SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 10 (Ticker) -- Nick Van Exel
never met a
big shot he didn't like.
NBA TV highlights from|
Play of the Day:
Nestlé Crunch Time:
Van Exel and Williams
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
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
former King who scored all 10 of his points in the extra
"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."
had 31 points and 11 assists and Dirk Nowitzki
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."
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
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.