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Dalllas 141, Sacramento 137 (2OT)
Mavs Marvelous in Double-Overtime Thriller

Nick Van Exel dished seven dimes Saturday.
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SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 10 (Ticker) -- Nick Van Exel never met a big shot he didn't like.

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Van Exel scored a playoff career-high 40 points and made a series of difficult clutch shots as he rallied the Dallas Mavericks to a 141-137 victory over the Sacramento Kings and a 2-1 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.

In a frenetic see-saw game filled with clutch plays, Van Exel seemed to make them all. Not even a member of the starting lineup, he is averaging 32 points through the first three games and has become the pivotal player in a series filled with stars.

"We have so many good shooters, so you get an opportunity to get some good looks. And not really just forced shots," Van Exel said. "So that's the best thing about it. When you're shooting the ball well, your teammates tend to find you and when they do, you have a lot of space to get your shots off."

"He made big plays again all night long, tough shots, big shots," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "He just played great. He gives them a huge boost when he comes off the bench."

Van Exel rallied the Mavericks with fearless shooting in the fourth quarter, forced overtime with a running jumper with 3.8 seconds left and struck again in the second OT with the go-ahead 3-pointer and the clinching free throws.

"He is more of a leader, more boisterous this year," Mavericks coach Don Nelson said. "He is more comfortable around the guys."

The veteran guard with the lefthanded launch and perpetual sneer made 14-of-26 shots, including 6-of-12 from the arc. He led a relentless attack that caught and finally wore down the Kings.

"It was unbelievable," Van Exel said. "It was back and fourth - they would go up, we would go up and they would come back again and go up. I guess it was just the team that would make the shots consecutively that would win. But it was a great game."

In another roller coaster ride between the best offensive teams in the NBA, Dallas also got a big lift from Walt Williams, a former King who scored all 10 of his points in the extra sessions.

"He is a good player, has been around and knows where to go," Nelson said. "He made a couple of big threes that really opened the game up and helped us win."

Steve Nash had 31 points and 11 assists and Dirk Nowitzki added 25 and 20 rebounds for Dallas, which leads a conference semifinal for the first time in 15 years. But both All-Stars could only marvel at Van Exel.

"What you can say? He's been amazing," Nash said. "He brings energy and makes clutch shots. He's really given our team confidence and it shows in games of this magnitude."

"It was the best game I've been a part of," added Nowitzki, who did not score from the field in the last three periods. "It went back and forth until the end and either team could have won. We were just fortunate to have Nick."

Peja Stojakovic scored a playoff career-high 39 points but just two in overtime for the Kings, who wasted a 12-point fourth-quarter lead. They also squandered a chance to win at the end of the first extra session when Vlade Divac missed two free throws.

Game Four is Sunday night at Sacramento, and the Kings may be feeling the crunch of consecutive games. Already without injured All-Star forward Chris Webber and with Divac nursing an elbow ailment, this loss has to have them physically and emotionally drained.

"It's a good thing we have a back-to-back so we can come right back and do it again," Mavs guard Michael Finley said.

"I would even go tomorrow if they amputated my arm," Divac said.

A free throw and 3-pointer by Van Exel cut the deficit to 107-102 with 4:08 left in the fourth quarter and started an 11-2 surge. Nash's 3-pointer tied it at 109-109 with 2:25 to play.

A free throw by Keon Clark gave the Kings the lead, but Van Exel sank two from the line at the 1:17 mark. Things did not look good for the Mavericks after Mike Bibby's 3-pointer and a terrible shot by Van Exel with 45 seconds remaining.

But Stojakovic missed a jumper and Van Exel quickly redeemed himself with a runner in the lane that tied it, 113-113.

"He made a lot of big shots today, especially at the end and during OT," Stojakovic said. "He really carried them."

Van Exel did not score in the first overtime. A 3-pointer by Williams gave Dallas a 123-120 lead, but Doug Christie tied it with a 3-pointer and Stojakovic made two free throws gave Sacramento a 125-123 edge with 1:03 remaining.

Divac had a chance to seal it but missed twice from the line with 27 seconds to play. Williams tied it with a dunk with 16 seconds remaining and Stojakovic missed a jump shot, forcing a second OT.

"I was telling (teammate) Raja Bell that I hoped to get into the game," Williams said. "There's a lot of electricity out there and just a great atmosphere."

After a layup by Bobby Jackson, Van Exel quickly re-emerged with a driving three-point play. The teams traded the lead six times, the last when Van Exel buried a 3-pointer from the left wing for a 135-133 lead with 1:35 remaining.

"The guy is unbelievable with the basketball," Jackson said. "He loves having the ball in his hands and he makes tough shots. He's got that confidence right now where he feels like he can make every shot, and he's doing it."

Williams struck from the arc on Dallas' next possession, marking the first time in the extra sessions that it was more than a one-possession game. That did not last long, however, as Jackson made a layup, Nowitzki threw an inbounds pass to Nelson on the bench and Jimmy Jackson had a tip-in to make it 138-137 with 11 seconds to go.

The Kings fouled Van Exel, who shoots his free throws from three feet behind the line. He knocked down both with no problem, and Bobby Jackson's potential tying 3-pointer was not close.

Finley scored 20 points for the third-seeded Mavs, who seem to set records every time they take the court. In Game Two, they set an NBA mark with 83 points in the first half and a club-record 17 3-pointers. In this one, they shot 19-of-42 from the arc.

Divac had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the second-seeded Kings, who had seven players in double figures. Christie scored 18 points and Bibby and Bobby Jackson added 16 each.

The Mavs did not get off to the flying start they had in Game Two. A 3-pointer by Jimmy Jackson gave the Kings their largest lead at 42-26 at the 9:22 mark of the second period, but Van Exel led a comeback with a pair of 3-pointers and a jumper.

After his second 3-pointer tied it at 62-62, Van Exel looked at Kings owners Gavin and Joe Maloof in their courtside seats and sneered, "C'mon, (bleeps)."

But Stojakovic scored 11 points in the third quarter, helping Sacramento rebuild the lead to 91-82 entering the fourth period.