DALLAS, May 23 (UPI) -- The Dallas Mavericks can keep home-court advantage in the NBA Western Conference finals Friday night against San Antonio if they can keep their cool.
On Wednesday night, the Mavericks were whistled for five technical fouls. They hope to be a bit more focused when the series shifts to Dallas for Game Three on Friday night.
"We lost our composure a little," said Dallas All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki. "In the first half, we complained about every call. We have to just calm down and let our game speak for itself."
The Spurs made their first 24 free throws in opening a big early lead, then held on for a 119-106 victory in Game Two.
Tim Duncan had 32 points, 15 rebounds, and three blocks, and reserve forward Malik Rose scored a playoff career-high 25 points for the Spurs, who suffered a stunning loss in Game One. In that contest, they blew an 18-point lead, partially because they could not match Dallas at the free throw line.
Wednesday, the Spurs, one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the league, uncharacteristically made 26-of-28 free throws in the first half, setting a team playoff record for points in an opening half, and sprinting to a 69-44 lead.
While the Spurs were sinking free throws, the Mavericks were sinking. Nowitzki earned a seat on the bench with three fouls in the first seven minutes, picking up a technical foul along the way.
Late in the first quarter, Dallas Coach Don Nelson was ejected by referee Joey Crawford, who tossed him after he came to mid-court and refused to return to the bench.
"Everyone knows around the league you don't mess with Joey Crawford," Rose noted.
As they did in Game One, the Mavericks came storming back, led by Michael Finley, Nowitzki, and Nick Van Exel. They closed to 103-94 midway through the final period, creating another nervous atmosphere at the SBC Center.
Then, Duncan answered the call of a superstar.
In the next three-plus minutes, he made a pair of baskets, rebounded a missed three-pointer by Van Exel, blocked a shot by Nowitzki that led to a layup by teammate Tony Parker, and found teammate Manu Ginobili for a three-pointer that sealed it at 109-97 with 2:32 remaining.
Van Exel had a huge series in the conference semifinals against Sacramento, but is shooting just 8-for-28 in the first two games against the Spurs.
The New Jersey Nets are on the verge of a sweep of Detroit in the Eastern Conference finals.
Jason Kidd scored a playoff career-high 34 points Thursday night, sparking an up-tempo attack that lifted the Nets to a 97-85 victory over the Pistons and a commanding 3-0 series lead.
New Jersey, which has won a franchise-record nine straight postseason contests, can complete its second straight sweep with a win at home Saturday. Detroit has lost 15 of its last 17 playoff road games.
The NBA Finals start June 4 in the city of the West champion.
Rutledge hurt in car accident
MEMPHIS, May 23 (UPI) -- Former Alabama and NFL quarterback Jeff Rutledge was listed in critical condition at a Memphis hospital Friday.
He was involved in an automobile accident Thursday afternoon.
Rutledge, 47, was injured in an accident on Interstate 40 when his car went under a truck. He was airlifted to Regional Medical Center, where he is being treated for unspecified injuries, said hospital spokeswoman Sandy Snell.
Rutledge played at Alabama under Bear Bryant from 1975-to-1978, and had a 12-year NFL career with the Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants, and Washington Redskins. He threw for 3,628 yards with 16 touchdowns and 29 interceptions in the NFL before retiring after the 1992 season.
Do or die for Devils, Senators
OTTAWA, May 23 (UPI) -- The Ottawa Senators can make rallying from a three games to one deficit seem almost commonplace Friday night in Game Seven against the New Jersey Devils.
The Senators have twice have staved off elimination against the Devils this week, setting up a sudden death showdown in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The contest will be played at the Corel Centre.
Ottawa can become just the 20th time in NHL history to rally from a three games to one deficit, but the fourth this spring. The Vancouver Canucks did against St. Louis in the quarterfinals, and Minnesota did it against both Colorado and Vancouver in the first two rounds.
The only team to accomplish that feat in the conference finals was New Jersey, which beat Philadelphia Flyers on the way to their 2000 Stanley Cup victory.
The Senators labored all season to have the best record in the conference, and hope that the home-ice advantage pays off on Friday.
"You want to have that seventh game here," said Ottawa Coach Jacques Martin. "We have the luxury of having our fans, the noise, the support, the energy. That's a big, big thing."
New Jersey, unbeaten in its previous eight home playoff games, had another chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the third time in four years after dropping a 3-1 decision in Ottawa on Monday, but the Senators had other plans, improving to 4-0 in overtime during the postseason on Phillips' tally.
"We're playing much smarter because we haven't been running around as much the last couple of games," Hossa said. "We are certainly happy to be playing Game Seven at home."
Goalless in his previous eight games and virtually a non-factor in this series, Hossa clearly was the best player on the ice Wednesday, generating numerous scoring chances while leading the Senators with seven shots on goal.
"We like our odds going back home, but we know we are going to have to be better and there's no way around it," said Ottawa superstar and team captain Daniel Alfredsson. "They are a veteran team that's going to come to Ottawa and play their best."
"Game Seven, it's one game takes all," said New Jersey defenseman Ken Daneyko. "It's only fitting the two best teams in the East are going to battle to get to the Stanley Cup Finals."
New Jersey's task could be made difficult if Joe Nieuwendyk can't play. The star center scored the Devils' lone goal, but suffered a leg injury had to be helped off the ice after the game.
Ottawa can become the first team from Canada to appear in the Stanley Cup Finals since Vancouver in 1994.
The winner of Friday's showdown finally will host Anaheim in Game One of the Finals on Tuesday.
