He knew perfectly well.
“It was me,” Christie said, chuckling.
Christie’s only flaw was that missed free throw in the first quarter.
He had 20 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a steal to lead the Kings to a 115-109 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night, evening the Western Conference semifinal series 3-3. Game 7 is Saturday night in Dallas.
“I was blessed with some ability and my job is to make this team go, whatever way,” Christie said. “I was just very focused and tried to do anything and everything I could.”
Nick Van Exel nearly singlehandedly put Dallas into the conference finals for only the second time, scoring 35 points on 15-for-23 shooting in 37 minutes.
He leapt high for a rebound and scored on a putback with 8:16 left for a 95-94 lead, but the Mavs then didn’t make another basket for 5:05.
“We had a great advantage up 3-2,” Van Exel said. “We needed to take care of this tonight. We let it slip away.”
Peja Stojakovic had 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Kings, who played their fourth game in the series without injured star Chris Webber. Sacramento overcame a sluggish first quarter and converted 31 of 32 free throws, including 30 straight after Christie’s miss.
The Mavs remain one win away from advancing to the conference finals, while the Kings’ quest for the franchise’s first title in 52 years is still alive.
Dallas, eliminated in five games by Sacramento last season, did not want to go the distance in this series after being pushed to the limit by Portland in the first round.
Webber limped helplessly around the sidelines in his designer duds and watched nervously from the edge of his seat, popping his bubble gum anxiously.
“I’m always nervous when I’m not playing,” he said. “It was hard, but I knew we were going to win.”
His supporting cast came through just fine, with Christie again setting the tone early—hustling for loose balls, going hard to the glass and making big baskets. At one point in the third period, Christie gathered his crew together for a pep talk, then scored six straight points and six of his team’s eight during a 10-3 run spanning two minutes.
He’d scored a combined 34 points in his previous two games.
The deafening crowd of 17,317 became more raucous in the second half. The Kings sold out for the 178th consecutive game, the longest active streak in the league.
Walt Williams missed a go-ahead 3-pointer with 12 seconds left, and Bobby Jackson made two free throws on the other end to ice the victory.
Adelman was desperate to see his Kings play well for all 48 minutes after they blew an early lead in Game 5 with an atrocious third quarter, shooting 3-for-25. Their 10 points were the fewest ever by a Dallas opponent in a postseason quarter.
Mavs coach Don Nelson was able to block out the noise—his best friend and golfing buddy in Maui, Jim Sanders, mailed him a fancy, $13 pair of earplugs, an upgrade from the “cheapies” he used in the first two games at Arco.
“They’re the ones the entertainers wear,” Nelson pointed out.
One fan held a sign reading, “Never ? the heart of a King.” Another group each held up a letter to spell “B-E-L-I-E-V-E.” And the clanging cowbells were out in force, too.
Webber, the Kings’ leader in scoring, rebounding and assists, tore cartilage in his left knee in Game 2 and the injury will require arthroscopic surgery that will keep him out at least four-to-six weeks.
But Webber put off the procedure, hoping to possibly play again this seasonif the Kings reach the NBA Finals.
Commissioner David Stern opted to attend Game 6 of the Mavs-Kings rather than go to L.A. for the Spurs-Lakers, where the three-time defending champions were eliminated. “You know what? I’ve been to L.A. already this year and I haven’t been to Sacramento,” Stern said. “I wanted to be here.” Stern was booed when he was announced during the game. … Sacramento center VladeDivac didn’t have a rebound in the first half.