OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Stephen Jackson swore he felt the arena shake at times, the sellout crowd swelling to its yellow seams with every basket, blocked shot and improbable turn in the Golden State Warriors’ victory.
Every minute of this game seemed worth a 13-year wait for the Warriors’ faithful fans who loved their club long before it even dreamed of being halfway to knocking the Dallas Mavericks out of the playoffs.
Jason Richardson had 30 points and eight rebounds, Baron Davis added 24 points and the Warriors steamrolled NBA-leading Dallas for the second time in three games, winning 109-91 Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.
“The place was jumpin’,” said Jackson, who had 16 points. “That’s a great night.”
The Bay Area’s first NBA playoff game since May 4, 1994, was a rollicking success for the eighth-seeded Warriors, who endured 12 straight losing seasons before coach Don Nelson got them back to the playoffs this spring.
And after dominating both ends of the court in another improbably comfortable win over the mighty Mavericks, the Warriors are halfway to what probably would be the biggest first-round upset in NBA playoff history—if Golden State can recapture this marvelous formula two more times.
“We just love playing them,” Richardson said. “We get up for them. They’re the best team in the NBA. We pretty much know these guys. … I think they just had a bad game tonight. We can’t be overconfident about this game. We’ve still got another couple of games to try to win.”
Game 4 in the best-of-seven series is Sunday night in Oakland, with Game 5 back in Dallas on Tuesday.
The biggest crowd in Warriors history—20,629 fans wearing yellow T-shirts packed into the rafters of Oracle Arena—rarely sat down during Oakland’s biggest party in years. The fans gleefully chanted “Overrated!” at the flustered Mavs and Dirk Nowitzki, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds in another poor performance.
Monta Ellis scored 14 points for the Warriors, who extended their uncanny Mavs mastery with their seventh win in the clubs’ last eight meetings overall, including a three-game regular-season sweep.
“I think we caught them off-guard tonight,” Davis said. “We just played with an unbelievable confidence, a tenacity on defense. … Our style of play is hard to guard, because you’ve got five guys that can penetrate and make plays.”
The Warriors led throughout the final 44 minutes, taking an 18-point lead in the first half and going up by 22 in the third quarter before coasting home. Richardson was largely unstoppable, mixing drives with four 3-pointers in the six-year veteran’s first playoff showcase at home.
“I knew it was coming,” Davis said of Richardson’s brilliance. “What better time for him to break out than in his first home game?”
So what’s wrong with the Mavs? Not even coach Avery Johnson seems to know. After posting the sixth-best regular season in NBA history, the Mavericks have looked inexplicably ordinary against the Warriors’ speed and skill.
“We tried anything to get it going here, and we just didn’t have it,” Nowitzki said. “We know the pressure is going to be on us. We won 67 games, and we said all along our goal is a championship. Anything else would be a disappointment. The pressure is on a lot of shoulders.”
Nowitzki battled constant foul trouble in Game 3, and Golden State’s hustling defense somehow turned the probable league MVP into a bumbler or a bystander on most Dallas possessions. His teammates were little help outside of Josh Howard’s 20 points, with Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse both enduring poor shooting nights.
“We just didn’t do a lot of the detail things that we’ve been doing all year,” Johnson said. “We just didn’t keep our cool. We’re normally a team that keeps our cool. We look like they did in Game 2, which I’m really disappointed with more than anything, how we lost our composure.”
The Warriors shocked Dallas 97-85 in Game 1 with their uptempo offense and fearless play, but fell apart in the second half of an otherwise competitive Game 2. Davis and Jackson were ejected, and Jackson was hit with a $50,000 fine from the league Friday for his behavior.
But Golden State regained its momentum and maturity back home. The Warriors controlled the tempo and the Mavericks missed open shots while Golden State took a 61-48 halftime lead.
Davis was brilliant in scoring Golden State’s final basket—rolling off Biedrins’ pick and herding Nowitzki into the paint before banging home a layup and drawing Nowitzki’s third foul with 3 seconds to go.
The Mavs’ frustration bubbled over in the third quarter, with Howard, Stackhouse and Devin Harris all picking up technical fouls.
Nelson tweaked his starting lineup, inserting Andris Biedrins in place of Al Harrington. … Actors Kate Hudson and Owen Wilson attended the game. Hudson and Davis, an aspiring movie producer, were high school classmates in Santa Monica, while Wilson is from the Dallas area.
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