|Mavericks will try to save their season back home|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 29 April 2007 22:15|
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -Don Nelson had one message for Baron Davis at the morning shootaround: ``dominate.''|
Davis had no problem obliging, despite the Dallas Mavericks' increased, more intense defensive pressure as they attempted to save face in their first-round playoff series with the Warriors.
Instead, the top-seeded Mavs are on the brink of an embarrassing early exit at the hands of eighth-seeded Golden State after a 103-99 loss Sunday night in Game 4 that gave the Warriors a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
``We've got a lot of basketball left in us,'' Dallas guard Jason Terry said. ``We've got to want it. This is a test to see how much this team wants to continue playing.''
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Texas.
If Golden State can pull off the upset, the Warriors would join only the Denver Nuggets (1994) and the New York Knicks (1999) as teams that have won a playoff series as a No. 8 seed - and the other two did it in the former best-of-five format.
In other NBA playoff games Sunday, Chicago defeated defending champion Miami 92-79 to complete a sweep of their first-round series, Phoenix beat the Los Angeles Lakers 113-100 to a take a 3-1 series lead, and New Jersey routed Toronto 102-81 to go up 3-1 as well.
Davis had five of his 33 points and two key assists in the final 3 1/2 minutes to lead the rally, and that was just the conclusion of another brilliant game for the do-everything guard.
``When we do the little things, we put ourselves in a position to win,'' Davis said.
All of his extraordinary feats sure help, too.
Davis knocked down a 3-pointer from just a few steps inside the midcourt line at the halftime buzzer to tie the game at 49 heading into the break. He had one sequence late in the third quarter that perfectly told the story: Davis swished a 3 with a hand in his face to pull Golden State within 77-75, blocked Jerry Stackhouse's 3-point attempt on the other end, then dunked moments later off a steal to send the game into the final quarter tied at 77.
``We gave Baron different looks - he just makes tough shots,'' Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. ``We trapped him five times and he split it every time. ... He's a strong-willed guy.''
That describes the Warriors these days, too.
When Stephen Jackson joined the team back in January, Golden State lacked the poise to pull off a win as monumental as its latest playoff triumph.
And the Mavericks certainly didn't have the wherewithal to blow it in such a big game the way they were clicking at the time - in the midst of the best regular season in franchise history.
``We are learning how to stay in games and finish games,'' said Jackson, acquired from Indiana in an eight-player deal that also brought Al Harrington to the Warriors and sent Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy to the Pacers.
Johnson is still learning a thing or two from his old mentor, Nelson.
The Dallas players are getting outdone by a team that wasn't supposed to do much more than show up in these NBA playoffs, but Nelson has the Warriors believing they can shake up the seedings. It was the Mavericks less than two weeks ago who lost their second-to-last game at Golden State 111-82 and helped secure the Warriors' first playoff berth in 13 years.
``Our crowd is going to be in a frenzy and excited to be in the game, and that's all we need to think about,'' Johnson said, looking ahead to Game 5 back home.
If the Mavs can't pull off an improbable comeback, Mark Cuban's club's seventh straight playoff trip will be considered one of the most royal failures in playoff history.
``You look in the locker room right now and everyone's very disappointed obviously,'' said Dirk Nowitzki, who had 23 points, 15 rebounds and four steals. ``Now, our back's against the wall and we have to come out swinging.''
Nelson, who groomed Johnson to be his replacement in Dallas, has been mellow throughout Golden State's first playoff trip since he took the Warriors to the postseason during his first stint as coach in 1994. Nellie sat outside in the back of a pickup truck before the morning shootaround, smoking a cigar with a couple of others.
And if the Warriors keep playing like this, they will be on to the Western Conference semifinals for the first time since 1991, when they lost in the second round to the Los Angeles Lakers.
``It just shows the growth of this team,'' said Jason Richardson, who had 22 points, five rebounds and four steals. ``We just grew during the season and took some losses. We don't care now. ... We knew we were going to win this game.''
Johnson, finishing his second full season in charge, has been feeling the pressure. His players called a team meeting Saturday in an effort to get back on track, but the Mavs did themselves in with 19 turnovers that led to 33 points for Golden State.
Johnson said his team needed to rediscover all the things that led Dallas to be NBA's best regular-season record of 67-15.
``We haven't played with the type of swagger we played with all year,'' Johnson said. ``We're going to need to get it and get it here soon.''
Bulls 92, Heat 79
Ben Gordon scored 24 points, Luol Deng had 22 points and 11 rebounds to help visiting Chicago win a postseason series for the first time since the Michael Jordan era,
The Bulls, who will face Detroit in the second round, became the first team to oust a defending champion in the opening playoff series since Phoenix did it to San Antonio in 2000.
Dwyane Wade scored 24 points for Miami on 8-for-22 shooting, and added 10 assists. Shaquille O'Neal had 16 points, Alonzo Mourning scored 14 and James Posey had 18 rebounds - a club playoff-record 17 on the defensive end - for the Heat.
Suns 113, Lakers 100
At Los Angeles, Steve Nash had 23 assists - one shy of the NBA playoff record - to go with 17 points, Amare Stoudemire had 27 points and a career playoff-high 21 rebounds for Phoenix.
Shawn Marion added 22 points and 11 rebounds to help the Suns move within one win of advancing past the Lakers in the first round for the second straight year.
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 31 points, seven rebounds and nine assists, but scored only three points in the fourth quarter. Lamar Odom added 19 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.
Nets 102, Raptors 81
Vince Carter scored 27 points, Richard Jefferson added 23, and host New Jersey got the second-biggest playoff win in franchise history.
Jason Kidd added 17 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds for the Nets, who made a franchise playoff-record 14 3-pointers.
Andrea Bargnani scored 16 points for the Raptors, who led for all of 15 seconds in the two games at the Meadowlands and lost their eighth straight road playoff game.
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