Christie returned from a sprained right ankle and finished a flawless shooting game with a flourish as the Kings regained home-court advantage in their Western Conference semifinal series with a 125-119 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
Considered the defensive stalwart in Sacramento's diversified attack, Christie made his first two shots before twisting his ankle in the first quarter. He was not expected to return -- until All-Star forward Peja Stojakovic sprained his right ankle in the third quarter.
"The doctor wanted me to wait until Saturday and then I just said 'Peja's out, let me see what I can do, let me see if it will get warm,'" Christie said. "The trainer told me to go talk to the coaches and see if they'll let you get back in. Luckily, they did."
Christie came back late in the third period and was remarkably active in the final 12 minutes. He scored 10 points without a miss and held red-hot Michael Finley without a point for the first 10 minutes of the quarter.
"I just wanted to be aggressive," Christie said. "I didn't want to let the injury hamper what I was trying to do. Whatever pain was going to be there was going to be there. I understood that and I just tried to play as hard as I could."
Christie made 6-of-6 shots and 6-of-6 free throws, scoring 20 points. He was one of many weapons for the Kings, who wasted no time regaining the home-court edge they gave away with a loss in Game Two and grabbed a 2-1 series lead.
"I didn't know he played this well -- 6-for-6 and 20 points," Kings forward Chris Webber said. "We joke about it but that's the leader of this team. He's the Superman. He does everything for us and never gets the credit unless he does some type of Willis Reed-type thing like this. He plays hard every night and he was a big factor in this one."
"I looked up and saw he had six points (at halftime) and I didn't think he would be coming back," guard Mike Bibby said. "Then he came back in and he had 20. He's a warrior and he really played hard through some tough pain. He's a tough player every day in practice though, too."
Webber had 31 points and 15 rebounds and Bibby collected 29 points and eight assists. In the fourth quarter, the duo worked the pick-and-roll to perfection.
"Every chance I got I was going to run the pick-and-roll with Chris," Bibby said. "I know it's hard to stop."
"Mike and Chris carried us tonight," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "My only concern was that Mike was going to run out of gas because I couldn't take him out of the game. Every time Mike struggles in a game, he follows it up with a good game."
In a hostile environment, the Kings remained unbeaten on the road in the postseason. They led by as many as 15 points and trailed for just 30 seconds, playing through the din of hundreds of cowbells handed out by Dallas owner Mark Cuban to fans seated near their bench.
"We know what we are capable of doing," Bibby said. "When we go out and do it, play hard and help each other, it's hard to stop us."
Sacramento also did another solid job on Dallas All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki, who was limited to 19 points and five rebounds. Nowitzki has had his touches limited and is averaging 21.3 points and 11.3 rebounds after averaging 33.3 and 15.7 in a first-round sweep of Minnesota.
Finley scored 37 points for the Mavericks, who host Game Four on Saturday. As it was in Game One, Dallas was done in by poor shooting, making just 46 percent (43-of-94).
"It is a tough loss for us, but I am very interested to see how we respond," Dallas coach Don Nelson said. "This is a good indicator to see how we are coming along. I expect us to have a great game our next game. It will show some real growth if we do, so back to the drawing boards and we will try and do a better job next time."
Nowitzki's three free throws gave the Mavs their only lead at 91-89 with 26 seconds left in the third quarter as Christie returned. There were three ties before Bibby and Christie made consecutive 3-pointers to give the Kings the lead for good at 101-95 with 9:53 left.
A layup by Raef LaFrentz, who had 24 points and 13 rebounds, pulled Dallas within four, but Webber had a dunk and fed Christie for a dunk. He let out a primal scream as he gave Sacramento a 105-97 bulge with 7:28 to go.
LaFrentz dunked, but Christie scored again and Vlade Divac added two free throws for a 109-99 advantage with 6:13 to play. Dallas closed to 111-107 with 3:35 to go on a 3-pointer by Steve Nash, but Christie answered with a 3-pointer and Divac threw in a hook with 2:31 left.
Shut down in the fourth quarter by Christie to that point, Finley had a 3-pointer and dunk to make it 116-112 with 1:18 remaining. But he missed a free throw that could have made it a one-possession game, and Webber scored twice to seal it.
Divac had 19 points and 13 rebounds for Sacramento, which shot 53 percent (45-of-85) and held a 47-38 rebounding edge.
Nash had 15 points and 15 assists but made just 5-of-19 shots. He scored 30 points in Game Two.
"They were definitely more aggressive on the defense and showed a lot harder on me," Nash said. "I still got a lot of good looks, but I didn't knock them down."
This game was similar to Game Two. Sacramento shot 74 percent (14-of-19) in the first quarter and raced to a 38-25 lead despite losing Christie to his injury and Divac to foul trouble midway through the period.
"I think I came off of the pick-and-roll on defense and when I went to step back to the floor I just twisted it," Christie said. "I knew right then that it was not feeling too hot."
A basket by Webber opened the second period and gave the Kings their largest lead before Finley brought back the Mavs with 14 points. A jumper by Wang Zhizhi at the horn pulled Dallas into a 61-61 tie.
Stojakovic missed six of his first seven shots before twisting his ankle with 5:09 left in the third quarter. He was carried off the court by teammate Scot Pollard.