Dallas Mavericks' Josh Howard, left, and Erick Dampier, right, trap Houston Rockets' Yao Ming (11), of China, during the thrid quarter of Game 4 of the Western Conference first round playoffs Saturday, April 30, 2005 in Houston. The Mavericks beat the Rockets 97-93 to even the best-of-seven series at 2-2.
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
HOUSTON Jason Terry might never pass enough to earn favorable comparisons to Dallas' previous point guard. That's OK with the Mavericks, as long as Terry keeps scoring the way he did in Game 4.
With Dirk Nowitzki in another slump and Houston's Tracy McGrady suddenly struggling after scoring virtually at will, Terry took over in the fourth quarter to rescue the Mavericks from the bleakest of deficits.
The unheralded point guard scored a season-high 32 points, including a 3-pointer with 26.9 seconds left, and Michael Finley added 18, rallying the Mavericks from another late deficit in a 97-93 victory over the Houston Rockets on Saturday.
''I wouldn't consider 'Jet' a classic point guard,'' said Mavericks coach Avery Johnson, who was exactly that during his 16-year NBA career. ''But he gets the job done.''
The victory evened the best-of-seven, first-round series at two games apiece. Game 5 is Monday night in Dallas.
The Mavericks might want to petition the NBA to hold the game elsewhere, because home-court advantage has been a disadvantage in this series. The road team has won all the games in this matchup.
''Hopefully, home will be a safe haven at some point in this series,'' Mavericks guard Jerry Stackhouse said. ''I think the pressure has been on us and now that the series is even, the pressure should be about the same.''
While 14 teams in NBA history have come back from 0-2 deficits most recently last season when the Lakers beat San Antonio only two teams have done it in a seven-game series after losing the first two games at home. The 1994 Rockets did it against Phoenix, and the 1969 Lakers against the San Francisco Warriors.
Dallas rallied from two games down against Utah in the first round in 2001, but both losses came on the road. These Mavericks came to Houston knowing they could win on the road, having won a franchise-best 29 games away from home.
The Mavericks had looked dazed by the intensity of the postseason in the first two games of the series. Other than Nowitzki and Finley, they lacked playoff experience, and were led by a rookie coach in Johnson, who took over for Don Nelson in the final month of the season.
The Rockets, meanwhile, had the league's oldest team and a star in McGrady, who was hoping to making it past the first round for the first time in his eight-year career.
It showed McGrady averaged 31 points in the first two games and Houston stole the first two games in Dallas.
Then, the Mavericks traveled to Houston, where the Rockets twice squandered leads in the fourth quarter to lose all the momentum they earned away from home.
''It's very disappointing, the way we finished these last two games,'' Rockets guard David Wesley said. ''It's two blown opportunities.''
McGrady led the Rockets with 36 points on 13-of-26 shooting, but came up short down the stretch in Game 4. He had only two points in the fourth quarter, missing all but one of his last five shots.
He played a huge role in Houston's late collapse, firing up a couple of terrible shots in the last minute and failing to hold on to a rebound under Dallas' basket with the Rockets down by two points with 11.4 seconds left.
''I just think that right now, everybody wants it so bad we're just not staying poised,'' McGrady said. ''Right now, those guys want it more than us.''
The Mavericks were led by Terry, a six-year veteran whose first playoff experience came with Dallas. He was often derided for not being what former Dallas player Steve Nash (now an MVP candidate with Phoenix) is: a pass-first, pass-second and shoot later point guard.
But Dallas needed his scoring ability with Nowitzki resuming his series-long struggles following a 28-point performance in Game 3. He finished 18 points on 4-of-14 shooting.
''We had to take some pressure off of Dirk,'' Terry said. ''I was just being aggressive. I wanted to persevere.''
Terry was nearly unstoppable, scoring eight points during a 15-2 spurt midway through the third quarter that gave the Mavericks a 77-72 lead and briefly silenced the raucous crowd of 18,211.
McGrady quickly had the fans of their feet again, making a pair of free throws, hitting a 3 from the corner as he fell out of bounds and forcing Stackhouse into a turnover to end the quarter.
