Click photo to enlarge
Baron Davis, left, and Matt Barnes jump for joy after going ahead 93-90 in the fourth quarter of the Warriors win over the Mavericks.
OAKLAND -- Even as they dropped two of the first three games in their first-round Western Conference playoff series, the Dallas Mavericks have steadfastly maintained that once they started playing well, once they imposed the will that led to 67 regular-season victories, they would prevail over the eighth-seeded Warriors.

Sunday night, the Mavericks did exactly that for 411/2 minutes.

And then the surging Warriors washed away all that nonsense.

Coming from eight points down with 6 minutes, 22 seconds to go in a Game 4 that was tailor-made to the Mavericks' specifications, the Warriors seized total control of their first playoff series in 13 years, using a 10-0 run in the closing minutes to push last season's Western Conference champions to the brink of elimination with a 103-99 victory.

"We've been through all this adversity and we just fought through it," Warriors guard Jason Richardson said. "That's just the confidence of this team, just the will of this team to win. We're going to fight until the final buzzer."

The game -- dominated by one-on-one action at both ends of the floor and played at a slower, Mavericks-friendly tempo -- followed Avery Johnson's blueprints to a T, but it all went for naught thanks to another superlative performance from Baron Davis, who finished with 33 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

"All I told Baron was to be dominant and he is now proving how great I said he is," Warriors coach Don Nelson said.

Golden State hit its last five shots from the floor to take a 3-1 series lead.


Advertisement

And so the Mavericks -- whose star, Dirk Nowitzki, had labeled this "a Game 7" for his team -- must win three straight games against a team they've lost nine of their last 11 against in order to avoid becoming victims of the biggest postseason upset in NBA history.

Jason Richardson collected 22 points, five rebounds and four steals, Stephen Jackson finished with 19 points, and Mickael Pietrus had the Warriors' first superior bench performance of this series, providing 16 points and five rebounds.

The Mavericks led 90-86 with four minutes to go after a putback bucket by Nowitzki, who finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds. But instead of wilting against the team with the NBA's best record, Golden State reeled off 10 straight points in response.

A 3-pointer by Jackson cut the lead to one, then a coast-to-coast layup by Davis fittingly put the Warriors ahead for good at 91-90. Andris Biedrins followed up with a dunk, Richardson hit one of two free throws and then Davis -- as a franchise-record crowd of 20,672 chanted "M-V-P" -- launched a killer top-of-the-key jumper for a 96-90 lead with 57.3 seconds left.

"We don't think they clutched up," Richardson said. "We just got looser. We knew that we were going to win this game."

The Mavericks drew close in the final seconds by draining back-to-back-to-back treys, but Davis hit a free throw with 3.2 seconds to go for a 102-99 lead. With no timeouts, Dallas had to inbound under its own hoop, and Pietrus grabbed Devin Harris' desperation pass at midcourt to put the Warriors one step away from joining the 1993-94 Denver Nuggets and 1998-99 New York Knicks as the only No. 8 seeds to knock off a No. 1 in NBA playoff history.

"We just hung around long enough," the Warriors' Matt Barnes said. "They never really closed the door on us and we just kicked it back open at the end of the game and won it."

It was Davis doing the majority of the kicking. He kept the game tied after the second and third periods with some miraculous plays -- nailing a 45-foot shot from behind half-court to beat the halftime buzzer, then scoring the Warriors' final eight points of the third quarter, capping that stretch with a two-handed dunk off a full sprint with 1.2 seconds left.

"He definitely put us on his back and guys responded in the fourth quarter," Warriors forward Al Harrington said.

Dallas guard Jerry Stackhouse, continuing his trend of alternating brilliant games after wretched ones with a team-high 24 points, scored eight straight as the Mavericks pulled out to an 88-81 lead.

But the expected coup de grace that would give back home-court advantage to Dallas never arrived. Instead, Richardson's 3-ball from the right corner cut that deficit to 88-86 in preparation for the final push.

"You look in our locker room right now, and everybody's very, very disappointed," Nowitzki said. "Now our backs are against the wall and all we can do is come out swinging."

It's a better plan than all that empty talk.

Contact Geoff Lepper at glepper@cctimes.com.