Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Mavericks 110, Kings 102



By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer

        SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Steve Nash wasn't just running the floor for the Dallas Mavericks. He might as well have been the ringleader of a circus.

        With Nash at his best in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks surged past the Sacramento Kings 110-102 Monday night to even the Western Conference semifinals at 1-1.

        Game 3 between the NBA's highest-scoring teams is Thursday night in Dallas.

        “We'll need a little bit of rest between then and now,” said Nash, who had 30 points and eight assists. “My legs ache.”

        In Game 2 matchups Tuesday night, Charlotte is at New Jersey and San Antonio is at the Los Angeles Lakers.

        The Kings-Mavericks game was an end-to-end contest between two teams that haven't allowed playoff pressure to throw them off their breakneck pace.

        “You live for games like this that are competitive and exciting,” Mavericks coach Don Nelson said. “The league should be proud of this game.”

        Nash compiled the biggest offensive numbers of his playoff career and his performance most likely will force the Kings to make adjustments.

        “That's part of my responsibility, to take them on in the same way (Nash) is taking us on,” said Kings point guard Mike Bibby, who had 22 points and seven assists. “I hit some shots, but we missed way too many open shots in the fourth quarter to be successful.”

        Nash, held to 12 points in Game 1, made four 3-pointers and was 12-of-18 from the field. He scored nine points in the fourth quarter, and his behind-the-back pass to Raef LaFrentz for a dunk with 3:48 left gave Dallas the lead for good.

        For all his dazzle on offense, Nash credited the Mavericks' play on the other end for the victory.

        “If you look at the two games, the best team defensively won both games,” the point guard said. “There's going to be a lot more possessions, there's going to be a lot more firepower. But defense is just as paramount in this series as it is in the Eastern Conference.”

        Dirk Nowitzki added 22 points and 15 rebounds, while Nick Van Exel scored 13 of his 19 points in the second quarter for Dallas.

        Sacramento's defensive breakdowns proved crucial. The Mavs, fueled by good ball movement, got dozens of open shots and uncontested rebounds to win for the fourth time in five games at Sacramento.

        “We came in hoping to split, and to win one game here is great,” said Nowitzki, who is 15-for-39 in the series. “This is the toughest building in the league.”

        Chris Webber had 22 points and 12 rebounds for Sacramento. The Kings' three-game winning streak ended with their fifth loss in their last eight home playoff games dating to last season.

        “I thought we really had some good opportunities midway through the fourth quarter when it was close, but we missed shots, and Dallas converted every time,” Sacramento coach Rick Adelman said. “When Dallas gets a run going and they're pushing it, that's when they're lethal.”

        Peja Stojakovic, who had 26 points in Game 1, went 5-for-19 from the field and finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Hedo Turkoglu added 15 points.

        Vlade Divac had 15 points, but his role was reduced from Game 1 as Adelman attempted to match up with Dallas' unique collection of scorers.

        Notes: Doug Christie scored just six points in 37 minutes before fouling out. He helped hold Michael Finley to 11 points on 2-of-10 shooting, however. ... Nelson substituted veteran forward Johnny Newman in the starting lineup for Eduardo Najera, who broke his thumb during warmups before Game 1. ... Najera, his shot clearly affected by his thumb, banked in a free throw in the first quarter. ... Nelson used 11 players in the first half while Adelman stuck to a seven-man rotation.

       



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