'D' Stands For Dallas

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Dallas 112, Sacramento 93
'D' Stands For Dallas

Dirk Nowitzki was one assist shy of a triple-double in Game 5.
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DALLAS, May 13 (Ticker) -- With an uncharacteristic defensive effort, the Mavericks shut down the Sacramento Kings in the third quarter and rode a near triple-double by Dirk Nowitzki to a 112-93 victory in the pivotal fifth game of the Western Conference semifinals.

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"It was one of our best defensive games in the second half," Dallas coach Don Nelson said. "I thought we really knuckled down."

Nowitzki had 16 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists for Dallas, which grabbed a 3-2 series lead and can advance to the conference finals for the first time since 1988 with a win on Thursday at Sacramento.

"We really wanted to get the win tonight because we knew we couldn't go back to Sacramento one down," Nowitzki said. "We were rotating, we were contesting their jumpers -- it was a great defensive effort."

Dallas, which led the NBA in scoring during the regular season, had its customary offensive outburst as it eclipsed 110 points for the fourth time in the series and had six players in double figures.

But for once, the go-go Mavericks seemed more interested in stops. In the third quarter, they limited the Kings to a franchise playoff-record 10 points on just 3-of-25 shooting and did not allow a basket for the final six minutes of the period.

"In the second half, we took it upon ourselves to make more of an effort defensively and as a team go out there and be more aggressive on the defensive end," Dallas guard Michael Finley said. "When we did that, we were able to get into the open court and able to get easy transition baskets, which in turn pretty much turned the game around."

The charge was fueled by Raja Bell, one of the few Mavericks considered a defensive player. Bell also contributed on offense with seven of his 13 points in the period, which ended with Dallas holding an 83-71 lead.

"Bell was our best player in Game 4 (a 99-83 loss)," Nelson said. "That is not saying a whole lot, but he was really the only player that did well in that game. I thought he played well again tonight. He was being active and rebounding. He is physically able to do some things that our other players can't do."

"I think our whole team played great in the third," Bell said. "I, personally, just felt like I didn't do my job in the first half and I really wanted to come out and do the job defensively and rebounding-wise in the second half. It just so happened that I got some open looks, some throw-in kicks and I was able to knock them down. But I was more focused on picking up the energy, playing defense and rebounding."

Steve Nash scored 25 points and Nick Van Exel added 18 for the third-seeded Mavs, who overcame a 15-point second-quarter deficit. They limited the Kings -- the highest-scoring and best-shooting team in the postseason -- to less than 36 percent (33-of-92) overall and set a club playoff record with 11 blocks.

"We stayed in front of them, we didn't let them penetrate and kick and get that game going," Nowitzki said. "We have to run back on defense and take away the easy breakaways."

Doug Christie totaled 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the second-seeded Kings, who had virtually no inside presence in the second half.

The Kings missed injured All-Star forward Chris Webber more than many thought they would. When center Vlade Divac sat out most of the third quarter with foul trouble, the offense bogged down and resorted to firing jumpers.

"It's tough because our strategy is to push the ball, but when we don't have it, we want to throw the ball into Vlade and go inside-out," Christie said. "To have him being so talented and with a nice hook shot, jump shot, (the ability to) pass the ball, to not have him on the floor takes a lot of options away."

Sacramento held a 61-54 halftime lead that quickly dissipated after Divac took a seat with his fourth foul in the first minute of the third quarter. A three-pointer by Bell gave Dallas the lead for good at 68-65 with 8:19 left.

"When we don't have anybody inside we sometimes turn into a jump shooting team," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "We're kind of like them (Mavs) -- when they're going in, we look pretty good, but when they're not, it starts to unwind."

A dunk by Scot Pollard at the 6:20 mark was the last basket of the quarter for the Kings, who missed their last 10 shots. Bell had a jumper and layup around a three-pointer by Van Exel to push the lead to 80-69 with 1:59 to go.

Divac returned at the outset of the final period with Sacramento trailing, 83-71. Van Exel had a layup and 3-pointer to push the margin to 90-74 before Divac picked up his fifth foul with 9:29 to play.

Sacramento got no closer than 12 points thereafter. Bell's flying two-handed dunk added an exclamation point, giving Dallas its largest lead and closing the scoring.

"It felt great. I've been waiting for that one all year," Bell said.

Michael Finley scored 16 points and Raef LaFrentz added 14 for Dallas, which shot 44 percent (38-of-86) and held a 58-53 advantage on the boards. LaFrentz had five blocks and Nowitzki and Finley had three each.

Peja Stojakovic scored 19 points for the Kings. Divac and reserve forward Keon Clark each had just five points and five fouls.

Stojakovic scored nine points in the first quarter as Sacramento grabbed a 33-24 lead. A 3-pointer by Christie made it 44-29 midway through the second period before Nash led a rally.