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Kings, Mavericks Go Limit

May 17, 2003|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

Dallas — Though the Lakers are no longer the prize, neither are they the obstacle.

While the San Antonio Spurs cool their heels this weekend, the Sacramento Kings and Dallas Mavericks finally will settle their Western Conference semifinal playoff series tonight in Game 7 at the American Airlines Center.

To the winner go the Spurs, who will play host to Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference finals Monday and Wednesday after dethroning the three-time champion Lakers with a 110-82 Game 6 victory Thursday night at Staples Center.

A few hours later Thursday, several hundred miles up I-5, the Kings put the finishing touches on a 115-109 victory over the Mavericks in Arco Arena, setting up tonight's decisive game in a frenetic, momentum-swinging series.

The teams' most recent Game 7 experiences are as different as their home arenas -- the steamy, gritty Arco and the cool, antiseptic AAC.

The Mavericks, on the verge of becoming the first team in NBA history to lose a best-of-seven playoff series after winning the first three games, rallied for a face-saving Game 7 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers two weeks ago.

The Kings won't be able to call on such fond memories, though the lessons learned in their overtime loss to the Lakers in Game 7 of last season's Western Conference finals may prove no less valuable.

"Whatever team chokes in those last six minutes of the game, the other team's going to win," reserve guard Bobby Jackson said.

The Lakers taught them that, Jackson said. "We gave that game away," he said, and King fans won't let them forget. This playoff season was supposed to be about redemption for the Kings, but then Chris Webber suffered a season-ending knee injury last week, diminishing their title hopes, and the Lakers were bounced.

"They've won three championships, so it doesn't sadden me that they're out," Jackson said of the Lakers. "I'm kind of happy that they're out."

The Mavericks probably are too. They've had little success against the Lakers, which is one reason few considered them a legitimate title contender despite their franchise-best 60-22 record during the regular season.

Still, they're only one victory short of reaching the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1988.

And, no disrespect to the Spurs, the West is wide open.

The Lakers have gone home.

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