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Mavs first to win at home in series

DALLAS (AP) -- With a chance to finally pull ahead in their
first-round playoff series, the Dallas Mavericks refused to let
anything stop them.

Not even the boundaries of the court.

The Mavs hustled at both ends of the floor to protect a
shrinking lead in the fourth quarter of a 103-100 victory over the
Houston Rockets on Monday night, and in one key instance they got
away with Michael Finley making a play from beyond the baseline.

Replays showed that Finley clearly had both feet out of bounds
when he jarred a rebound from Houston's Jon Barry with just under a
minute left. Officials didn't see that -- but they did see Barry
foul Jerry Stackhouse after he grabbed the loose ball. He made both
free throws to help Dallas pad a lead that wasn't secured until
Tracy McGrady missed a long jumper at the buzzer.

Maybe it was just the home-court advantage finally paying off,
as this was the first time this series that the local fans went
home happy. It came at a perfect time for Dallas, which now has two
chances to join the 1969 Lakers and '94 Rockets as the only teams
to win a seven-game series after dropping the first two at home.

"Until you win the series, you don't have anything," Mavericks
coach Avery Johnson said. "We haven't accomplished a thing. We
have nothing to be excited about."

The previous game in Dallas ended with McGrady making a long
jumper in the closing seconds. This time, he missed two foul shots
with 3.4 seconds left -- the second intentionally -- but got his own
rebound and put up a 3-pointer from the left corner that could've
tied it.

Although there might have been a question whether his toe was on
the line, it didn't matter when the ball hit the iron and bounced
away. McGrady ended up on the ground, practically under some
courtside seats, perhaps lamenting another first-round bust. He's
never advanced to the second round and now is in jeopardy of
blowing a 2-0 lead for the second straight time.

This game was a different kind of disappointment. After blowing
fourth-quarter leads of eight and six points the last two games,
the Rockets trimmed an 11-point deficit to 102-100 with 7.4 seconds
left but couldn't finish the comeback. They've lost three straight
after winning nine in a row.

"It's tough," said McGrady, who struggled with his shot for
the first time this series, shooting 7-of-22 and scoring 25 points,
6.5 less than he'd been averaging. He also had nine rebounds, six
assists, three steals and two blocks.

"It's always something down the stretch," he said. "We do a
good job of fighting back and getting ourselves into the ballgame.
We just can't get over that hump."

Game 6 is Thursday night in Houston, and Rockets coach Jeff Van
Gundy may have more on the line than just trying to force a seventh
game. He was fined $100,000 earlier Monday for accusing officials
of targeting Yao Ming and refusing to tell the league which
official was his source.

Commissioner David Stern, who coincidentally attended this game,
called the largest fine ever levied against an NBA coach only "an
intermediary step" and said an investigation will continue -- once
the Rockets finish their playoff run. Stern even implied that Van
Gundy could face a lifetime ban.

Van Gundy laughed off the entire case and Yao offered to pay
half the fine.

Yao scored 15 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, making
6-of-7 shots and getting to the foul line on the one he missed.
However, he was just 3-of-8 from the line in the period, with all
five misses in a row. He also had four fouls, matching his fewest
of the series. He didn't get his first until seconds into the
second quarter and had just one in the second half.

"Maybe it was a little bit of exhaustion," he said of the
missed foul shots.

The Mavericks never trailed in the second half and their biggest
deficit was just one. But they allowed an 8-0 run that ended with a
3-pointer by Barry with 3:22 left that made this one interesting to
the end.

The difference was Dallas' determination, best exemplified by
two plays, starting with the one Finley got away with -- which,
other than the location of his feet, his swat was similar to what
Josh Howard did to McGrady in the closing seconds of Game 4.

"It's a shame," Barry said of the missed call. "Our whole
bench saw it. What can you do?"

Asked whether he thought he was inbounds, Finley smirked and
said, "I can't really remember."

After McGrady made a flying dunk to make it 102-100, the Mavs
got away with a wild pass.

Marquis Daniels' inbounds lob to Jason Terry in the backcourt
was nearly stolen, but Terry recovered and was fouled by Ryan
Bowen. He made one of two shots, enough to change Houston's
strategy in the closing seconds.

Nowitzki, stuck in a series-long shooting funk, was 9-of-22
shots but led Dallas with 23 points, including an important dunk
off a miss by Terry with 20.2 seconds left. He also had 13 rebounds
and four steals.

Terry, coming off a 32-point game, scored nine of his 13 in the
final period, including a 29-footer. Stackhouse and Howard both
scored 17 and Finley had 12.

Mike James scored 16 for Houston, while Bob Sura -- who missed a
morning shootaround, instead getting an IV treatment at a hospital
to help battle flu-like symptoms -- had seven points in 23 minutes.

Game notes
This was the first time this series that the team leading
after one quarter won. It also was the first time the team with the
most rebounds won. ... The Baylor Lady Bears national championship
team was introduced during the first half and received a rousing
ovation from a crowd of 20,894, setting a record for the largest in
team history for a second straight game.