Originally created 04/29/01

Mavs avoid the sweep



DALLAS -- In a season filled with long-awaited milestones, the Dallas Mavericks got their most important one yet Saturday: A playoff victory.

Steve Nash hit a go-ahead turnaround jumper with 22.7 seconds left and Michael Finley then added two free throws as Dallas pulled out a 94-91 win over the Utah Jazz to avoid a first-round sweep.

Playing their first home playoff game in 11 years, the Mavericks won in the postseason for the first time since June 2, 1988, when they took Game 6 of the Western Conference finals from the Los Angeles Lakers.

The victory was sealed when Nash chased down the rebound of a wild 3-pointer missed by John Stockton.

As time expired, Juwan Howard jumped atop the scorer's table wearing a giant grin and Mavericks coach Don Nelson thrust his right hand in the air.

Stockton led a rally that turned an 11-point deficit early in the fourth into a 91-90 Jazz lead on his layup with 34 seconds left - Utah's first edge in the game since 18-16.

Utah leads the best-of-five series 2-1. Game 4 will be Tuesday night in Dallas.

The Jazz took advantage of Dallas' inexperience to win the first two games at home. Dallas wasn't able to match Utah's physical play and complained a lot about the officiating.

This time, Dallas initiated the contact, dictated the tempo and left the referees alone. The Mavericks also did a better job of hitting open shots, especially Dirk Nowitzki, who came in 10-of-31 and 3-of-14 on 3-pointers in the series.

Nowitzki scored 16 of his 33 points in the first quarter and Dallas led by 13 in the second quarter. The Jazz tied it at 65 late in the third, then the Mavericks went on their second 11-0 run of the game to regain control.

Karl Malone, who had 29 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, missed two layups in the final two minutes that could have given him 3-point plays to tie the game. He hit both free throws each time, though, cutting Utah's deficit to 88-87 and then 90-89.

After a miss by Howard, Stockton took the ball the length of the court and laid it in for the lead with 34 seconds left. Nash took it right back down and, as he headed to the rim, spun back out and drained a 10-footer to put Dallas back on top.

Stockton then fed Donyell Marshall underneath, but Shawn Bradley got a piece of the ball and Finley grabbed it. He was fouled with eight seconds to go and hit both free throws.

Finley, who had been Dallas' main offensive weapon the first two games, scored only eight points.

Nash, who needed seven stitches to close a cut on his forehead opened by Stockton, had 16 points and seven assists. Howard had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Bradley provided 10 and 10.

Stockton had a triple-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Marshall had 17 points and eight rebounds.

Stockton and Malone seemed frustrated by the change of venue, especially with the fouls that weren't called in their favor.

Stockton, who picked up five fouls, slapped the basket support after one whistle and stood with hands on hips after another. He was most stunned when he was penalized for the chin-on-head collision that cut Nash.

The Mavs showed their willingness to get physical early. Bradley was called for a flagrant foul midway through the first quarter, and Howard got a technical foul in the second quarter.

Malone was the victim on both plays.

Notes: Dallas went 53-29 this season, getting 50 wins for the first time in 13 years. ... Nash finished third in voting for the NBA's Most Improved Player award, and Nowitzki tied for fifth. Marshall got one vote. ... This was the first time the Mavericks won a game televised on NBC. They had been 0-6. ... Malone's cheering section included his mother, who drove in from Louisiana, and his sister, who lives in the Dallas area.