DALLAS, May 17 (Ticker) -- Dirk Nowitzki
and the Dallas Mavericks are
getting the hang of this Game Seven thing.
NBA TV highlights from|
Play of the Day:
Nestlé Crunch Time:Nowitzki
Speed Stick Never Quits Highlight:
Dunk of the Night:
Nowitzki had another clutch performance with 30 points and 19
rebounds to lift the Mavericks into the Western Conference
finals for the first time in 15 years with a 112-99 victory over
the Sacramento Kings.
The third-seeded Mavericks went the distance for the second
straight series but were able to eliminate the second-seeded
Kings and reach the conference finals for just the second time
in franchise history. They will travel to San Antonio to face
the top-seeded Spurs on Monday.
"The last two years, we kind of stopped in the second round, and
if you want to develop, you always want to go further and reach
different goals," Nowitzki said. "It's great to finally get
out of the second round and now we'll see what happens."
In the first round, the Mavericks were pushed to the limit by
Portland, which forced a Game Seven after losing the first three
games. In that contest, Nowitzki scored 31 points, including
seven in a row, as Dallas pulled away in the final minutes.
Nowitzki was just as assertive against the Kings. Receiving an
emotional boost from the presence of his German coach, the
All-Star forward made 12-of-20 shots while controlling the
"We're not a really experienced playoff team, so every chance we
get, it's great," Nowitzki said. "For me, it was the first
time playing in a Game Seven against Portland and I think that
really helped us experience-wise because we knew what to
"I think it was big," teammate Steve Nash
added. "Anytime you
get a chance to play in a Game Seven you really grow and you
learn. We've won two now and we really learned a lot."
The Mavs got an expected boost from supersub Nick Van Exel
scored 23 points in his usual bodacious fashion.
"I was just trying to be aggressive," said Van Exel, who
averaged 25.3 points in the series. "I knew I had a lot of
success against Sacramento before. I was always able to get
into the paint and make my little flip shots, and throughout
this series, I really worked on my 3-point shot."
"I think we owe the series to Nick Van Exel, who - when things
were looking bleak - got us thinking the right way and taking
the next step that we really needed to hear from a teammate and
not a coach," Mavs coach Don Nelson said. "I always encourage
the team to be the leaders. It's a sad state of affairs when
the coach has to be the leader of the team."
Dallas also got an unexpected boost from Raja Bell
afterthought in the Mavs' high-octane offense who scored 12
points. "We've got a lot of people - even when we were running
the table, winning 60 games - (that) didn't give us any credit,"
Bell said. "Said we were soft. Said we couldn't play
basketball in the playoffs. It feels kind of great going out
there two tough series, two Game Sevens, and winning."
The Kings started slowly and never fully recovered as they shot
just 42 percent (36-of-86). They led only briefly late in the
second quarter and trailed by as many as 20 points in the final
"I was surprised we were as close as we were," Kings coach Rick
Adelman said. "We couldn't make a shot. We had a lot of good
looks, but we couldn't get anything down."
It was a disappointing finish for Sacramento, which won the
opener here but lost All-Star forward Chris Webber
to a knee
injury in Game Two and could not compensate for his absence. The
Kings were denied a return trip to the conference finals.
"I felt like screaming at the TV and yelling," Webber said. "I
couldn't help. That's how I felt. I tried to do everything I
could, but it was no help."
"You've got to feel bad for them a little bit because to have
such a great team and then you miss a team leader in a very
important series, it's tough," Nowitzki said.
After withstanding a 15-0 burst by the Kings, the Mavs took the
lead for good late in the second quarter. Nowitzki scored seven
points and Bell had six in the third period as Dallas took a
76-67 lead into the final 12 minutes.
Each time Sacramento surged, Nowitzki and Dallas had an answer.
A 3-pointer by Bobby Jackson
cut the deficit to 82-76 with just
under 10 minutes to go, but Nowitzki sank a 3-pointer of his
A layup by Mike Bibby
made it 87-82 with 8:36 left, but
Nash responded with a three-point play and Michael Finley
two free throws and a 3-pointer for a 95-82 bulge. Nash and
Finley each scored 18 points.
"We still thought we could do it," Bibby said. "With six or
seven minutes left, little things started happening. The loose
balls and offensive rebounds, and when they get that, then they
make a three."
After a 3-pointer by Peja Stojakovic
pulled the Kings within
95-87 with 7:11 to play, Nowitzki made another 3-pointer to
start a 14-2 spurt. Van Exel also struck twice from the arc as
Dallas made five 3-pointers in the period.
The last four minutes were a celebration by the crowd of 20,595,
the largest in American Airlines Center history.
"It was a great feeling," said Finley, the longest-tenured
Maverick. "I was here in the dog days when 20 wins was
considered a successful season. For us to come that far in such
a short time is very gratifying for me."
The Mavericks shot 49.5 percent (45-of-91), including 11-of-20
from the arc. They held a 48-43 edge on the glass and handed
out 27 assists, including a playoff career-high 13 by Nash,
whose constant penetration created plenty of open shots for his
Bibby scored 25 points and Jimmy Jackson
added a playoff
career-high 24 for the Kings. Stojakovic scored 17 points, but
had just 11 on 3-of-12 shooting.
Sacramento made just 6-of-23 shots in the first quarter and its
poor touch continued into the second period. Finley and Van
Exel made 3-pointers to help Dallas open a 39-27 lead with 5 1/2
minutes before halftime.
The Kings came out of a timeout and ran off 15 straight points
in less than three minutes, silencing the crowd. Jimmy Jackson
made a 3-pointer, then scored the last six points for a 42-39
Van Exel tied it with a 3-pointer that sparked the Mavs to a
48-43 halftime lead.