DALLAS — Dirk Nowitzki knows how to take over a game when the Dallas Mavericks need him the most, and Jason Kidd can still make some big shots.
Nowitzki scored 18 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and the 38-year-old Kidd had a playoff career-best six 3-pointers among his 24 points as Dallas defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 89-81 Saturday night in Game 1 of their first-round Western Conference series.
"Just really kept on plugging," Nowitzki said. "I've got to keep going. The team told me to keep attacking and things will start happening."
Even though Nowitzki struggled from the field most of the night, making only 7 of 20 shots, he came through when the Mavericks needed him most.
Nowitzki scored 12 consecutive points in the game-turning spurt in the closing minutes when Dallas tied the game and eventually went ahead to stay. In the opener of his 11th consecutive postseason appearance with the Mavs, the perennial All-Star made all 13 of his free throws — all in the fourth quarter.
Soon after Portland had its largest lead of six points, the Mavericks got back within 72-70 when Nowitzki made two free throws with 4:49 left.
After Kidd rebounded a Miller miss, Nowitzki got fouled and hit two more free throws to tie the game.
Miller then scored with a finger-roll, but Nowitzki hit a 3-pointer from the right corner to put the Mavs ahead to stay with 3:40 left.
"The most important shot of the game," coach Rick Carlisle said. "That really energized our building and energized our team. ... He stayed with it, and when we talk about the important of persistence on our team, he was a great example of that tonight because it wasn't going great necessarily the whole game."
Dallas, the No. 3 Western Conference seed, survived in Game 1 against a feisty bunch of Trail Blazers who have become a chic pick for a first-round playoff upset. Partly because the Mavericks have been knocked out in the first round three of the last four years since taking a 2-0 lead in the 2006 NBA Finals.
Game 2 is Tuesday night in Dallas.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points for Portland and Andre Miller had 18.
Nowitzki made two more free throws after he was fouled hard and was rubbing his left elbow.
Aldridge then had a scooping shot before Nowitzki spun between two defenders at the free throw line and made the shot while being fouled. His free throw made it 80-76.
The 38-year-old Kidd, in his 122nd playoff game over 15 NBA postseasons, was 9-of-14 shooting. He also had four assists and two steals. His high-scoring game during the regular season was 21 points against the Los Angeles Lakers in mid-January.
"They want me to be aggressive," Kidd said. "We all know that Dirk and Jet (Jason Terry) are offensive guys and they put the ball up. But in the playoffs you have to have other guys step up and score and I know that our opponents are going to give me that jump shot and I have to be able to knock it down."
Portland built its lead to 72-66 when Brandon Roy turned and saw Nicolas Batum charging along the baseline and passed him the ball for an easy dunk.
"We just had to stay solid down the stretch and we didn't," Aldridge said. "But when you have a chance to win it always makes you feel better."
The Blazers' biggest lead came during a span with Dallas missed 10 consecutive field goals over a stretch of nearly 11 minutes after building a 10-point lead. Kidd's stepback jumper with 5:28 left in the game ended that miserable spurt before Nowitzki took over.
"Dirk came alive," Portland center Marcus Camby said. "We know we let one get away, but we can't let this one linger."
Aldridge got off to a fast start with 11 points in the first 7 1/2 minutes of the game in his hometown. That included eight points in a span of less than 2 minutes that he bookended with a pair of alley-oop dunks from Marcus Camby to put the Blazers up 15-14.
A long 3-pointer by Terry put the Mavericks up 33-26. Portland cut the gap to 35-33 on Batum's bounce pass through the lane to Miller for a basket.
A putback dunk by Brendan Haywood ignited a half-ending 12-4 run. That was the first of seven straight points for Dallas before Aldridge had another high-flying dunk with 3 minutes left in the half — this one on a pass from Miller — for his first basket since his early scoring flurry, and only other one before halftime.
After Portland scored the first six points of the second half, cutting the gap to 47-43, Kidd consecutive 3-pointers. Kidd ended up with the ball after miss another from beyond the arc, then got the ball to Shawn Marion for a 16-footer. Less than 2 minutes later, Kidd hit another long jumper for a 57-47 lead.
It was a much different performance for Kidd than two weeks ago in Portland, when he was scoreless while missing all six of his shots — five of them 3-pointers — before getting a couple of games off to rest for the postseason.
"Spectacular," Carlisle said. "We had some guys that didn't play their best games, but Jason Kidd played the game of the year to this point. Every shot he made, every play he made was absolutely essential for us. His leadership is something you can't quantify."
Notes: Portland has lost 14 of its last 16 road playoff games. ... After Rudy Fernandez opened Portland's scoring in the second quarter with a 3-pointer for a 25-23 lead, Peja Stojakovic hit consecutive 3s for Dallas. The second one he front rim and bounced high in the air before falling through the hoop.