No slowing down
Christie returns from ankle injury to spark Kings past MavsPosted: Friday May 10, 2002 12:44 AM
Updated: Friday May 10, 2002 3:55 AM
DALLAS (AP) -- Thousands of cowbells and a couple of ankle injuries weren't enough to slow down the Sacramento Kings.
The Kings, who lost second-leading scorer Peja Stojakovic to a sprained ankle in the third quarter, took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals. Game 4 is Saturday in Dallas.
"To me the biggest thing was winning this game. We couldn't go down 2-1," said Kings forward Chris Webber, who finished with 31 points and 15 rebounds.
Along with Webber's inside presence, Vlade Divac added 19 points and 13 rebounds to help the Kings add a little muscle to the matchup of the league's two highest-scoring teams.
"We worked the last couple of days on getting it inside and it worked tonight," Divac said.
The Kings rode Bibby's hot shooting to a 15-point lead in the first quarter, then leaned on Christie who provided several key baskets and solid defense during a 14-4 run midway through the fourth quarter that gave Sacramento a 105-97 lead.
Bibby and Christie continually silenced the capacity crowd of 20,265 in the American Airlines Center, many of whom came armed with cowbells, kazoos and various plastic noisemakers distributed by the team.
"[Bibby] was unbelievable. He made big plays for us all night," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "I was worried that he would run out of gas, but that's Mike. He's a competitor."
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban encouraged fans to bring all sorts of noisemakers in response to Sacramento fans clanging cowbells behind Dallas' bench during the first two games of the series.
Just before Thursday's game, about 500 cowbells were distributed by a local company to people sitting in the seats behind the Kings' bench.
The cacophony began about an hour before tipoff and continued throughout the game.
It didn't seem to bother the Kings much.
"I have fun in situations like that," said Bibby, who was 5-for-5 from 3-point range. "Them being loud and rowdy got me going. You can't play in a better atmosphere."
They were more worried about Christie, their top defensive player, who sprained his right ankle in the second quarter and had to be carried to the locker room. The team said he would not return to the game. But when Stojakovic was injured with 5:09 left in the third quarter and also had to be carried off the court, Christie returned with less than a minute left in the quarter.
Stojakovic didn't return but Christie took over.
"When those two guys are both out, we got real thin," Adelman said. "I just hoped we had enough energy, but when Doug came back -- that was huge."
Christie didn't miss a shot, going 6-for-6 from both the field and the free throw line. His biggest 3-pointer followed one by Dallas' Steve Nash that had pulled the Mavericks within 111-107.
"Doug's so tough. I was worried when he left," Webber said. "Not many players have his heart."
Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki finished with 19 points on 6-for-15 shooting and the Mavericks were just 8-for-25 from 3-point range with Nash, who finished with 15 points, going 2-for-10.
And as bad as the Mavericks were on the offense, they were even worse on defense.
They allowed the Kings to shoot 74 percent (14-of-19) from the field in the first quarter as the Kings went up 13-2.
"I think that was the key to the game," Nash said. "We didn't play well enough defensively. They got too many open looks, too many putback-layups and scored too easily inside."
Early in the second quarter the Kings led 40-25, but Finley rallied the Mavericks late in the period by scoring six of the team's eight points, then feeding Eduardo Najera for a layup to pull Dallas within 54-51.
Mavericks' reserve 7-foot-1 forward Wang Zhizhi hit a jumper from just inside the 3-point line at the halftime buzzer to pull the Mavericks to a 66-66 tie.
Nowitzki's sub-par offensive outing also affected his rebounding as he finished with just five boards after pulling down 15 in Game 2.
The Kings had a lot to do with Nowitzki's struggles, consistently double-teaming him and forcing him away from his favorite shooting spots on the court.
"That's their No. 1 priority," Mavericks coach Don Nelson said. "They're not letting him get open -- double-teaming him, stepping up on him, taking everything away that he likes to do. That is a great learning situation for him, but it's unpleasant to go through."
Notes: After playing with a limited bench in Game 2, Adelman used his reserves early and often. Fittingly, his first sub was Scot Pollard, who did not play in Game 2. ... Stojakovic had four points at halftime, all on free throws. The first two were on technicals. He finished with six. ... Najera played 10 minutes despite a broken right thumb that was heavily taped. He was 3-of-4 from the free throw line and finished with five points.