LOS ANGELES -- It didn't take Dallas long.
One night into it, the Mavericks sold the idea that they are ready to push the Lo Angeles Lakers in this Western Conference semifinals, despite an historical void in the Beat LA Department.
Could it be Dallas is fed up, and not going to take it anymore?
The Mavs, who sometimes have the look of a team that's been beaten so many times for so many years by the Lakers that it's just expected, had a surprise for the defending champions -- a long, arduous rally from a 16-point deficit that ended with a steal of Game 1 at Staples Center on Monday night, 96-94.
"Our guys are going to hang in there and fight," said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle.
This may end up being not just a competitive week or two, but a contentious, entertaining one.
Despite protests from both teams that their fractious final meeting in the regular season wouldn't carry over, something set these teams off Monday night.
Dallas' Tyson Chandler and the Lakers' Pau Gasol got into an early Greco-Roman wrestling match, and each was called for a technical foul.
Just before half, Dallas' veteran guard, Jason Terry , committed a silly foul on Lamar Odom -- a minor tap on the arm -- as the Lakers forward was attempting a clock-beating, 50-foot heave.
After Odom's three ensuing free throws, Ron Artest's aggressive positioning angered another Maverick vet, Dirk Nowitzki, into throwing an elbow, drawing another technical, which Kobe Bryant converted for a nine-point Lakers lead at the break.
"That last 10 seconds of the first half may never happen to this team again," said Carlisle. "You just have to forget about it. It should have been a five-point game, but you just keep playing."
The Lakers also scored the first seven points of the third quarter, which ordinarily might have been enough to make the Mavericks give up the fight and go away.
But animosity is a powerful fuel.
The Mavs kept clawing back, taking advantage of an up-tempo pace that the Lakers didn't fight.
"We took too many quick shots," said Odom. "Even though we got up in the game, we didn't play at the speed we wanted."
It figures the two teams wouldn't much like each other, both filled with 30-somethings who know the dynamic of this non-rivalry, and are way too familiar with each other's personalities.
Sometimes a postseason series needs a few games of the same people delivering the same annoying whacks to build a nasty edge.
This one had a head start.
At the end of March, a Lakers blowout victory had degenerated into testy exchanges, culminating in Terry hard-fouling Lakers sub Steve Blake, and Matt Barnes charging into Terry.
If the chippy start was pre-ordained, Terry wouldn't admit to it.
"I didn't think it was (contentious)," he said, smiling. "It's a playoff game. That's the way they are."
Up until recently, the only notable competition between the two teams has been Lakers coach Phil Jackson and Dallas' owner, Mark Cuban , exchanging barbs, some more jagged than others. The most recent came this past winter when Cuban referred to the Lakers coach as "Jeanie's boy toy."
Media attempts to get Jackson into insult-mode in the run-up to the series have been unsuccessful, so far, but maybe these two non-combatants won't be needed.
If Game 1 is any indication, the players might stoke the fires all by themselves.