Nash forced overtime with a three-pointer, then scored 12 points in the extra session to lead the Mavericks to a 129-123 victory over the Kings in a sensational shootout.
"It's good to finally beat a team that you haven't beat all year," Mavericks guard Michael Finley said. "Our confidence is high but to come in here, in a hostile environment, and get the win, we're going to use this the rest of the season."
The best two offensive teams in the NBA have staged a handful of exciting games over the last two seasons, including four overtime contests. Dallas has won three times at raucous Arco Arena, but Sacramento has the overall upper hand overall, taking 10 of 13 games that included four of five in last year's Western Conference semifinals.
The Kings had won the first three meetings of 2002-03, establishing superiority over the Mavs, who have had the NBA's best record all season. But Nash made sure his team was not swept while it sent a subtle message of its own.
"I finally made the shot that sent us into overtime," Nash said. "I felt we deserved it. I thought we played well enough and hard enough. We deserved a break at the end of the game."
A seesaw fourth quarter saw Mike Bibby beat the shot clock with a 17-footer that gave Sacramento a 111-108 lead with 14 seconds left. On the next possession, Nash missed a three-pointer, but Finley got the rebound as Nash floated to the right corner, from where he buried the tying shot with 2.5 seconds to go.
"They got the board and Nash was open," said Kings guard Bobby Jackson, who lost defensive position on the play. "That's how the ball bounces sometimes."
Nash collected 27 points and 10 assists and was unstoppable in overtime. His three-pointer gave Dallas a 116-114 lead with 2:51 remaining.
After a three-pointer by Peja Stojakovic gave Sacramento its last lead, Nash made a difficult one-handed fadeaway shot and a jumper for a 120-117 edge with 1:26 to play. Dirk Nowitzki drew a foul and sank two free throws to push the lead to five points in the final minute.
"Jackson is a good defender. I just tried to be aggressive," said Nash, who made 11 of 17 shots.
Chris Webber's third three-pointer of the season kept the Kings in it at 122-120 with 47 seconds remaining, but Nash hit a three-pointer 12 seconds later. Finley and Nash added two free throws each around a three-pointer by Jackson to seal it.
"We stood up to the challenge and made some good plays," Nowitzki said. "The first two out of three games (against the Kings), we didn't make plays down the stretch and they did. It was nice because Steve stepped up and made the plays."
"Nash hit some big shots in overtime," Kings Coach Rick Adelman said. "You have to give them credit. They came in and played well."
Nowitzki had a huge game with 34 points and 18 rebounds and Finley scored 21 points for the Mavs (50-16), who became the first team to win 50 games and maintained their Midwest Division lead over surging San Antonio.
"They have a very good team and that is an understatement," Mavs forward Adrian Griffin said. "We just had to come out and put forth the effort. We know what they can do and they know what we can do. It just came down to like a heavyweight fight, two of the best teams going at it, and we just felt like we needed this game."
Nash and Mavs Coach Don Nelson were more concerned with the advancing Spurs than their ability to beat the Kings. Dallas plays San Antonio twice this week.
"It didn't feel like we had a monkey off the back against Sacramento," Nelson said. "The Kings have still outplayed us this year. Because we won an overtime game doesn't mean that much to me. What is does do for our team is keep us in the division race with San Antonio."
"We can't lose or San Antonio is going to catch us," Nash said. "I don't think this game will have any bearing on the playoffs."