SACRAMENTO, Calif., April 14 (Ticker) --
The Sacramento Kings have
clinched home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. But it
may not be as strong against the Dallas Mavericks.
Nick Van Exel scored 27 points to lead a balanced attack as the
Mavericks became the only team to win twice at ARCO Arena this
season with a 113-100 victory over the Kings, who had an 11-game
winning streak snapped.
The Mavericks (56-24) are still jockeying for playoff position
as they moved into a tie with San Antonio for first place in
the Midwest Division with two games remaining.
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Steve Nash was his creative self with 21 points and 13 assists.
Again playing without injured forward Dirk Nowitzki
, the Mavs
broke the club mark for wins set in the 1986-87 season.
"I'm trying to figure out why we won this game without Dirk, and
it's probably a pretty good reason," Dallas coach Don Nelson
said. "They maybe thought it would be a little easier than it
was. We played great, and I actually think it's good that we
can win these games without Nowitzki."
The Kings came in with a league-best 35-4 home mark, with one of
the losses a 120-114 overtime setback to Dallas on December 2.
This one was a bit different, as they played without any sense
of urgency and trailed virtually the entire game.
"They probably let their guard down a little bit, with having
everything clinched," Nelson said. "I know their coaches wanted
to beat us."
"I saw a lot of emotion in their faces," Van Exel said.
"However you want to take it, we got the W."
Steve Nash had 21 points and 13 assists, Raef LaFrentz collected
21 and 13 rebounds and Michael Finley added 20 for Dallas,
which won the season series from Sacramento for the first time
since the 1989-90 campaign.
"I don't know what it is (but) we are really unaffected by a
hostile environment," Nash said. "We are a resilient team. We
never get down."
Chris Webber scored 19 points and Vlade Divac added 18 for the
Kings (60-20). No starter played more than 33 minutes as coach
Rick Adelman substituted liberally and used all 12 players.
"If anything, I messed this up a bit because I wasn't
substituting like I normally do," Kings coach Rick Adelman said.
"I saw no sense to play guys extended minutes."
"You want to stay in a flow and you want to stay ready to go,
but at the same time, in the back of your head, you know it
doesn't mean much," forward Scot Pollard said. "So you have to
think, Do I start my star players? Do I play my All-Stars heavy
minutes and risk getting them injured going into the most
important time of the year?"
LaFrentz's hook gave Dallas the lead for good at 4-2 less than
two minutes into the contest. Finley scored 12 points in the
first quarter, helping the Mavs to a 31-22 lead.
A jumper by Nash pushed the advantage to 46-30 with 6:33 left in
the second period. Dallas led 63-48 at halftime and opened its
largest lead at 72-50 on a layup by Eduardo Najera with 9:10
left in the third quarter.
Sacramento closed to 85-79 on a layup by Bobby Jackson with
10:46 to play. But he missed the ensuing free throw, Shawn
Bradley made a basket for Dallas and Van Exel hit a 3-pointer
for a 90-79 bulge with 10:01 to go. Van Exel scored 21 points
in the second half.
"At this point, we want to play as hard as we can, but we don't
want to get hurt," Kings guard Doug Christie said.
"We were just going through the motions," Jackson admitted.
Starting for Nowitzki, Najera scored 13 points as Dallas shot 48
percent (45-of-94) from the field and held a 50-41 rebounding
Jackson and Mike Bibby scored 12 points each and Peja Stojakovic
added 11 for the Kings, who shot 44 percent (35-of-80),
including just 4-of-17 from 3-point range.