Nash poured in a playoff career-high 30 points and made several huge plays late as the Dallas Mavericks posted a 110-102 victory over the Sacramento Kings to even their Western Conference semifinal series at a game apiece.
The two highest scoring teams in the NBA lived up to their billing as Sacramento claimed a 60-59 halftime edge. The pace slowed in the second half but Nash, who added eight assists, had plenty of energy left.
The score was tied at 93-93 when Nash made perhaps the game's flashiest play. He used superb ballhandling to lose Bobby Jackson on the perimeter and rifled a pass behind his back to Raef LaFrentz, who dunked for a 95-93 lead with 3:48 to go.
Nash forced the tempo on the next possession and missed a jumper in transition but LaFrentz was there to clean up the miss. After Chris Webber missed badly, Nash took the outlet pass and never gave up the ball and again victimized Jackson for a layup and a 99-93 advantage with 2:44 left.
"I think there was a reason I was more aggressive," Nash said. "After the week off, I really felt sluggish and I didn't have much stamina. Tonight I felt a lot better, I had my legs back and was able to be a lot more aggressive."
The Mavericks had another fast-break opportunity and Nash fed Dirk Nowitzki for a dunk and an eight-point cushion with 1:28 remaining.
Webber and Mike Bibby scored 22 points apiece for Sacramento but Webber was limited to just four in the fourth quarter. He made only 4-of-15 shots in the second half.
"I don't think that we executed down the stretch," Webber said. "We couldn't make shots and they could. I think that was a key to this game."
Nowitzki posted his fifth double-double of the postseason with 22 points and 15 rebounds and LaFrentz bounced back from heavy criticism for 14 and 10. LaFrentz managed just three points and six rebounds in the Game One loss.
"In Game One, I didn't play well, the team didn't play well, everybody was a little frustrated with the effort and outcome of Game One," LaFrentz said. "Everybody wanted to right the ship."
Nash made 12-of-18 shots after converting only 4-of-12 shots in the first game for 12 points. Nick Van Exel came off the bench and scored 19 points for Dallas, which improved to 3-1 this season at Sacramento. The Mavericks also won both of their regular season games at Arco Arena.
The Kings posted the best home record in the NBA during the regular season at 36-5, but fell to just 2-2 at home in the playoffs, despite shooting 63 percent from the field in the first half.
"You have to give Dallas credit. They really came in and took it to us," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "Nash was terrific all night, Van Exel was really good, too."
"I think we played better defense, starting in the second quarter," Nowitzki said. "I thought our defense won the game for us."
Webber nailed a long jumper for an 87-87 tie with 8:24 remaining. Nash drilled a pair of 3-pointers around a basket by Sacramento guard Hedo Turkoglu for a 93-89 advantage. Webber dunked off an alley oop and Jackson scored to tie the game with just under five minutes left.
With Kings center Vlade Divac on the bench, LaFrentz was able to get inside twice for his baskets. Divac curiously sat for half of the final quarter and appeared hampered by a shoulder problem.
Sacramento received a sub-par outing from Peja Stojakovic, who scored 30 points in Game One but made just 5-of-19 shots for 14 points to go with 12 rebounds on Monday.
While Stojakovic struggled, Dallas shooting guard Michael Finley also had an off night. Finley was aggressive going to the basket but it did not pay off as he made just 2-of-10 for only 11 points.
Dallas had been outrebounded by 10 in the opener but LaFrentz's big effort helped the Mavericks to a 48-47 edge on the glass in Game Two.
"We made some adjustments, I thought they were successful," Dallas coach Don Nelson said. "We just played a better basketball game. It was a very competitive game both ways."
Sacramento came out strong and a 3-pointer by Bibby gave the Kings their largest lead at 36-23 after one quarter. Van Exel came up big in the second quarter with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting that helped keep the Mavericks in the game.
Fatigue may have been a reason for Sacramento's rough play down the stretch as it used only seven players in comparison to 11 for the Mavs. Webber played the entire second half and Stojakovic sat out for just two minutes in each half.