Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 12/10

Game 1: Monday, December 10th
Game 2: Saturday, January 19th
Game 3: Monday, April 8th
Game 4: Tuesday, April 16th

Mavericks 105


Jazz 96


    Coverage: FSRM

    7:00 PM ET, April 8, 2002

    EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT

    1 2 3 4 T
    DAL 27 29 21 28105
    UTAH 28 29 18 2196

    Top Performers

    Dal: N. Van Exel 20 Pts, 2 Reb, 8 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

    UTAH: J. Stockton 17 Pts, 5 Reb, 8 Ast, 1 Blk

    Van Exel, Finley lead Mavs after Nowitzki hurt

    SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Nick Van Exel's fourth-quarter strategy was simple. Get the ball to Michael Finley, and shoot it if that doesn't work out.

    John Stockton

    Utah's John Stockton tries to get around the defense of Steve Nash.

    Van Exel and Finley each heated up in the fourth quarter and finished with 20 points, leading the Dallas Mavericks to a 105-96 victory over the Utah Jazz on Monday night.

    Van Exel had 12 points in the final period and Finley had 10 as the Mavericks remained a half-game ahead of San Antonio for the Midwest Division lead and the No. 2 playoff position in the Western Conference.

    "When we ran the pick-and-roll, I knew Michael would be able to get free," Van Exel said. "Michael just happened to be the last guy on the food chain, but I feel good about him having the ball in his hands."

    The Mavericks won it without leading scorer and rebounder Dirk Nowitzki, who had 10 points before he rolled his left ankle in the second quarter and limped to the dressing room. He didn't return for the second half with a strained ankle.

    "Everybody had to step up," Finley said. "Nick played great. He made some really big shots down the stretch."

    Tests are planned Tuesday after the Mavericks return to Dallas, but Nowitzki didn't think it was serious. He didn't dismiss the possibility of playing Tuesday night against Portland.

    "I can be in pain while I play as long as it makes sense," said Nowitzki, who averages 23.8 points and 10.2 rebounds. "We also know the playoffs are more important than one game before them, so we'll see how I feel."

    Karl Malone scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter. He also had eight rebounds, returning to the Utah lineup after missing the defeat Friday against Sacramento with a swollen right knee.

    "I played, suited up. I was out there," Malone said, shrugging off questions about his knee.

    Despite another tough defeat, the Jazz got good news later. Although they still trail Seattle by a game for the No. 7 spot in the West, the Sonics' victory over the Clippers assured Utah of a 19th consecutive postseason trip.

    Steve Nash, who went scoreless against the Spurs on Sunday, had 17 this time despite battling a stomach virus that kept him out of the second half Saturday in a setback at San Antonio.

    "It wasn't a good performance, but it was a good win without our leading scorer in the second half," Nash said. "Finley made huge shots for us and Nick made a bunch of really big plays down the stretch. Two huge performances."

    Eduardo Najera added 10 points and nine rebounds and helped the Mavericks with the hustle plays that don't show up in the statistics. Four of his rebounds came on the offensive end.

    "I challenged the team at halftime," coach Don Nelson said. "We needed to step it up and we did. I like this team a lot. They have a lot of character."

    John Stockton scored 17 points and had eight assists, while Bryon Russell and Andrei Kirilenko each had 14 for the Jazz.

    Just as they did against the Kings three nights earlier, the Jazz hung with the Mavericks deep into the fourth quarter, but came up short down the stretch.

    "Against these better teams, to play like them, we have to be clicking on all cylinders," Stockton said. "We're not doing that."

    After Malone's putback pulled Utah to 99-96 with 2:02 to play, Greg Buckner got free for an easy basket and the Mavericks coasted from there. Utah missed four shots and had a kicked ball violation on his last four possessions.

    "We haven't been able to finish," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "Our shot selection could have been a tad better."

    The Jazz led 71-70 after two free throws by Russell with 2:02 remaining in the third quarter. DeShawn Stevenson's jumper with 27.5 seconds to go kept Utah at 77-75 down going into the fourth period.

    Van Exel hit a 3-pointer and Finley made a jumper to help Dallas gain control early in the final quarter. But the Jazz tied it at 88 with 5:54 to play on a 3-pointer by Russell and a jumper by Stockton.

    Game notes

    The Jazz are 1-2 against Dallas and 3-14 against the top five teams in the Western Conference. ... Van Exel and Malone were whistled for technical fouls in the second quarter. ... Dallas is an NBA-best 45-1 when leading after the third quarter. Over the past two seasons, the Mavericks are 91-3 when they lead going into the fourth. ... When referee Jim Clark started to call a first-quarter foul on Shawn Bradley, Sloan and reserve John Starks flew onto the court to make sure it was correctly given to Nowitzki. ... The Mavericks had a 46-40 rebounding edge, including 16 offensive boards.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 105 96
    FGM-FGA 43-91 (.473) 33-79 (.418)
    3PM-3PA 6-18 (.333) 5-14 (.357)
    FTM-FTA 13-15 (.867) 25-31 (.806)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 16-46 11-40
    Assists 22 17
    Turnovers 13 18
    Steals 7 6
    Blocks 7 9
    Fast Break Points 4 5
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 23 (2/0) 17 (1/0)

    Top Performers

    Nick Van Exel Van Exel
    Points: 20
    Reb: 2
    Ast: 8
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 1
    John Stockton Stockton
    Points: 17
    Reb: 5
    Ast: 8
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 1