Kings Draw Even, Head for Game 7

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Sacramento 115, Dallas 109
Kings Draw Even, Head for Game 7

Jim Jackson celebrates the Kings' victory.
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SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 15 (Ticker) -- Bobby Jackson has earned the chance to run the Sacramento Kings' offense in the biggest game of the season.

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Jackson scored nine of his 21 points in the fourth quarter as the Kings forced a decisive game with a 115-109 victory in Game 6 of their Western Conference semifinal series against the Dallas Mavericks, who wasted a 35-point effort by Nick Van Exel.

After being named the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year, Jackson has become one of the most consistent playmakers in the postseason for Sacramento. With the Kings' season hanging in the balance, it was Jackson at point guard instead of Mike Bibby, who was on the bench for the game's final 13:54.

"I play the guy who is doing well," Sacramento coach Rick Adelman said. "It had nothing to do with Mike Bibby or anything else. People make an issue of a guy who isn't in the game. If I needed Mike back in the game, I would have brought him back in."

Dallas scored six straight points to take a 95-94 lead on Van Exel's jumper with 8:15 remaining. But Sacramento responded with nine consecutive points, taking the lead for good on Jim Jackson's free throws with 7:54 to go.

Peja Stojakovic, who scored 24 points, made a three-pointer and layup. Jim Jackson followed a miss by Stojakovic to cap the burst and give the Kings a 103-95 edge at the 4:37 mark.

The teams traded free throws before Bobby Jackson made an acrobatic runner with 2:48 to go. He buried two free throws for a 111-103 edge with 91 seconds left.

Dallas' Steve Nash sank consecutive three-pointers to make it 111-109, but Walt Williams missed a potential go-ahead three-pointer with 11 seconds left.

Bobby Jackson and Jim Jackson each made a pair of free throws in the final 8.5 seconds. The Kings, who were shooting only 75 percent from the line in the postseason, made 31-of-32 free throws, including 12-of-12 in the fourth.

"We're a pretty good free-throw shooting team," Adelman said. "Some guys struggle. That's all part of winning close games. You've got to make those."

"Tonight just showed that free throws win games" said Kings center Vlade Divac, who scored 21 points. "We didn't make free throws in Game 3 and we lost that game. Tonight we really shot the ball well from the line and the final result shows it."

Doug Christie collected 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists and Jim Jackson added 16 points and 12 rebounds for Sacramento, which scored 58 points in the paint and held a 47-38 rebounding advantage, including 15 offensive boards.

"We played really hard, maybe not smart or pretty like we're used to, but it was Game 6 and our backs were against the wall," Divac said. "We had an advantage inside and tried to exploit it."

Van Exel continued his spectacular series, making 15-of-23 shots off the bench, including 5-of-11 3-pointers. He scored 18 points on 8-of-15 shooting in the second half but was held to six points and missed all three of his three-pointers in the final period.

"He has been my best player in the playoffs," Dallas coach Don Nelson said. "I love the guy, he is able to raise the level of his play under fierce competition and not many are able to do that."

"A guy can't play any better than Nick played," said Nash, who had 15 points. "He's doing an unbelievable job for us and the rest of us need to pick it up and give him help sometimes."

Dirk Nowitzki collected 21 points and 12 rebounds and Michael Finley added 21 points as the Mavericks failed to advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time in 15 years.

"I was really proud of the way we battled," Nelson said. "We didn't play well enough to win, but I thought if we had gotten a little luck maybe we could have stolen one."

"We've got to be hungry," Van Exel said. "They were hungrier tonight than we were. We can't be relying on the home-court advantage. We've got to be hungry because they're hungry."

Dallas will have another chance to end the series in Game 7 at American Airlines Center on Sunday.

Finley and Raef LaFrentz each scored four points in the opening 6:10 as the Mavs jumped out to their largest lead at 13-4.

"We knew it was going to be important to get off to a decent start against this team," LaFrentz said. "We didn't want to fall into a deep hole, especially with them at home."

But the Kings scored 10 of the next 12 points and pulled within 15-14 on Stojakovic's three-pointer with 3:31 left.

LaFrentz scored seven of his 15 points in the first quarter and Dallas had a 24-21 edge entering the second. Jim Jackson opened the period with consecutive baskets to give Sacramento its first lead with 11:12 remaining.

The teams were tied twice and exchanged the lead seven times in the second quarter. Bobby Jackson buried a three-pointer with two minutes left for a 49-46 lead and the Kings did not relinquish the lead until the fourth quarter.