SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)—Dirk Nowitzki moved, pump-faked and let fly just before the final buzzer. In a game featuring 237 points, he was almost certain the Dallas Mavericks’ postseason would be extended with one last basket.
Instead, the first-round series matching the NBA’s two best offenses ended with a clang—and the Sacramento Kings finally exhaled.
Mike Bibby set career playoff bests with six 3-pointers and 36 points, and Nowitzki missed a jumper at the buzzer while being defended by Peja Stojakovic as the Kings eliminated the Mavericks with a 119-118 victory Thursday night in Game 5 of their first-round series.
The Kings’ final three victories in the series all came down to the final shot, but Dallas came up short—or long, or off-center—on all three tries. After Michael Finley and Steve Nash failed before him, Nowitzki was bothered just enough by Stojakovic—again an improbable defensive hero.
“I just hoped he would miss it,” Stojakovic said. “Everybody had been making shots all night, so there wasn’t much we could do. We just tried to score more points than them.”
Stojakovic scored 23 points for the Kings, who tied their franchise playoff record of 11 3-pointers for the second time in the series. Sacramento needed every one of them, since Dallas held the Kings scoreless in the final 3:22.
The Mavericks closed within one point with 29.4 seconds left on a putback layup by Nowitzki, who had 31 points. Bibby ran the clock down and drove the lane, but couldn’t draw a foul on Nowitzki and threw the ball away.
Steve Nash got the ball to Nowitzki, who barely missed. Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof rushed the court in celebration while the sellout crowd roared and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban frowned.
“I think that’s a shot that I can make,” Nowitzki said. “It looked pretty good. I had a good fake, a good look at it. It’s disappointing, but it never should have come down to that.”
All-Star Brad Miller scored 21 points in a series-high 44 minutes for the Kings, who advanced to a probable second-round meeting with the top-seeded Timberwolves. Minnesota, which could close out Denver on Friday night, was the only opponent to win two games in Sacramento this season.
After three games mostly dominated by defense and bad shooting, the NBA’s two highest-scoring teams went back to the form they showed in the 221-point series opener. It was easily the highest-scoring game in the playoffs this season, with both teams reaching 100 points early in the fourth quarter and never letting up.
“That’s the game we were waiting for between these two teams,” Kings coach Rick Adelman said. “We just kept coming back and coming back and staying with it. I thought Dallas played a great series. It really could have gone the other way.”
Rookie Marquis Daniels scored 19 points for the Mavericks, whose entertaining nucleus might have played together for the last time. Nash is expected to opt out of his contract to become a free agent, and Cuban can’t be satisfied by a first-round exit for his highly-paid team.
Coach Don Nelson, whose future is up in the air, wanted a foul called against Stojakovic on the final play.
“We should be going home to play another good basketball game,” he said. “Instead, we’re going home and playing nobody for a very long time.”
The Kings knocked out the Mavs for the second time in three seasons. Dallas beat Sacramento in seven games in last spring’s playoffs.
“I don’t know if we need to change personnel or change our identity in some way, but we’ve got to get better on defense,” Nash said.
Showing off his celebratory bigfoot walk after nearly every big basket, Bibby scored 16 points in the second quarter, making nine straight shots altogether. He added 12 in the fourth to polish his playoff reputation and win a compelling duel with Nash, who had 24 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds.
The Mavericks opened with the appropriate desperation for a do-or-die game. They led 15-2 before most fans had settled into their seats, eventually scoring 37 points in the first quarter.
But once Bibby got going, the lead evaporated quickly. The Kings made their run with reserves Miller, Darius Songaila and Anthony Peeler playing most ofthe minutes, while Webber didn’t even get on the court in the second quarter.
The Kings won a playoff series for the fourth straight season—the longest streak in the history of a franchise that began life as the Rochester Royals. … After struggling at the free throw line in Game 4, Dallas was 18-of-18. … Vlade Divac, whose minutes and confidence have declined in the last two months, missed two layups in the first four minutes and never played again. … Raiders defensive lineman Warren Sapp sat courtside. Actor MarkWahlberg wore a Kings cap several seats down the row.