Sticking to those thoughts even after falling behind by 10 in the opening minutes, the Mavericks roared back in their second-round series with a record-setting offensive display Thursday night.
Dirk Nowitzki made five of Dallas’ 11 straight baskets in the first quarter, and Van Exel went 8-of-9 in the first half as the Mavs set or tied several NBA playoff scoring records in a 132-110 victory, tying their second-round matchup at one game apiece.
Van Exel scored a career playoff-high of 36 in 30 minutes, and he didn’t even get rolling until after the big run of consecutive shots. He sparked a 30-7 run in the second quarter with three straight 3-pointers.
His biggest contribution, though, was inspiring his teammates to keep believing in themselves after a lopsided loss in the opener made them 2-8 in their last 10 games against the Kings.
“I hope it had a lot to do with it,” Van Exel said. “I thought we responded and played with a lot of heart and aggressiveness.”
Their streak of made baskets was a thing of beauty. It included four 3-pointers, three by Nowitzki—one of which he turned into a four-point play. Nowitzki had 14 points during that run and finished with 24 in 30 minutes.
“Nick got our attention and we responded,” said surprise starter Adrian Griffin, who had eight of Dallas’ first 16 points and finished with 15. “That’s the sign of a great leader, when you not only tell people what to do but then lead by example.”
The Mavs set a first-half playoff scoring record with 83 points and were one shy of the mark for the first quarter with 44. With 113 points through three quarters, they even had a shot at the playoff record of 157 set by Boston against New York in 1990. But they scored only seven in the final 8:52.
“I think that’s as well as we’ve played for three quarters,” Dallas coach Don Nelson said. “Boy, we really had it rolling.”
The loss may have been extra costly for Sacramento.
All-Star forward Chris Webber was carried to the locker room by four teammates late in the third quarter after he injured his left knee while going for a lob pass. He limped back to the bench on his own early in the fourth and didn’t return. The exact nature of Webber’s injury was uncertain. He’ll undergo an MRI exam Friday.
“I just twisted it,” said Webber, who led the Kings with 31 points in 29 minutes.
Also, backup guard Bobby Jackson, winner of the NBA’s Sixth Man award, fractured his right cheekbone in a fourth-quarter collision. His status for Game 3 is not yet known.
What seemed like it might be a short series after the Kings dominated the opener has taken an exciting twist heading into Games 3 and 4, which will be played Saturday and Sunday nights in Sacramento.
“It’s only one game. There’s five more if we need them,” Sacramento’s Mike Bibby said.
Knowing that the winner of all five previous meetings this season had led after one period, Nelson called timeout with 8:19 left in the first and his team trailing 20-10. A fan behind midcourt even stood and held up a sign that read, “Wake Up.”
Did they ever.
Starting with a tip-in by Griffin with 7:05 left, Dallas went more than six minutes without missing to go ahead 42-40, invigorating the crowd of 20,491. At 44-40 after one period, the teams tied the combined playoff scoring record of 84 points and the Mavs were shooting 77 percent.
The Kings had to be frustrated considering they shot 55 percent and scored their most points in 21 quarters this postseason yet still trailed by four.
“We couldn’t keep up with them,” Sacramento’s Peja Stojakovic said. “It was unbelievable. There were just so many points. Still, it’s one game. Every good team responds. They really jumped on us, like we did Tuesday night.”
Stojakovic typified how the Kings deflated, going from 17 points in the first quarter to seven over the next two quarters. He sat out the fourth.
The lead peaked at 35 early in the fourth as Dallas ended a five-game home losing streak to Sacramento.
“Tonight was their night,” Divac said. “They just don’t slow down. Ifthey’re making or missing shots, they just keep shooting.”
Dallas’ 83 points at halftime were four points shy of the NBA playoff record for points in any half. The record was set by another Nelson-coached team, the 1978 Milwaukee Bucks. … Paul Silas, fired as Hornets coach on Sunday, watched from the stands as a guest of Nelson. The two were roommates onthe Boston Celtics in the 1970s.