Originally created 04/28/04

Mavs on brink of elimination, and it shows



DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki was weary after a restless night, unable to sleep while replaying his offensive struggles in his head.

Coach Don Nelson, whose future is uncertain, called it a "day of mourning" before the Dallas Mavericks started practice Tuesday.

The Mavericks are on the brink of elimination in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, and it showed.

"It's kind of good to have a couple of days here to get it out of our system," Nelson said.

Sacramento, going home for Game 5 on Thursday, took a 3-1 series lead with a 94-92 win Monday night on the court where Dallas had the NBA's best home record.

"Our every plan is to end it Thursday," Kings guard Doug Christie said. "We have to attack, attack, attack."

If the Mavericks and Nowitzki don't solve their shooting woes, things could go according to Sacramento's plan. Especially with Peja Stojakovic rediscovering his offensive touch.

Nowitzki led the Mavericks in Game 4 with 21 points, but he was just 5-of-22 from the field. Two of the baskets were dunks and he missed a couple of layups. He did make 11 of 14 free throws, but two misses came with 33 seconds left.

"I didn't have any sleep, it was a rough night," Nowitzki said. "If I would have made a couple of shots here or there, it probably would have been enough. The all-around game was not that bad, but offensively, I never really got going. Games like that happen, the only sad part was the timing of it."

To make things worse, Dallas made just 20 of 33 free throws. The league's best free-throw shooting team had missed a total of 14 over the first three games of the series.

"It's very disappointing to shoot the ball so poorly in every aspect," said Steve Nash, who missed a game-ending 18-footer with Stojakovic defending him. "It's not characteristic of our team. For once, no one's got anything to say about our defense. Unfortunately our offense couldn't hold its side of the bargain."

Stojakovic didn't look like one of the league's best offensive players the first three games, when he scored 48 points on 17-of-41 shooting. Then he missed 10 of his 11 shots in the first half Monday.

But urged by coach Rick Adelman and his teammates to keep shooting, Stojakovic did. And he started hitting again at the right time, scoring 16 of his 20 points after halftime. Ten points came over the last five minutes of the third quarter when the Kings came from behind to lead for good.

"He was aggressive and he got his shot," Kings forward Chris Webber said. "We wanted him to keep shooting."

Dallas survived two seven-game series last season, against Portland and the Kings, to advance to the Western Conference finals. Now the Mavs have to win twice just to get to a seventh game, which would be Tuesday in Sacramento.

It's a good situation for the Kings. Especially considering the Mavs are just 16-27 on the road, including losses in the first two games of this series.

"We've got three to win one. We want to do it as soon as possible," Webber said. "This is the position we wanted to be in, but we've got to finish it off."

There was more disconcerting news for the Mavericks, whose pre-game entertainment skit at Game 3 is under review by the NBA, a league spokesman said Tuesday.

The video featured vignettes, some of questionable taste, about various members of the Kings.

Notes: Mavs forward Antawn Jamison, after missing part of Game 3 with hamstring problems, pulled a muscle in his upper thigh Monday night and played just 19 minutes. He said Tuesday that he's still sore but will play in Game 5. "I didn't wait five or six years to get to this point and let something like this prevent me from playing," said Jamison, in his first postseason after being traded to Dallas last fall.