DALLAS (Ticker) -- "The Big Ticket" was no match for "The Big Three."
The Mavericks opened a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five Western Conference first-round series. The best road team in the NBA can send Garnett and the Timberwolves to their sixth straight opening-round exit with a win on Sunday in Minnesota.
"It's reality and we've got to deal with it," Garnett said. "We've got to go home and it's a must that we get these two, starting with this one Sunday."
One of the NBA's best all-around players, Garnett was the target of some criticism -- most notably from Magic Johnson -- that said he was a bit too unselfish and had to take charge with the game on the line, which he did not do at the end of Game One.
"I don't come in and assess my own stuff," Garnett said. "After a loss, I sit back and think about all the things that I didn't do. I'm not really thinking about it from an individual standpoint, I'm just thinking as a whole what we have to do."
Garnett appeared to take the critique to heart and had a huge game with 31 points, 18 rebounds and four assists, all team highs. He even got some help from teammates Wally Szczerbiak and Chauncey Billups, who scored 25 points apiece. And it still wasn't enough to beat Dallas.
Nowitzki nearly matched Garnett with 31 points and 15 boards. Finley scored 28 points and contributed eight boards. Nash added 17 points and 10 assists. And it didn't stop there.
The high-powered Mavericks had six players in double figures. Nick Van Exel came off the bench to score 17 points, Raef LaFrentz added 14 and 12 rebounds and defensive demon Eduardo Najera had 13 points.
"The thing that makes them difficult is not only do they have the ability to shoot from the perimeter, but almost every one of their guys has the ability to beat you off the dribble," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "Whether it's Nash, whether it's Van Exel, whether it's Finley, whether it's Nowitzki matched up with a 4 (power forward), they've got four guys they can put out on the floor that can create off the dribble.
"They put so much pressure on you to guard them on the three-point line, but if you get too close, they beat you off the dribble. They either get to the basket or they draw help and hit one of their other shooters."
The Timberwolves shot better from the field, made eight more free throws and held an edge in rebounding -- and still never led in the second half, trailing by as many as 19 points. The Mavs won by making 11-of-22 3-pointers and committing just six turnovers.
"When you're going down the court at 100 miles per hour, this is like Indy car racing," Garnett said. "Running up and down the court, you don't have time to assess anything. They're so damned unorthodox. Mike Finley took some ridiculous shots and was hitting them."
"There are no distractions," Finley said. "The coaches give you a lot of latitude out there on the court. That breeds confidence and that makes our shots a little easier."
Every time Minnesota hung around, Finley created some space for Dallas. The Mavs made their last six shots of the first quarter, including a transition 3-pointer by Finley that beat the buzzer and provided a 33-28 lead.
"Something's in the American Airlines Center air, I guess," Szczerbiak said. "Hopefully, they won't go down in our building."
While Szczerbiak was getting loose for 17 points in the first half, the Wolves could not create any separation. At the end of the second period, Finley made two free throws and a breakaway dunk that gave the Mavs the lead for good at 63-59.
"We can't give them leak-outs," Szczerbiak said. "Mike Finley got about five or six leak-out dunks. When you get those types of plays, that gives you a lot of confidence. They're going to kill you."
Sam Mitchell's only basket of the game pulled Minnesota within 67-66 early in the third quarter. Dallas responded with a 14-5 run in which all five starters scored. A 3-pointer by Finley made it 82-71 with 5:32 to go, and he added a monstrous dunk over 7-footer Rasho Nesterovic on the next possession.
"I was trying to make the most of my opportunities," Finley said. "I knew if I went in soft or not aggressive my shot would get blocked. I just wanted to make something happen and get the crowd and my teammates into the game. I wanted to be aggressive both offfensively and defensively. I wanted my teammates to see that I took this game seriously and I knew it wouldn't be a cakewalk."
Minnesota trailed 97-86 entering the final period and got no closer than 10 points. Nowitzki made three 3-pointers and Van Exel two in a five-minute span.
"When we make our shots and when we run the ball, we can beat anybody in this league," Nowitzki said.
The Wolves shot 51 percent (40-of-79) but just 3-of-8 from 3-point range. The Mavs shot 49 percent (46-of-94).