May 5, 2002
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- In the first heat of what's looking like a best-of-seven track meet, the Kings simply ran away from Dallas.
Peja Stojakovic scored 26, and Vlade Divac had 18 points and 16 rebounds as the Kings beat the Mavericks 108-91 Saturday in the opening game of the teams' West semifinal series.
The anticipated meeting of the league's highest-scoring teams mostly lived up to its billing. But the Mavs never got into gear, after leading the league in scoring and averaging more than 112 points a game in a first-round sweep of Minnesota.
Meanwhile, Sacramento played tough defense and capitalized on its low-post options of Chris Webber and Divac -- options the Mavericks don't have.
The Kings won the Pacific and finished with the NBA's best regular-season record, but might be considered an underdog against Dallas, with its up-tempo offense and collection of scorers.
What's more, the Mavericks had won their last three games in Sacramento and were the only opponent to beat the Kings twice at Arco Arena during the regular season. They took three of four from the Kings overall.
But with a solid Game 1 victory, Sacramento reminded the league which team showed Dallas coach Don Nelson that this up-tempo style could work in the first place.
Dirk Nowitzki had 23 points -- on 8-of-24 shooting -- and 14 rebounds for the Mavs, and Michael Finley had 21 points and Nick Van Exel 15. All-Star point guard Steve Nash struggled, scoring 12 and making four turnovers.
Webber scored 20 in the first three quarters, but fouled out on two quick calls in the fourth. His hands balled tightly into fists, the Kings' leading scorer watched from the bench as Stojakovic, Divac and Mike Bibby led the Kings to victory.
The Kings, backed by another deafening Arco Arena crowd, won a second-round playoff game for the first time since moving to Sacramento in 1985.
LOS ANGELES -- The NBA's dream series last year turned into a mismatch -- a fact the Spurs know all too well.
After finishing off the Sonics on Friday 101-78, San Antonio gets another shot at Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and the rest of the Lakers.
They say they're looking forward to it, but odds aren't in their favor.
The Spurs probably will be without injured center David Robinson when the West semifinal begins today at Staples Center.
There's no telling when Robinson will return from a strained lower back, one of several obstacles the Spurs face.
"I honestly don't know if we will," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said Saturday when asked when his team will get Robinson back.
Robinson's absence might not be all bad for the Spurs, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
"There's a lot of positive aspects for San Antonio -- this means they'll be quicker starting off, they'll be able to fast break better off the giddyup," Jackson said.
However, he added: "Ultimately, David's one of the best if not the best defensive center in the league."
Considering O'Neal's inside strength, that's a huge loss.
Robinson played seven minutes in San Antonio's first-round series against Seattle, but wasn't needed in the Game 5 clincher.
While the Spurs were being extended in the first round, the Lakers are well-rested, having completed a sweep of Portland last week to give them 19 wins in their past 20 playoff games -- unprecedented in league history.