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Kings continue the journey without Webber

SACRAMENTO, May 10 (UPI) -- The Sacramento Kings will get the chance to prove how deep they are Saturday night when they meet Dallas in Game Three of their Western Conference semifinal series.

The Kings will toil through the balance of the postseason without All-Star forward Chris Webber, who suffered a tear of the lateral meniscus in his left knee in the third quarter of Thursday's 132-110 loss at Dallas. The injury will require arthroscopic surgery, and the rehabilitation process is estimated to be a minimum of 4-6 weeks.

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Sacramento team physician Dr. Richard Marder said despite the surgery, Webber wants to try to rehabilitate the knee, and possibly return to action before the end of the 2003 NBA playoffs.

Marder told the Sacramento Bee he does not recommend that.

"I was suspicious (when Chris said he'd heard a pop)," Marder told the paper. "Both because a pop indicates some type of tear, and that he was very tender on the outside of the knee. When he got up (Friday) morning, he had a lot more swelling."

Friday was not the first time this season that the knee troubled either Webber or Marder.

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"He'd had an MRI in December, and he'd never had a real injury," Marder told the paper of Webber's soreness that was described as a bone bruise. "That MRI did not show a tear. This one (Friday) did show a tear. I had the old (MRI) and the new one. Clearly, this (tear) is new, and that was very obvious to me."

Marder said it is not likely that Webber will be back, even if the Kings advance deeper into the playoffs. He told the paper Webber will need at least three weeks to see if can rehabilitate the knee enough even to practice.

"You can't say it won't happen," Marder said. "but the odds are small."

Those odds of a return are better, Marder said, than if surgery were to be done immediately.

"I told Chris that I didn't see any way (if he had surgery) that he would be able to return to play in less than four weeks," Marder said.

Webber was Sacramento's leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 23.0 points and 10.5 rebounds in 67 regular-season games.

"Chris has been a true warrior all season, having played through a number of injuries," said Sacramento President Geoff Petrie. "This is a huge disappointment, both personally and professionally for Chris and the entire organization. He's had another All-NBA season and is our team leader. (But) We have always proven to be a very resilient team when confronted with these types of situations in the past. I'm sure our team will be ready to respond to the challenge."

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Without Webber, Scot Pollard and Keon Clark will see more playing time. The pair has combined to average 7.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in the playoffs, but likely will have a tough task trying to have to defend star Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki, who is known for scoring binges.

Nowitzki is fourth in the playoffs with an average of 27.9 points per game, and is eighth with 9.4 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the Kings were 35-6 at Arco Arena during the regular season for the best home record in the NBA. Dallas is one of the few teams to experience success in Sacramento, splitting their last six regular-season games at Arco.

Philadelphia returns to the First Union Center after losing two games at Detroit.

On Thursday, Tayshaun Prince hit a jumper in the lane with 4.2 second left in regulation, then scored seven points in overtime to lift the Pistons to a 104-97 victory.

Prince had 20 points and nine rebounds in Game Two, and is averaging nearly 28 minutes per game in the last five contests after sitting out two of the first four contests in the first round against Orlando.

The Pistons rallied from a 3-1 deficit against the Magic to avoid becoming the third top-seeded team to lose in the first round.

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Chucky Atkins started in place of Chauncey Billups and scored a playoff career-high 23 points as the Pistons won their ninth straight overtime game. Billups suffered an ankle injury in the fourth quarter of Detroit's 98-87 victory in Game One, and is questionable for Saturday.

Philadelphia guard Allen Iverson, who normally is lethal at home, is averaging 33.4 points in the playoffs to lead the league, but missed two free throws with 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter of Game Two.

"I had an opportunity to put them away and I couldn't do it," Iverson said afterwards. "I have a bad taste in my mouth right now. I'll take the blame for this one because we did enough to win. I just didn't do enough. If I'd made one or two free throws, we'd be going home happy."

The Sixers have won 10 of their last 12 home playoff games against Eastern Conference teams, but have never won a series after facing an 0-2 deficit.

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