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Mavericks 107, Jazz 77
Elimination? Dirk Says 'Nein'
DALLAS, May 1 (AP) -- The Dallas Mavericks are playoff novices no more.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 16 of his 33 points in the third quarter, and Steve Nash had 27 points as the Mavericks routed the Utah Jazz 107-77 Tuesday night to force a decisive fifth game in their first-round series.

The series finale will be Thursday night in Salt Lake City. The winner takes on San Antonio in the second round, starting Saturday.

Donyell Marshall
Donyell Marshall drops the shot over Shawn Bradley on Tuesday.
AP Photos
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"We definitely feel confident," Nash said. "We feel we're coming of age. If we continue improving, we'll reach the stage where we can say we've arrived.

"Our backs are still against the wall. They're very experienced, especially in front of their crowd."

The Mavericks, who are in the postseason for the first time in 11 years, are heading west on quite a roll. They're coming off their biggest win in team playoff history, and their Big Three of Nowitzki, Nash and Michael Finley, who had 20 points and 13 rebounds, are finally clicking.

The magic began in the second quarter, when Nash and Nowitzki combined for 22 of Dallas' 28 points as Dallas turned a 10-point deficit into a 45-42 halftime lead. The final basket was a long 3-pointer by Nash with two Jazz in his face.

"This is one of the best games we've played all year," Dallas coach Don Nelson said. "We got on one of those rolls where we were unstoppable."

Then came the Mavericks' best quarter of the season. With the trio scoring from inside and long range -- the game turned into a rout. A 24-6 run that carried into the fourth quarter ended any doubt.

"They got us in a track meet and they did a good job of keeping us in it," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "That's not the kind of game we have a chance to win. They were live and athletic. They got what they wanted."

Michael Finley
Michael Finley with the thunderous dunk:
792k avi | QuickTime
John Starks, back from testicular surgery for the first time since the opener, and Donyell Marshall were both ejected in the final 10 minutes. Sloan gave Karl Malone, who scored 25 points, and John Stockton most of the last period off.

Nelson pulled his starters midway through the fourth quarter. Wang Zhi Zhi scored seven points in the final five minutes.

The Jazz are in jeopardy of blowing a 2-0 lead in a five-game series for the second time. They did it in 1987, one only five such chokes in NBA history. No team has done it twice.

The good news for Utah: The home team has won every game this series, a turnaround from their four regular-season meetings, all of which were won by the road team.

"We want to go there and play hard and play good," said Dallas' Shawn Bradley, who had six blocks, twice his total in the first three games. "The thing I do know is the Jazz will be ready."

The Jazz led early by crashing the offensive boards and scoring easily inside. Malone had nine early points as Utah controlled the tempo.

But once the Mavericks got going, the veteran-filled Jazz couldn't keep up.

The Mavericks opened the second half continuing the momentum from Nash's long basket. They stretched the lead to 10 on another 3-pointer by Nash and one from Nowiztki.

Utah, which suffered its worst playoff loss since falling 96-54 to Chicago in Game 3 of the 1998 NBA Finals, closed to 66-59 before Finley's statement play: a slashing dunk over three Jazz players, with Malone fouling him. Finley hit the free throw, giving Dallas 16 straight to start the game, and the frenzy was just beginning.

Nash hit a crazy-looking left-handed hook on the next possession, then Dallas made the play that defined their youth and athleticism.

Steve Nash
Steve Nash sinks the desperation three-pointer:
1022k avi | QuickTime
Finley caught a rebound and while still in the air threw a baseball-style outlet pass to Nash, who flipped it to a streaking Nowitzki for a dunk over a flat-footed Malone.

Then came a 3-pointer by Finley and a 3-pointer by Nowitzki. Dallas was up 79-63, and the only question left was the starting time of Game 5.

"They shot the ball well, but sometimes we weren't even close to them," Malone said. "I wasn't stunned. They did everything they could to win the ball game. You have to give them credit.

"It's a team effort, and as a team we lost."

The Mavericks finished 13-of-25 on 3-pointers, the most they have made this season. Nowitzki was 5-of-10, Nash 4-of-8 and Finley 3-of-4. Finley was 7-of-13 after going 2-for-14 in Game 3.

Malone, who spent Monday's off day hunting at his ranch in Arkansas, was all the Jazz had going for them. He scored nine of their first 16 and their first eight in the third quarter. The only other double-digit scorers were reserves David Benoit, with 12, and Danny Manning, 10.

Stockton, coming off his first career triple-double, had four points, nine assists and five rebounds.

Notes: Dallas surpassed its previous biggest playoff victory -- 151-129 over Seattle in 1987 -- by eight points. ... This was the first time the Mavericks have won consecutive playoff games since May 27-29, 1988, when they beat the Los Angeles Lakers in Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference finals. ... If Dallas loses in Utah, this will have been the last NBA game at Reunion Arena. ... Nash still had a bandage on his forehead covering the seven stitches needed to close a cut opened by Stockton's teeth in Game 3. ... Of the six times the Jazz have led a best-of-5 series 2-0, this will be the fifth time it goes the distance.

 
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