• Game info: 10:30 pm EDT Thu Apr 29, 2004
  • TV: TNT
Preview | Box Score | Recap | Series Breakdown

PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference first round; Kings lead 3-1.

Even the Dallas Mavericks are an ordinary offensive team when they can’t make shots.

Struggling to look like the team that led the NBA in scoring during the regular season, the Mavericks will be facing elimination when they visit the Sacramento Kings for Game 5 of their first-round series.

The Mavericks averaged an NBA-best 105.2 points during the regular season, shooting 46 percent from the floor to rank third in the league.

But Dallas is shooting just 38 percent in the postseason, 15th among the 16 teams that made the playoffs. The poor shooting is a reason the Mavs trail 3-1 in a series they could easily be leading by the same margin.

A poor second-half shooting performance cost the Mavs in a four-point loss in Game 2, and dismal shooting was the biggest factor in a 94-92 loss in Game 4. Dallas shot just 34.7 percent from the field and was only 4-of-21 (19 percent) from 3-point range.

Despite the poor shooting, the Mavs still could have pulled the game out and tied the series if they hit their free throws. Instead, Dallas was only 20-for-33 (60.6 percent) from the line.

“We find ourselves between a rock and a hard place,” Dallas coach Don Nelson said. “We certainly played hard, but there were some factors in the game that killed us. Missing those free throws probably hurt us as much as anything.

“We struggled to shoot the ball. When you shoot 34 percent and 60 percent, you are not going to win many games against a good team.”

The sad irony for the Mavs is that they are playing much better defense than they usually do. After yielding 116 points in its Game 1 loss, Dallas has limited Sacramento to 85.3 points in the last three games.

But even when the Mavs do get stops, they can’t seem to capitalize by making the big shots they need. Michael Finley and Steve Nash have both failed to hit potential tying shots in the closing seconds of the two close losses.

“It’s very disappointing to shoot the ball so poorly in every aspect,” Nash said. “It’s not characteristic of our team. For once, no one’s got anything to say about our defense.”

Like Dallas, Sacramento star Peja Stojakovic wasn’t making shots for much of the series, but his struggles may have ended in Game 4.

After going 17-of-41 and averaging 16 points in the first three games, Stojakovic missed 10 of 11 shots in the first half of Game 4. But he rebounded to score 16 of his 20 points in the second half, looking like the player who was second in the NBA this season with 24.3 points per game.

The Kings are now in position to oust the Mavs for the second time in three years. They eliminated Dallas in five games in the 2002 Western Conference semifinals.

“We’ve got three to win one. We want to do it as soon as possible,” Kings forward Chris Webber said. “This is the position we wanted to be in, but we’ve got to finish it off.”

The Mavs are hoping to force a return to Dallas, where they had the NBA’s best home record at 36-5. Dallas won two Game 7s last year—including a victory over Sacramento in the semifinals—and thinks it can win two games to force another one in this series.

“It is still a doable task and we just have to stay as positive as we can and focus on the next game in Sacramento,” Finley said.

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Mavericks - 5th seed. Kings - 4th seed.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Mavericks - F Dirk Nowitzki, F Finley, C Antoine Walker, G Nash, G Marquis Daniels. Kings - F Webber, F Stojakovic, C Vlade Divac, G Mike Bibby, G Doug Christie.

TEAM LEADERS: Mavericks - Nowitzki, 25.5 ppg and 11.3 rpg; Nash, 7.8 apg. Kings - Webber, 21.0 ppg and 9.8 rpg; Miller, 10.3 rpg; Christie, 5.8 apg.

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