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Mavs avoid being swept in season series by Kings

3/17/2003

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- After each of the Dallas Mavericks'
seven losses to Sacramento over the past 10 months, Steve Nash
insisted his team was good enough to beat the Kings in a big game.

Nash probably didn't imagine the heroics he would have to
perform just to prove it.

The All-Star point guard hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 2.5
seconds left in regulation, then scored 12 points in overtime as
Dallas defeated Sacramento 129-123 Sunday -- avoiding a season sweep
by another prime contender for the league title.

Nash finished with 27 points and 10 assists as the Mavericks got
their league-high 50th victory of the season. But it was Nash's
tying shot -- set up by Michael Finley's heady offensive rebound --
that gave the Mavericks a momentum and confidence boost.

Despite the Mavericks' run to the top of the league standings,
they had lost seven of their previous eight games against
Sacramento: a 4-1 series defeat in last spring's conference
semifinals, and three straight losses this season.

"I felt we deserved it,'' Nash said. "I thought we played well
enough and hard enough. I've been saying we're good enough to beat
these guys for a year now. We deserved a break at the end of the
game. We got one by getting an offensive rebound and getting a
second chance at the 3.''

Dirk Nowitzki had 34 points and 18 rebounds, and Finley scored
21 points as the Mavericks displayed all of the poise and execution
many doubted they could produce against the veteran Kings. It was a
compelling game, but it still was only one game -- as players and
coaches on both sides were quick to point out.

"I don't feel like we have a monkey off our back against
Sacramento,'' Dallas coach Don Nelson said. "The Kings have still
outplayed us this year. Because we won an overtime game -- it
doesn't mean that much to me.''

The Mavericks were ahead all afternoon until midway through the
fourth quarter, when Sacramento scored 12 straight points and
brought the Arco Arena crowd to a frenzy.

Mike Bibby's jumper with 14 seconds left in regulation gave a
three-point lead to the Kings. But after Nash missed his first
3-point attempt, Finley got the rebound and found Nash in the
corner for the game-tying 3-pointer -- a shot that showed Dallas had
the toughness to survive in the NBA's loudest arena.

"We had the game in our hands, but somehow we got lost in our
rotation on that last shot,'' said Peja Stojakovic, who scored 30
points for Sacramento. "Steve made an open shot. He made a lot of
big shots.''

In overtime, Nash made four straight field goals for Dallas --
including two more 3-pointers -- as the Mavericks ran away from the
Kings, whose eight-game home winning streak was snapped.

The Kings were going after their first season sweep of Dallas
since 1997-98. Chris Webber had 24 points -- just seven after
halftime -- along with 15 rebounds and nine assists.

"The worst part was they were running off the court like they
just won a championship,'' Webber said. "You never know. Maybe
we'll see them again, and we'll remember that.''

It still doesn't have the enmity of a true rivalry, but
Sacramento's clashes with Dallas in recent years have been
generally well-played and exciting. The Kings won twice in Dallas
earlier this season on late baskets by Keon Clark, while Sacramento
got a blowout victory in the Mavericks' earlier trip to Arco Arena.

Sunday's game was an up-tempo contest befitting two of the NBA's
top three offenses. All told, 13 players scored in double figures --
and Clark had nine points. Nowitzki hit six 3-pointers, while
Stojakovic had five.

Nowitzki -- left alone on the perimeter by the pick-and-roll --
made five 3-pointers in less than five minutes during the first
half, but Sacramento took its first lead since the opening minutes
on consecutive fast-break layups by Bibby and Bobby Jackson in the
fourth.

Webber put Sacramento ahead on a hook shot with 56 seconds left,
and Bibby hit an off-balance jumper before Nash's game-tying shot.

"You'd like to think a shot like that doesn't affect you, but
human nature takes its course,'' Webber said. "You try to put it
out of your mind in overtime, but you can't. Maybe it was just
their turn.''

Game notes
Sacramento fell to 28-6 at home. Dallas is an NBA-best
23-10 on the road. ... Eduardo Najera got a technical foul late in
the third quarter for nothing more than waving his hand in disgust
after a foul call. Referee Rodney Mott had the quick whistle. ...
Midway through the third quarter, Dallas coach Don Nelson and
center Shawn Bradley exchanged angry words on the sideline. Nelson
pulled Bradley out of the game after Webber drove into the lane for
a three-point play. Bradley didn't play again until the overtime
tip.