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Mavericks victory evens playoff series with Kings

By Greg Beacham The Associated Press
Tuesday May 07, 2002

Steve Nash and the Dallas Mavericks silenced the cowbells by beating the Sacramento Kings at their own thrilling game. 

Nash scored a career playoff-high 30 points and had eight assists, and Dirk Nowitzki added 22 points and 15 rebounds as the Mavericks evened their Western Conference semifinal series with a 110-102 victory Monday night over the top-seeded Kings. 

Game 3 is Thursday night in Dallas. 

Until the Kings fell into a 3 1/2-minute scoreless drought in the final minutes that allowed the Mavs to pull away, it was a constantly entertaining, end-to-end game — the kind everyone expected from the NBA’s highest-scoring teams, even under playoff pressure. 

Raef LaFrentz, who was terrible in Game 1, broke a 93-93 tie with a dunk and a layup set up by Nash with 3:07 left. LaFrentz finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. 

As Chris Webber complained after missing the Kings’ next shot, Nash motored to the other end for an acrobatic layup. A minute later, Nash fed Nowitzki for a dunk that gave Dallas a prohibitive lead, though the teams traded free throws for the final three minutes. 

Every minute seemed to bring another alley-oop dunk or a long jumper, and every fan at Arco Arena — dozens of them packing the cowbells that brought complaints from the Mavericks in Game 1 — must have left the building hoarse. Point guards Nash and Mike Bibby both had outstanding games, with Bibby recording 22 points and seven assists. 

Neither team grabbed a significant lead in the second half, but Sacramento’s defensive breakdowns made the difference. The Mavs, fueled by good ball movement, got dozens of open shots and uncontested rebounds to win for the fourth time in five games at Sacramento. 

Webber had 22 points and 12 rebounds for Sacramento. The Kings’ three-game winning streak ended with their fifth loss in their last eight home playoff games dating to last season. 

Held to 12 points in Game 1, Nash came out firing along with his teammates. He hit four 3-pointers and was 12-of-18 from the field, trading baskets with Bibby in the first three quarters before taking over in the fourth. 

Nick Van Exel scored 14 of his 19 points in the first half for Dallas. Michael Finley went 2-for-10 from the field, but had 11 points and 10 rebounds. 

Peja Stojakovic, who had 26 points in Game 1, went 5-for-19 from the field and finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Hedo Turkoglu had 15 points in a reserve role. 

Dallas coach Don Nelson threw the Kings a changeup in the starting lineup when he substituted veteran forward Johnny Newman for Eduardo Najera, who broke his thumb during warmups before Game 1. 

But Newman and his teammates didn’t stop the Kings from opening the game with a fearsome display of offensive firepower. Bibby, whose first trip to the playoffs has been encouraging but inconsistent, had his streaky jump shot in top form, hitting three 3-pointers among six consecutive baskets.