Clark had a follow dunk with 16 seconds left as the shorthanded Kings made a serious statement with a 110-109 victory over the league-leading Dallas Mavericks.
Sacramento (34-16) came in having lost five of its last six games to fall into a three-team pack of teams chasing Dallas in the Western Conference. The Kings had dropped two of their last three games without All-Star forward Chris Webber, who is out another two weeks with a sprained ankle.
Sacramento appeared overmatched against Dallas, which had won four in a row overall and was 21-3 at home. But the Kings jumped to a big early lead and hung tough in a tight fourth quarter.
“We haven’t been playing good lately and we didn’t want to go into the (All-Star) break like that,” guard Mike Bibby said. “When you play as hard as you can, good things happen. … We knew they were going to come back, we just had to withstand it.”
“We’ve been struggling and have not been playing well over the last couple of games,” Kings coach Rick Adelman said. “Our guys were emotionally ready to play this game.”
On the next possession, Hedo Turkoglu missed an 18-footer, but Clark came in from the weak side, corraled the rebound with one hand and hammered it in for the winning basket. Playing many of his 25 minutes at Webber’s power forward spot, Clark had 17 points and eight rebounds.
The Mavs had a chance to win, but Nowitzki missed a fadeaway 15-footer as he was harassed by Peja Stojakovic, who is not known for his defense.
“We actually wanted to go after Bibby, but they took him out of the game, which was smart,” Nowitzki said.
“He played me well, but I thought I had a good look. He’s a great shooter, so you can’t just say it was good defense,” Stojakovic said. “We got lucky, especially since I bounced off of him. This year he’s made those shots, but tonight he didn’t.”
Including last year’s playoff series and an embarrassing 29-point loss at Sacramento on January 15, the Mavs have lost six of the last seven meetings.
“All you have to do is look at last year when we beat them three out of four times (in the regular season). That didn’t mean anything,” Mavs coach Don Nelson said. “They are a really good team and they play us well.”
Bibby scored 27 points and Stojakovic added 24 and a season-high 14 rebounds for the Kings, who shot 52 percent (44-of-85) from the field.
Nowitzki had 28 points and 16 rebounds and Michael Finley also scored 28 points for the Mavs, who shot 44 percent (38-of-87). Dallas fired away from long range, shooting 13-of-29 from the arc.
There were eight lead changes and two ties in the fourth quarter. Nowitzki passed out of a double-team to find Nick Van Exel for a 3-pointer that snapped a tie and gave Dallas a 100-97 lead with 6:29 to go.
Nowitzki’s jumper out of the low post kept the lead at three points before Sacramento surged. Jackson made a follow shot, Stojakovic buried a 3-pointer and Bibby sank two free throws for a 106-102 lead with 1:51 left.
Finley answered with a jumper and 3-pointer that gave Dallas a 107-106 edge with 57 seconds to play. Just five seconds later, Bibby curled around a pick and sank a 16-footer to reclaim the lead for Sacramento.
“It’s a tough loss,” Nowitzki said. “I don’t think we lost that game at the end. We lost it in the first quarter. Nobody was ready to play at the beginning.”
Stojakovic scored 15 points in the first quarter. He had 11 in a 16-4 burst that gave the Kings a 34-18 lead and silenced the crowd of 20,102 at the American Airlines Center.
“I was hitting, but then my teammates also started getting hot,” Stojakovic said. “It was a great team effort. We all had to step up and do the little things to win.”
Dallas closed to 64-58 at halftime, then scored the first six points of the third quarter to tie it before Stojakovic sank a jumper. A 3-pointer by Finley gave the Mavs an 83-82 edge with 1:52 to go, but Doug Christie’s jumper at the horn gave the Kings an 88-85 lead.
Turkoglu started in place of Webber and scored 17 points, and Divac added 11 points for Sacramento. Van Exel scored 17 points and Steve Nash added 13 and a season-high 14 assists for Dallas.