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With Webber Out, Kings Left Hurting

Injured forward can only watch as Dallas wins in two overtimes, 141-137, for 2-1 series lead. Van Exel scores 40.

May 11, 2003|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Life without Chris Webber began uneasily for the Sacramento Kings, who were more than game Saturday night against the Dallas Mavericks but ultimately couldn't keep pace without their injured leader.

The Mavericks, playing from behind almost the entire way in front of a full-throated capacity crowd of 17,317 in Arco Arena, overcame a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit and finally won after two overtimes, 141-137, to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series. Game 4 is tonight.

Without Webber, sidelined because of a knee injury expected to keep him out of the lineup through the playoffs, the Kings were down to one All-Star forward, but Peja Stojakovic, who scored 39 points, almost pulled them through.

Nick Van Exel, however, was even better for the Mavericks, scoring 40 points two nights after scoring 36 in a 22-point Game 2 victory at Dallas.

And reserve forward Walt Williams came up big in the two overtime periods, scoring all 10 of his points in the last 10 minutes, among them a three-point shot that put the Mavericks ahead, 138-133, with 58.2 seconds to play in the second overtime.

"The key guy was a seldom-used guy: Walt Williams," said Dallas Coach Don Nelson. "He was one of the keys to us winning in which we took a gamble. We thought we could get him open and, of course, he needed to make some shots."

Williams made four of eight.

Steve Nash scored 31 points for the Mavericks -- who made 19 of an NBA playoff-record 42 three-point attempts -- and also had 11 assists. Dirk Nowitzki had 25 points and 20 rebounds in a game-high 58 minutes, and Michael Finley scored 20 points.

For the Kings, Vlade Divac had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Doug Christie scored 18 points. Mike Bibby and Bobby Jackson, who played 42 minutes despite suffering a broken cheekbone Thursday night, each scored 16.

The Kings, of course, already were reeling after learning late Friday that Webber, their leading scorer, had suffered a torn ligament in his left knee Thursday night, an injury that probably will require surgery.

The devastating news was a cruel blow to the Kings, who until that moment had considered themselves the favorites to win their first NBA title and redeem themselves after last year's disappointment against the Lakers.

Not that they'd lost all hope.

They trotted out the we're-not-dead evidence: They were 10-5 in games Webber sat out during the regular season, among them a victory over the Mavericks, at Dallas, in which both Webber and Jackson were sidelined.

The NBA's deepest team, the Kings went 21-6 when Bibby sat out, 8-2 without Stojakovic and 14-9 when Jackson was sidelined.

On the other hand, Webber averaged 27.5 points, six rebounds and five assists in the first two games of this series ... and the Kings still lost Game 2, 132-110, the Mavericks scoring 83 points during a record-setting first half. Webber was hurt late in the third quarter of that game.

Perhaps that's why the classified section of the Sacramento Bee included more than 170 ads offering tickets to the series, and more were available on EBay.

No seat went unused, however, and the Kings fed off the energetic crowd, which gave Webber a loud ovation when he limped to the bench during the first timeout and later turned up the volume as the Kings built a 16-point lead, making 15 of 21 shots in the first quarter.

By halftime, though, the King lead was only 64-62 after the Mavericks, led by Van Exel, outscored them, 27-14, over the last seven minutes of the second quarter. Van Exel scored 13 points during the run.

A three-point basket by Nash to start the third quarter gave the Mavericks their first lead, but the Kings took off again and seemingly regained control, building their lead to 101-89 with 8:11 to play.

The Mavericks outscored them, 24-12, to force overtime.

"Great win, great game," Nash said. "We showed a lot of toughness and we really hung in there. There were a lot of opportunities for us to quit."

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