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Kings overwhelm Mavericks in five games

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- The high-flying Sacramento Kings have
spent nearly four years honing their mercurial game into a reliable
method for postseason success.

They weren't about to let the Dallas Mavericks speed past them
in an amazing race of a playoff series.

Chris Webber and Mike Bibby each scored 23 points to lead six
Kings in double figures Monday night as the franchise advanced to
its first Western Conference finals since 1981, beating the
Mavericks 114-101 to win the best-of-seven series in five games.

Afterward, Webber shook more hands than a popular politician as
he made his way through a corridor in Arco Arena. His arrival in a
trade started the Kings' transformation, and his decision to stay
in Sacramento as a free agent last summer led to the brightest
moment since the franchise moved to Northern California in 1985.

"We all stuck with it," Webber said. "That's what I'll
remember. It's a collective effort, from the Maloofs to (vice
president) Geoff Petrie to our coaching staff on down. What this
says is we make a goal, and we stick with it."

Fill-in starter Hedo Turkoglu had 20 points for the Kings, who
averaged more than 114 points in an incredibly entertaining series.
At the final buzzer, the Kings had a jubilant group hug, while team
owner Gavin Maloof jumped and danced with the team's cheerleaders
on the court.

The Kings will play the winner of the semifinal between Los
Angeles and San Antonio. The two-time defending NBA champion Lakers
lead 3-1 with Game 5 Tuesday in Los Angeles, and Sacramento expects
nothing less than a showdown with Shaq and Kobe.

"What we have to do is get rested and maybe get healthy for the
next round," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "We've accomplished a
whole lot this season, but nobody in our locker room thinks we're
done yet. We've got more goals."

Unless the Lakers-Spurs series is extended to the limit, Game 1
of an all-California conference final will take place at Arco Arena
this weekend.

While closing out a playoff series at home for the first time
since 1964, the Kings backed up their run to the NBA's best
regular-season record with a historic and convincing victory over
the Mavs, whose offensive firepower made them a favorite of many
observers.

But in front of a crowd that seemed louder than the Mavericks'
customized team plane, the Kings got the last of three straight
victories despite the absence of second-leading scorer Peja
Stojakovic, who hasn't played since the third quarter of Game 3
because of a sprained ankle.

What's more, Webber limped to the locker room in the third
quarter after spraining his left ankle, missing several minutes.
But no distraction in this series seemed to bother the Kings -- not
the health of their All-Stars, not the cowbell chorus behind their
bench in Dallas, not even the Mavs' high-octane offense.

After all, the Kings have been playing this style for four
seasons now during the most exciting time in franchise history --
and the payoff finally has arrived. The fans' chants of "Beat
L.A.!" began in the third quarter, when the game's outcome was
still in doubt, and picked up again afterward.

"We didn't let anything distract us, and that's hard in a
series like this," Bibby said. "We got a lot of motivation from
stuff that some people thought we couldn't do."

All-Star Dirk Nowitzki recovered from his series-long struggles
with 32 points and 12 rebounds, and Michael Finley had 26 points
for the Mavs. But the team is still a year or two behind Sacramento
on the development curve, and the looks on the Mavs' faces
afterward suggested they were learning from the painful experience.

"It's good to go through this process so they'll learn from
it," Mavericks coach Don Nelson said. "I'm really rooting for
them, because I love the style of basketball they play. Can they
beat the Lakers or San Antonio? I don't know, but I sure hope so,
because if they can do it, maybe we can too, someday."

Sacramento ran away from the Mavericks as soon as Webber
returned late in the third quarter. The fourth quarter was a
recital, with nearly every member of the Kings turning in a
spectacular offensive play as they held off a rally from the
resilient Mavs.

"Me and Steve (Nash) hadn't even made vacation plans yet,
because we didn't feel like we were down 3-1," said Dallas' Nick
Van Exel, who had just six points. "Throughout the series, we
didn't feel like they could ever beat us. We never thought we
wouldn't be able to come back."

Turkoglu, thrust into Stojakovic's starting spot, finally solved
his shooting struggles with several big baskets in the second half.
Bibby, who became an offensive force in the series, had another
dominant game on his 24th birthday while thoroughly outplaying
Nash, who had 12 points and nine assists.

Sacramento used the backing of another deafening crowd to get
off to a hot start, hitting seven straight shots and taking an
early nine-point lead. Nowitzki's improved play kept Dallas in it,
and his jumper at the halftime buzzer cut the Kings' lead to
59-53.

Game notes
The Kings' previous 14 playoff series all ended on the
road. The 1963-64 Cincinnati Royals finished the Eastern Division
finals at home. ... Jackson made a jaw-dropping triple-pump layup
on a drive to the hoop in the second quarter, drawing a foul from
Wang Zhizhi along the way.

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