Young Mavericks get series win over Jazz

Posted: Friday, May 04, 2001

SALT LAKE CITY -- Calvin Booth spent the whole fourth quarter worrying he would be pulled off the floor. He was still there at the end to make the biggest play in 13 years for the Dallas Mavericks.

Michael Finley scored 33 points and Booth hit the go-ahead layup with 9.8 seconds left as the young Mavericks beat the Utah Jazz 84-83 Thursday night in the decisive fifth game of their first-round playoff series.

Booth, acquired in a trade with Washington in February, got free behind Donyell Marshall and Karl Malone to give the Mavericks an 84-83 lead, capping a comeback from a 17-point deficit.

''I never thought I would be a hero,'' said Booth, a backup center who played all 12 minutes in the fourth. ''I just wanted to give us a little boost.''

What a boost it was.

The Mavericks will open the best-of-seven second round Saturday at San Antonio. Dallas, in the playoffs after an 11-year absence, became the sixth team in NBA history to advance after trailing 0-2.

The Mavericks rallied from double-digit deficits in all five games. Utah survived the first two games at home, but the Mavericks seized the series momentum by winning twice in Dallas.

This time, Dallas trailed 46-31 1:01 before halftime and 71-57 after the third quarter. But the Mavericks came back again, trimming the deficit to 77-76 with a 15-2 run over a span of 4:13 in the fourth.

''We never stopped fighting,'' Finley said. ''As far behind as we got, we knew from the previous games we could come back.''

Steve Nash, held scoreless through three periods, hit two 3-pointers in the burst, the second pulling the Mavericks within one point with 6:17 remaining. He tied it at 79 with a 3-pointer with 4:03 to play.

''At halftime, we just said 'Stay positive, and we did all the way,''' Nash said.

It was back and forth in the dramatic final minutes until Booth's shot.

The Mavericks ran an isolation play for Finley, who seemed ready to work his 6-foot-7 advantage over the smaller and slower John Stockton. But Finley saw Booth open underneath and flipped it inside.

''Everyone was chasing Mike, so of course I got an opening,'' Booth said.

The Jazz called a timeout and set up a final play.

Bryon Russell inbounded to Stockton, who drove and kicked it over to Russell on the right wing. He missed a 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds to go, but Stockton corralled the rebound and passed to Malone.

Unfortunately for Utah, the Mailman didn't deliver this time. He missed an open jumper from the top of the key.

''We had opportunities,'' Malone said. ''I'm not going to take anything from their win. They did the things needed to win.''

When the horn went off, the Mavericks flooded the floor in celebration. Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 18 for Dallas, sprinted laps around the court while coach Don Nelson pumped his fist in elation.

''We kept our composure,'' Nash said. ''A lot of times we could have folded, but we hung in there, and now we're going on.''

It was the first time Dallas, in the playoffs for the first time since 1990, won a postseason series since the 1988 Western Conference semifinals. And it was Utah's first loss in the opening round since 1995 against Houston.

''It's a pretty bitter pill to swallow when you have people on the floor who should be able to make plays,'' said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. ''You've got to give them credit. They did it with their energy level.''

''We showed some character and hung in there,'' Nowitzki said. ''We did it the whole year and we knew we would come back. If we struggled, we just played through it and worked through it.''

Malone led the Jazz with 24 points, while Russell had 15 and the Jazz got a surprising 12 from Olden Polynice. Marshall scored 11.

The Jazz controlled the tempo for the first three quarters and the first four minutes of the final period. It seemed the veteran Utah squad had nothing to worry about, other than a strained back to Malone.

The Mailman needed a break 40 seconds after tipoff, but soon returned, and it didn't slow him. After a brief trip to the locker room, he scored 12 points in the period and the Jazz seized control with a 16-4 run to close the first half.

''I suited up,'' said Malone, who refused to use the injury as an excuse. ''On the first play, I reinjured it. I had the chance to not play, but that's not me.''

It was the same injury he sustained in Game 4.

After colliding with Howard early in the second half Tuesday, Malone grimaced and held his back. Later that night he denied being hurt, and aside from standing stiffly during breaks in play, the injury didn't bother him in Game 5.

Notes: Mavericks owner Mark Cuban bought 400 tickets, offering them free to Dallas fans willing to make the trip or those living in the Salt Lake area. They sat scattered around the arena. ... Utah's Greg Ostertag got a technical foul for hanging on the rim after a second-quarter dunk that was disallowed because of an offensive foul. ... The Spurs won the series season with the Mavericks 3-1. ... The last time Dallas won a playoff series was against Denver in the 1988 Western Conference semifinals. ... The last team to rally from an 0-2 first-round series deficit was Seattle in 1994.

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