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Sacramento 125; Dallas 119

  |   May 10, 2002 at 4:15 AM
DALLAS, May 10 (UPI) -- Doug Christie returned from a painfully sprained right ankle and finished a flawless shooting game with a flourish Thursday night as the Sacramento Kings regained home-court advantage in their NBA Western Conference semifinal series with a 125-119 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

Christie, considered the defensive stalwart in Sacramento's diversified attack, made his first two shots before twisting his ankle in the first quarter. He was not expected to return, but he did when All-Star forward Peja Stojakovic also sprained his right ankle in the third quarter.

Christie came back late in the third period and was active in the final 12 minutes. He scored 10 points without a miss and held red-hot Michael Finley without a point for the first 10 minutes of the quarter.

"The doctor wanted me to wait until Saturday, and then I just said 'Peja's out, let me see what I can do, let me see if it will get warm,'" Christie said. "The trainer told me to go talk to the coaches and see if they'll let you get back in. Luckily, they did. I just wanted to be aggressive. I didn't want to let the injury hamper what I was trying to do. Whatever pain was going to be there was going to be there. I understood that and I just tried to play as hard as I could."

Christie made 6-of-6 shots and 6-of-6 free throws for the game, scoring 20 points. He was one of many weapons for the Kings, who wasted no time in regaining the home-court edge they gave away with a loss in Game Two and grabbed a 2-1 series lead.

Chris Webber had 31 points and 15 rebounds and Mike Bibby added 29 points and eight assists. In the fourth quarter, the duo worked the pick-and-roll to perfection.

In a hostile environment, the Kings remained unbeaten on the road in the postseason. They led by as many as 15 points and trailed for just 30 seconds, playing through the din of hundreds of cowbells handed out by Dallas owner Mark Cuban to fans seated near their bench.

Sacramento also did another solid job on Dallas All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki, who was limited to 19 points and five rebounds.

Nowitzki, who has had his touches limited, is averaging 21.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per contest after averaging 33.3 and 15.7 in a first-round sweep of Minnesota.

"It is a tough loss for us, but I am very interested to see how we respond," said Dallas Coach Don Nelson. "This is a good indicator to see how we are coming along. I expect us to have a great game our next game. It will show some real growth if we do, so back to the drawing boards and we will try and do a better job next time."

Finley scored 37 points for the Mavericks, who host Game Four on Saturday afternoon.

Nowitzki's three free throws gave the Mavs their only lead at 91-89 with 26 seconds left in the third quarter, just as Christie returned. There were three ties before Bibby and Christie made consecutive three-pointers to give the Kings the lead for good at 101-95 with 9:53 left.

A layup by Raef LaFrentz, who had 24 points and 13 rebounds, pulled Dallas to within four, but Webber had a dunk and fed Christie for a dunk. He let out a primal scream as he gave Sacramento a 105-97 bulge with 7:28 to go.

Flashy point guard Steve Nash had 15 points and 15 assists, but made just 5-of-19 shots. He had scored 30 points in Game Two.

"They were definitely more aggressive on the defense and showed a lot harder on me," Nash said. "I still got a lot of good looks, but I didn't knock them down."

Stojakovic missed six of his first seven shots before twisting his ankle with 5:09 left in the third quarter. He was carried off the court by teammate Scot Pollard, and his availability for Saturday is unknown.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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