Sacramento (52-22) at Dallas (46-28)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Dallas, TX
Temp: 77° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EST Thu Apr 1, 2004
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Sacramento Kings are trying to hold on to their shrinking lead atop the Western Conference standings as they visit the Dallas Mavericks.

Sacramento’s lead in the West was whittled down to a single game over the surging Los Angeles Lakers and Midwest Division-leading Minnesota Timberwolves after Wednesday’s 107-89 loss to defending NBA champion San Antonio.

Peja Stojakovic scored 19 points and Doug Christie added 17 for the Kings, who are 4-6 in their last 10 games. Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Mike Bibby all had 14 points for Sacramento.

The Kings played without top rebounder Brad Miller, who has bursitis in his right elbow and is questionable for Thursday’s game.

“We can use all the excuses in the world, but we have to have a sense of urgency right now,” Webber said. “You have to fight like you are fighting for the eighth spot in the playoffs every night.”

The Kings are also in danger of losing their grip on the Pacific Division lead to the Lakers, who have reeled off nine straight wins. Both teams have eight games remaining, but Sacramento will be on the road for five of those contests, starting with Thursday’s trip to Dallas.

“It’s all in our hands now,” Kings coach Rick Adelman said. “There is no hiding now.”

The Kings are 10-11 on the road against Western Conference opponents.

The Mavericks, currently sixth in the West standings, are 2-0 since inserting Antoine Walker into the starting lineup at center. Dirk Nowitzki had 35 points and a season-high 18 rebounds and Steve Nash added a season-high 31 points and 10 assists as Dallas ran past Cleveland 126-109 on Tuesday.

“I think it’s important to play loose,” Nash said. “That’s what we are.”

The return to an offensive-minded approach—which makes sense considering Dallas is the league’s highest-scoring team—started Sunday with a 30-point victory over Orlando. Wednesday’s victory clinched a playoff berth and moved the Mavs within two games of Memphis for the fifth seed in the West.

Dallas’ Michael Finley returned from a three-game absence due to a calf injury, but played only 10 minutes, scoring two points. His status is day-to-day.

“As long as he is ready by playoffs and ready to play some long minutes the last three or four games of the season, I’d be happy,” Nelson said.

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