April 30, 2007
AP - Apr 30, 2:04 am
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Baron Davis banked in a 3-pointer from midcourt at the halftime buzzer Sunday night. While his Golden State fans nearly deafened their team, absolutely nobody in either uniform seemed terribly surprised.
Davis has something in him these days that even the mighty Dallas Mavericks can't match -- and now his crazy, carefree Warriors are one win away from a historic playoff upset.
Davis had five of his 33 points and two key assists in the final 3 1/2 minutes, and Golden State roared from behind for a 103-99 victory to take a 3-1 lead over the NBA's best regular-season team in their first-round playoff series.
Jason Richardson scored 22 points and Stephen Jackson added 19 for the Warriors, who could become just the third team in league history to knock off a No. 1 seed in the opening round. After the frenzied Oakland crowd's second celebration in three days, the Warriors seem primed to pull off perhaps the biggest heist in playoff history.
"Every game we play is a learning process and an adventure," Davis said. "This is a young team which has never been in this situation. ... I felt I could carry the load in the first half and open things up."
He kept carrying it late as he got the Warriors to the brink of history. Only the Denver Nuggets (1994) and the New York Knicks (1999) have won a playoff series as a No. 8 seed -- and both did it in the old best-of-five format.
The Warriors are an even more unlikely candidate -- a 42-40 club that didn't make the playoffs until the final day of the regular season. But Golden State streaked into the postseason -- and Davis' club undeniably has a hold on Dallas, winning eight of their last nine meetings and surging to this victory after trailing by seven points with 6 1/2 minutes left.
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Dallas, where the Mavericks went 36-5 in the regular season, but blew the series opener.
"Look in the locker room right now, and everybody is very disappointed," said Dirk Nowitzki, who had 23 points and 15 rebounds in another less-than-valuable performance. "We know this team won't give up. We've got a lot of heart. We'll still come out swinging. That's the only thing we've got."
Jerry Stackhouse scored 24 points and kept Dallas ahead for most of the second half, but the Mavs' offense tightened up as soon as the Warriors' incredible point guard took charge despite Dallas' numerous defensive traps and constant pressure.
"It's just fun," Davis said. "Coming into the playoffs, Coach (Don Nelson) said we had nothing to lose. We just wanted to be in the playoffs for this city, for the whole Bay Area.
"And come playoff time, you're in prime time, so you're going to have a little more focus, a little more energy, and your rhythm is there. My rhythm is there. I've been preparing for the playoffs since two weeks were left in the regular season."
Davis got the Warriors rolling just when the Mavericks seemed ready to exhale with a narrow win. Davis hit Jackson for an open 3-pointer, then made a driving layup past Nowitzki to put Golden State ahead 91-90 with 2:35 left.
After Stackhouse airballed a 3-pointer and Andris Biedrins dunked on another pass from Davis, the Mavericks fell apart with a turnover and a traveling violation before Davis coolly drilled a 20-footer with 57 seconds left.
Matt Barnes thought he put it away for the Warriors with a 3-pointer from the sideline, but Nowitzki hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the final 14 seconds to keep it close.
Davis missed a free throw with 3.2 seconds left to give Dallas one last shot -- but Devin Harris threw the inbounds pass straight to Golden State's Mickael Pietrus, sparking the crowd to deafening cheers from the sellout Oakland crowd. Pietrus finished with 16 points.
"We're just riding it right now," said Richardson, who was outstanding in both home games. "People were writing us off with 20 games left. We put it together, but you can't celebrate yet and act like you already won a playoff, because you've got to win four games."
Golden State put the top-seeded Mavericks in an early hole in the series with two quick wins, including an 18-point triumph in Game 3 with a raucous crowd enjoying Oakland's first home playoff game in 13 years.
Jason Terry and Stackhouse called a players-only team meeting Saturday, the Mavericks' first such gathering since last season's NBA finals. The Oracle Arena rematch wasn't nearly as one-sided -- but the Warriors had all the fourth-quarter poise that the defending Western Conference champions have inexplicably lacked.
"I saw fire in our guys' eyes tonight," coach Avery Johnson said. "We came to play. We just didn't have a good finish to the game. ... That's something we were concerned about all year. We have to have better finishes to quarters, practices, everything."
Johnson used his third starting lineup of the series, and it worked well with 13 rebounds and four blocked shots from center DeSagana Diop.
Josh Howard scored 20 of his 22 points before halftime, shooting Dallas to an early lead, but Golden State finished the first half on a 15-7 run capped by Davis' extraordinary 3-pointer.
Dallas jumped ahead in the third quarter, but Davis tied it again going to the fourth with another otherworldly play, stealing a pass and driving for a two-handed fingertip dunk with 1.2 seconds left.
"They're still in control of this series because they've been here, and they've bounced back," Davis said.
Actually, the Mavs have never rallied from a 1-3 deficit in franchise history.
Monta Ellis went scoreless in 24 minutes for Golden State. Devean George was scoreless in 15 minutes for Dallas. ... Josh Powell, the Warriors' seldom-used forward who played for Dallas last season, missed the game because of a death in the family. Rookie Patrick O'Bryant was activated. ... Actress Jessica Alba -- another friend of Davis, who also invited Kate Hudson and Owen Wilson to both Oakland games -- cheered from a front-row seat.
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