McGrady then made his only basket of the fourth midway through the period, pushing Houston to an 88-82 lead and seemingly deflating the Mavs' chances.
But Terry hit a 3, Erick Dampier put back his own miss and Finley made a couple of jumpers to put Dallas up 91-88.
Terry delivered his final blow on the next possession, losing his grip on the ball as he tried to drive around McGrady. The ball squirted high in the air and Nowitzki tapped it back out to Terry, who calmly knocked down a 25-footer to give the Mavericks a four-point lead.
''I knew it was good as soon as it left my hands,'' Terry said. ''It's something you dream about as a kid on the playground. This is what the NBA is all about.''
Celtics 110, Pacers 79
INDIANAPOLIS Paul Pierce had 30 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, and Boston overcame the loss of the suspended Antoine Walker to even the series 2-2.
Walker drew a one-game suspension for pushing an official Thursday night.
Stephen Jackson led Indiana with 24 points. The 31-point setback was the worst in the team's playoff history, surpassing a 24-point loss to Orlando on June 4, 1995, in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals.
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Boston.
Wizards 117, Bulls 99
WASHINGTON Gilbert Arenas had 32 points, seven rebounds and seven assists to help Washington win a playoff game for the first time in 17 years.
The win was the first since May 8, 1988, when Washington beat Detroit 106-103 in Game 4 of a first-round series. Of immediate concern for the Wizards is that they cut the Bulls' series lead to 2-1, with Game 4 in Washington on Monday night.
Larry Hughes added 21 points and seven rebounds for the Wizards, Antawn Jamison had 21 points and eight rebounds, and Etan Thomas finished with 20 points on 8-for-9 shooting and had nine rebounds.
Tyson Chandler led Chicago with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Spurs 86, Nuggets 78
DENVER The San Antonio Spurs spent most of the regular season trying to take some of the pressure off Tim Duncan.
It's working to their benefit in the playoffs.
Manu Ginobili provided a spark off the bench for the second straight game and Robert Horry hit two big 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, helping the Spurs beat the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night for a 2-1 series lead.
San Antonio has tried to turn each game into a halfcourt grind and take Denver out of its running game. Except for Game 1, which Denver won in San Antonio, the Spurs have been successful.
The Spurs held the Nuggets to two points in transition in Game 2 and stuck to their grind-it-out style in Game 3 to take home court advantage back from Denver.
Ginobili had 32 points, and Horry finished with 13.
The Nuggets got a boost from returning home and more than 19,000 thunderstick-clapping fans, but it only lasted so long.
Denver's aggressiveness was offset by poor free throw shooting 17-of-30 and the offense was mostly stagnant, turning into the kind of stand-around isolation game that helped get coach Jeff Bzdelik fired during the season.
Carmelo Anthony had 19 points for Denver before being ejected for a flagrant foul on Ginobili late in the game. Kenyon Martin added 18 points for the Nuggets.
The Spurs did it without much help from Duncan.
The two-time league MVP had just four points in 5 first-half minutes because of foul trouble and couldn't get anything going when he returned in the second half. Duncan missed all eight of his shots in the third quarter and finished with 11 points on 5-of-19 shooting.
Horry and Ginobili made up for Duncan's troubles.
Ginobili came off the bench and had an immediate impact again.
The Argentinean All-Star picked up the slack after Duncan went out with his second foul in first quarter, scoring 11 points in the final seven minutes, and added eight more after Duncan picked up his third foul with 8 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter. Ginobili had 17 points in 18 minutes in Game 2.
Horry did most of his damage in the fourth quarter.
Denver cut San Antonio's lead to 67-65 on Andre Miller's driving layup, then Bruce Bowen answered with a long jumper. Horry stole the inbound pass and stepped back to swish a 3-pointer, then added another from straightaway to deflate the crowd and put San Antonio up 75-65 with 7 minutes left.
Denver kept fighting back, getting within three twice, but San Antonio answered each time to close it out.
Notes: Tom Kiefer, lead singer of the rock band Cinderella and a Colorado native, sang the national anthem. ... Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey and former Nuggets player Rodney White now with Golden State attended the game.
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