Ricci to remain with Sharks
SAN JOSE, Calif., May 23 (UPI) -- The San Jose Sharks have exercised their contract option on center Mike Ricci, the team's fourth-leading scorer this past season.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Ricci, 32, recorded 11 goals and 23 assists in 75 games as an alternate captain for the Sharks, who failed to make the playoffs.
The paper said Ricci will make about $3 million next season, an $800,000 pay increase.
Acquired by San Jose in the second round of the 1998 entry draft, Ricci has registered 226 goals and 336 assists in 943 career games for Philadelphia, Quebec, Colorado, and the Sharks.
In another move, the Sharks signed defenseman Doug Murray, their eighth-round draft pick in 1999.
Murray, 23, completed a standout career at Cornell last month. He ranked fifth on the team in scoring with 25 points and helped lead the Big Red to the Frozen Four.
Last season, Murray was named the Ivy League Player of the Year, and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.
Shoulder surgery for Malakhov
NEW YORK, May 23 (UPI) -- Defenseman Vladimir Malakhov of the New York Rangers has undergone surgery on his left shoulder, but should be ready for the start of training camp.
A team spokesman made that news public on Thursday.
Dr. Jeff Abrams repaired a torn labrum during the procedure, which was performed at Princeton Orthopedic Associates in New Jersey. Malakhov, 34, immediately will begin a three-month rehabilitation program.
The native of Russia collected three goals and 14 assists in 71 games this season, missing seven contests as a result of the injury, including the Rangers' last five games.
Clemens likely for Monday
NEW YORK, May 23 (UPI) -- Veteran righthander Roger Clemens intended to make his next start, which is scheduled for Monday against his former team, the Boston Red Sox.
Now, he has been cleared to do so.
Clemens, on the brink of becoming the 21st pitcher to record 300 career wins, took a line drive off the back of his pitching hand during the sixth inning of his 4-2 win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
In that contest, in which he got victory No. 299, Clemens stayed in the game and struck out Doug Mirabelli to end the inning, then was lifted.
The 6-4, 238-pounder, who now is 40 years old, underwent an MRI at Beth Israel Hospital, which revealed only a bone bruise. Initially, the extent of the injury was inconclusive.
"There's a little swelling but less swelling than yesterday," Clemens said. "The soreness that I have is expected. I have total movement. When I spread my hand, I feel it in the joints."
"Obviously the news about Roger is very good news, especially with the way the day had gone," said General Manager Brian Cashman.
"He'll pitch Monday, but it depends on how the bullpen works," New York Manager Joe Torre told the New York Times. "(Friday) He'll throw his bullpen, and I'm assuming everything will be OK, but I'm reserving judgment. If it's swollen and sore, I don't think it makes much sense to pitch him on Monday. I sense that nobody wants him to go out there at less than 100 percent."
Clemens (6-2) worked six innings Wednesday night, allowing two runs and nine hits while striking out seven against his former team. He now is 6-0 on the road this season.
On Memorial Day, the six-time Cy Young Award winner will try to make history, and improve to 8-2 lifetime against Boston.
"It ranks up there with the rest of my wins, I guess," Clemens said. "I can't sit here and tell you how great a win I think it was for our club, let alone help me approach a milestone. I can't tell you how many times I've been struck (by a ball) on my body."
Orioles put Bigbie on DL
BALTIMORE, May 23 (UPI) -- The Baltimore Orioles Friday placed outfielder Larry Bigbie on the 15-day disabled list because of a right shoulder strain.
Bigbie was injured while diving for a ball in Wednesday's 7-6 won over the Anaheim Angels. He is hitting .239 with one homer and five RBI in 22 games.
In a statement, the team said that, to take Bigbie's place on the roster, it was recalling outfielder Luis Matos from Ottawa of the Triple-A Ottawa of the International League.
Matos hit .212 in 120 games over parts of the last three seasons with the Orioles. He leads the International League in doubles, is tied for third in triples, is second with 21 extra base hits, and fourth with 28 runs scored.
He was to join the parent club Friday at the start of a weekend series against the Rangers in Arlington.
At French, it could be Venus, Serena again
PARIS, May 23 (UPI) -- A fifth straight Grand Slam final between sisters Serena and Venus Williams is still a possibility at the French Open.
They were placed on opposite sides of the women's draw announced Friday. Top-ranked Serena, who will be going after her fifth straight major crown, opens defense of her Roland Garros title against Barbara Rittner of Germany.
Venus Williams' ranking has dropped to third in the world behind Kim Clijsters of Belgium, opening the chance the siblings might not face each other in the championship match. However, Venus Williams ended up in the bottom half of the draw, taking on a qualifier.
Clijsters will go against Amy Frazier in the first round as the year's second Grand Slam gets underway on Monday.
On the men's side, No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt of Australia will play Brian Vahaly of the United States in the first round, while second-seeded Andre Agassi, who won the French in 1999, will square off against Karol Beck of Slovakia.
Although a third-round meeting with former champion Mary Pierce is a possibility, the first big test for Serena Williams could be a quarterfinal showdown with No. 5 Amelie Mauresmo, who handed her only her second loss of the year last week in the semifinals at Rome.
Meanwhile, Hewitt, in his quest for his first French Open title, could face three-time winner Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil in the fourth round, and defending champion Albert Costa of Spain in the quarterfinals.
Other major men's seeds are Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain (No. 3), last year's runner-up, and No. 6 Andy Roddick.
Agassi has two former French Open champions, a former finalist, and a main contender in his half of the draw -- two-time runner-up Alex Corretja of Spain, 1996 winner Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia, and 1998 Roland Garros winner Carlos Moya of Spain.
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