Achilles tendon injury in the first half.
Okur will miss the remainder of the NBA playoffs and, in all likelihood, the world championships in his native Turkey this summer. Game 2 is tonight in Denver.