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Kings' Victory Is an Even One

Sacramento defeats Dallas, 115-109, to tie Western Conference semifinal series at three games each and force a decisive Game 7.

May 16, 2003|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Six games weren't enough.

Six games decided nothing.

Six games showed that the Dallas Mavericks and Sacramento Kings are evenly matched, especially with Chris Webber out of the King lineup, capable of producing highly entertaining, hotly contested, high-energy basketball.

Six games, spread out over 10 nights and two cities, couldn't determine a winner in their Western Conference semifinal playoff series.

Only one game separated the Pacific Division champion Kings and Midwest Division runner-up Mavericks during the regular season, the Mavericks finishing with 60 victories to the Kings' 59, and only one will separate them in this series.

They'll play a decisive Game 7 on Saturday night at Dallas after the Kings knotted the best-of-seven set at three games apiece by holding serve Thursday night with a 115-109 Game 6 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 17,317 in Arco Arena.

The Kings' victory wasn't assured until they had made 31 of 32 free throws, the last four by Bobby Jackson and Jim Jackson in the last 8.5 seconds to hold off the Mavericks.

Led by Peja Stojakovic, who finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, five Kings scored at least 16 points. Vlade Divac and Bobby Jackson each scored 21 and Doug Christie scored 20, making all but one of his 11 free throws. Jim Jackson had 16 points and 12 rebounds, nine rebounds in the fourth quarter.

The Kings overcame a brilliant performance by Nick Van Exel, who scored a game-high 35 points and gave the Mavericks their only lead of the second half when he made a follow shot from the baseline to make the score 95-94.

But the Kings, with Stojakovic and Jim Jackson providing all the points, answered with a 9-0 run to take the lead for good. Their victory set up a one-game playoff to determine which team will take on the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference final.

"They were a little hungrier than we were tonight," said Van Exel, who has scored at least 35 points in three of the six games.

Steve Nash made two three-point shots to pull the Mavericks within 111-109, but after Walt Williams missed a three-pointer that would have given them the lead, Bobby Jackson took the rebound and was fouled with 8.5 seconds left.

"I didn't think we played well enough to win," Maverick Coach Don Nelson said, "but I thought if we had gotten a little luck and Walt Williams had made that three at the end maybe we could have stolen one."

Ever since the Kings failed to close out the Lakers in last year's Western Conference finals, they've considered themselves the favorites to win this year's championship.

And their confidence had remained high despite the knee injury that sidelined Webber last week. Webber, the Kings' scoring leader, said he would delay surgery in hopes of returning in time for the NBA Finals.

The Kings started poorly Thursday, missing their first nine shots. But they rallied after spotting the Mavericks a 13-4 lead, catching up early in the second quarter. They led at halftime, 57-52, after making 54% of their shots in the second quarter, and stayed on top until early in the fourth.

"I give Dallas credit," King Coach Rick Adelman said. "They kept making runs at us and we wouldn't fold. I think the biggest thing down the stretch is we made stops, and we just kept working. And as a result we got a win."

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