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Mavericks Apply the Chokehold

Dallas removes all suspense with a fourth-quarter blitz on the way to a 112-99 series-clinching victory over Sacramento.

May 18, 2003|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

DALLAS — Whoever choked in the last six minutes, Bobby Jackson of the Sacramento Kings had said, would lose Game 7 between the Kings and Dallas Mavericks.

We'll never know.

With six minutes to play Saturday night, the Mavericks already led by 13 points on their way to a 20-point lead and a 112-99 victory that set up an all-Texas Western Conference finals between the Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs.

Game 1 is Monday at San Antonio.

Before then, the Mavericks will have celebrated their second Game 7 victory in 14 days. Form finally held in a momentum-swinging series, the team with home-court advantage and its full roster intact advancing to the next round.

With injured scoring leader Chris Webber again watching from the bench, his left knee clearly paining him, the Kings were overmatched in the finale.

After leading by at least nine points at some point in each of the first six games, they never led by more than three in Game 7. And they trailed throughout the second half, the Mavericks ending all doubt about the outcome with a 22-7 blitz in 4 1/2 minutes in the fourth quarter that took their lead from 87-82 to 109-89.

Of course, the Mavericks said they'd seen this coming.

"I think we all visualized winning," point guard Steve Nash said, "and I think that's really important when you go into a game and feel like you've already won it in your mind. It makes it a lot easier to go out and execute."

Nobody executed better than forward Dirk Nowitzki, who made 12 of 20 shots (after making only 14 of 43 in the previous three games, two of them King victories) and finished with game highs of 30 points and 19 rebounds.

Nick Van Exel scored 23 points, Nash had 18 points and a career playoff-high 13 assists and Michael Finley also scored 18 points.

"We didn't play great for 48 minutes, but we kept the foot down," Nash said. "And I think when you keep that frame of mind, you stay aggressive, in the end it's going to work out for you."

Said King Coach Rick Adelman: "They were just relentless."

The Kings made only six of 23 shots in the first quarter and never really fell into a rhythm they found to their liking.

"We wanted to control the tempo and we never controlled the tempo," Adelman said. "A lot of that, I think, had to do with the first half and not making shots....

"In the first half, I was surprised we were as close as we were."

Mike Bibby, outplayed through most of the series by Nash and Van Exel, led the Kings with 25 points. Jim Jackson made 10 of 12 shots and scored 24 points, a playoff career high for the journeyman, and Peja Stojakovic scored 17.

It wasn't nearly enough on a night when Nowitzki reemerged.

"I thought he was a little bit more aggressive, especially when he got the ball," Adelman said. "I was afraid something like that was going to happen."

Coach Don Nelson, of course, had hoped it would.

"I think the onus fell on me [to get him more shots]," Nelson said. "We had asked him to be more of a passer ... when they were keying on him [earlier in the series] and ball movement was a high priority.

"Tonight, I just thought that we really needed to run more things for him to get him more shots [and] he was active and really into the game."

Still, with a sound Webber, who was injured in Game 2, the series might have turned out differently.

"You lose Chris Webber, it's like them losing Nowitzki or [Tim] Duncan going down for San Antonio," Adelman said. "But there's nothing you can do about it. You still have to come out as a team and believe you can win. I give our guys a tremendous amount of credit. They truly believed they could win this series with Chris out."

In the end, though, the Mavericks wouldn't let it happen.

"The main thing we said was that we weren't going to let up," Van Exel said of the decisive fourth-quarter surge. "We weren't going to hold onto the lead; we were going to play to extend the lead and that was the biggest key for us."

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