PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference first round; Kings lead 2-0.
With the next two games on their home court, the Mavs think they can get right back in the series.
Dallas returns to American Airlines Center—where it recorded the best home record in the NBA this season—to face Sacramento in the third game of their first-round series.
The Mavs and Kings played a wide-open affair in Game 1 last Sunday, with Sacramento winning 116-105 at Arco Arena. In Game 2 on Tuesday, points were at a premium, but the result was the same as the Kings won 83-79 to take a 2-0 series lead.
Dallas may have lost more than just the first two games of the series in Sacramento.
Antawn Jamison, named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year on Friday, is dealing with a back injury that caused his hamstrings to tighten in Game 2, limiting him to 11 scoreless minutes.
Jamison, who averaged 14.8 points and 6.3 rebounds off the bench this season, didn’t practice Thursday, instead going through strengthening exercises. Once he finished a series of lunges and pivots, he took some outside shots, then proclaimed himself ready for Saturday.
“I think the most important thing is to keep it loose,” he said. “When I sit down, I need to make sure I’m always doing something.”
That’s good news for the Mavs, who were clearly not the same team without Jamison in Game 2.
Dallas missed 10 straight shots during one first-half stretch, then got just one field goal in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter.
“It’s tough,” Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “If you look at Antawn, he hasn’t been hurt all year. Next thing you know, he’s hurt. He’s instant offense. He’ll come off the bench and score 16-18 points. Especially when you shoot 32 percent, you can look to someone who can make easy baskets. We really could have used him.
“We just have to go home and get the momentum back in our court. The crowd will be there to support us, just like their crowd did.”
Dallas coach Don Nelson agreed with Nowitzki, saying Jamison’s absence definitely took a lot away from his team in Game 2. However, he knew the Mavs blew a chance to steal a game in one of the NBA’s most hostile arenas.
“That was an opportunity lost for us. I thought we had them in our sights and in striking distance,” Nelson said. “The more games you lose, the more difficult it becomes. In a seven-game series, it’s programmed where we go back for two. And we’re the best home-court team. But our demise is that we weren’t a great road team.”
The Mavs were an NBA-best 36-5 at home this season and have beaten the Kings five straight times in Dallas dating to last season’s playoffs. They swept the final three games of the conference semifinals at home to beat Sacramento in seven games.
The Kings are talking like a team that would be happy splitting the next two games in Dallas.
“They have an incredible (home) record,” said Kings forward Chris Webber, who had a triple-double in Game 2 with 19 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. “And we know what it’s like to have a home-court advantage. When you have that type of confidence at home, you have to be careful.
“They’re going to try and beat us. That’s why this was very important. Now, we can buy some time, maybe steal one there. But if we didn’t win both here, it would have been very difficult.”
Game 4 is Monday in Dallas with Game 5, if necessary, on Thursday at Sacramento.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Kings - 4th seed. Mavericks - 5th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Kings - Webber, 22.5 ppg, 12.5 rpg and 7.5 apg. Mavericks - Nowitzki, 30 ppg and 11.5 rpg; Nash, 8.5 apg.