- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 5, 2002

SACRAMENTO, Calif. In the first heat of what's looking like a best-of-seven track meet, the Sacramento Kings simply ran away from Dallas.
Peja Stojakovic scored 26 points, and Vlade Divac had 18 points and 16 rebounds as the Kings beat the Mavericks 108-91 yesterday in the opening game of the Western Conference semifinal series.
The highly anticipated meeting of the NBA's two highest-scoring teams mostly lived up to its billing, with all of the high-octane offense, ball movement and quick shots to be expected from the clubs riding the crest of the league's wave of the future.
But the Mavericks, who led the NBA in scoring and managed more than 112 points a game in their first-round sweep of Minnesota, never got into high gear while shooting less than 39 percent.
Meanwhile, Sacramento played tough defense and capitalized on its low-post options of Chris Webber and Divac options the Mavericks don't have.
The Kings won the Pacific Division and finished with the NBA's best regular-season record, but many around the league considered them an underdog against Dallas, with its up-tempo offense and collection of scorers.
What's more, the Mavericks had won their last three games in Sacramento and were the only opposing team to beat the Kings twice at Arco Arena during the regular season. They took three of four from the Kings overall.
But with a solid Game 1 victory, Sacramento reminded the league which team showed Dallas coach Don Nelson that this up-tempo style could work in the first place.
Dirk Nowitzki had 23 points on 8-for-24 shooting and 14 rebounds for the Mavericks, while Michael Finley had 21 points and Nick Van Exel 15. All-Star point guard Steve Nash struggled, scoring 12 points and making four turnovers.
Webber scored 20 points in the first three quarters, but fouled out on two quick calls in the fourth. His hands balled tightly into fists, the Kings' leading scorer watched from the bench as Stojakovic, Divac and Mike Bibby led the Kings to victory.
The Kings, backed by another deafening Arco Arena crowd, won a second-round playoff game for the first time since moving to Sacramento in 1985. Bibby had 11 points and eight assists, while Bobby Jackson added 12 points in a reserve role.
Stojakovic has struggled during his playoff career when matched up against strong defensive teams, but he fit right into the high-flying action. He had 16 points and six rebounds in the first half while scoring inside and out against Finley and Nowitzki.
Shortly after the opening tip, Sacramento asserted its own capability for offensive fireworks. The Kings scored nine straight points in two minutes, capped by Stojakovic's 3-pointer that incited deafening noise levels at Arco.
Both teams shot low percentages in the first half, with Dallas' key threesome of Nowitzki, Nash and Finley combining to miss 15 of their first 18 shots. But the Mavs also kept Webber in foul trouble, and Sacramento couldn't pull away.
Webber scored 13 points in the third quarter while Sacramento took its first double-digit lead with two lengthy runs. Divac used his dipsey-doodle inside game to give the Kings a low-post option Dallas doesn't have and can't readily defend.
Notes
Bennett Salvatore's officiating crew had extremely quick whistles on technical fouls, hitting Hedo Turkoglu and Van Exel for matching violations in the fourth quarter. Stojakovic and Webber had 10 rebounds apiece. "Late Late Show" host Craig Kilborn and actress Brittany Daniel sat courtside next to Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof, who wore the tie-dyed T-shirts favored by NBC announcer Bill Walton. Supermodel Tyra Banks, Webber's girlfriend, went incognito with sunglasses and a floppy hat.


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