16-4 fourth-quarter run propels Sacramento

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Peja Stojakovic's glory days were only

a few months ago, so the Sacramento Kings are pretty sure he can

recapture them in time for the playoffs.

His performance in a big win over the Dallas Mavericks might be

a good start.

Stojakovic hit six 3-pointers on the way to a season-high 38

points, and the energized Kings avoided a regular-season sweep by

Dallas with a 109-101 victory Thursday night.

For the first time in his own recent memory, Stojakovic played a

full game with the same confidence and flair that made him the

NBA's second-leading scorer last season. The inconsistent Serbian

forward had just his third 30-point game of the season while

grabbing nine rebounds and making all 14 of his free throws.

Each successive 3-pointer stoked a louder roar from the sellout

crowd as the Kings hung on for just their second win in nine

regular-season games against Dallas. Stojakovic credited an

aggressive mentality -- but he couldn't explain its origin.

"The basket felt like a swimming pool," Stojakovic said. "I

know I've been inconsistent lately, but you just have to keep

playing through it. I was just being aggressive from the first

minute. ... I know I was struggling, but I couldn't sit home and

cry. I had to play and get back in shape."

Coach Rick Adelman knew Stojakovic would have a big night when

he saw his forward crashing the boards in the first quarter -- a

sure sign Stojakovic's head was in the game. Stojakovic led the

Kings in rebounding for just the second time this season.

"He just looked so much like the Peja of last year tonight,"

Adelman said. "He wasn't just standing out there. He was pursuing

the ball. It was great to see."

Mike Bibby also had 17 points and eight assists for the Kings,

while Kenny Thomas scored 15 points and teamed with Darius Songaila

to hold Dirk Nowitzki to nine of his 35 points in the fourth

quarter. The Kings snapped Dallas' four-game winning streak.

Sacramento had a 16-4 run midway through the fourth quarter led

by Bibby's six points and cool playmaking, but Dallas pulled within

103-98 on Devin Harris' 3-pointer with 1:36 left. The Mavericks

couldn't score on their next two possessions, and Cuttino Mobley

made two free throws to clinch Sacramento's third win in four


"I think they're a lot tougher (since trading Chris Webber),"

Nowitzki said. "Now they're a lot more physical."

Dallas had won seven of the clubs' last eight regular-season

meetings, but the Kings beat the Mavs in five games in last

season's playoffs. Dallas has never swept a season series from


The clubs have played 31 games against each other since Jan. 1,

2002, and they could be headed for their fourth straight postseason

matchup, with Sacramento three games behind fourth-place Dallas in

the conference standings. But in each of the past three years, the

team that won the regular-season series lost the playoff matchup.

Nowitzki was his usual unguardable self for much of the game,

but he also went 5½ minutes between scores in the fourth quarter --

and he spent most of the night complaining to the officials. He got

his second technical foul in two nights when he spiked a loose ball

into the fans at courtside in frustration while Sacramento pulled

away in the fourth quarter.

"Peja was on fire from all over," Nowitzki said. "I don't

think we should lose him in transition. That's the one guy we

shouldn't lose. He went right to the 3-point line and was wide

open. Once a shooter like that gets hot, you're in trouble."

Mavs coach Avery Johnson, who lost for the first time in four

games since taking over for Don Nelson, also got a technical foul

with 2:29 to play for arguing a possession call.

Devin Harris and Keith Van Horn added 16 points apiece for the

Mavs, while Mobley had 16 for Sacramento.

Stojakovic had 14 points and six rebounds in the first quarter,

but Nowitzki responded with 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting during

Dallas' 40-point second quarter. In another display of the German

star's amplified toughness this season, Nowitzki also sparked the

sellout crowd's ire with a flagrant foul on Kenny Thomas to stop a

breakaway with 1:50 left in the first half.

"That was a joke," Nowitzki said. "Obviously I fouled him,

but just because he falls into the stands doesn't make it a

flagrant. It was a tough night for the officials, but we still

should have won the game."

Thomas was called for a flagrant foul of his own on Nowitzki in

the third quarter.

Game notes
Kings C Brian Skinner returned to the starting lineup after

a one-game absence with two sprained thumbs. ... Sacramento made

just four turnovers in Tuesday night's win over Portland, just one

shy of the lowest total in NBA history. Mobley made a turnover on

the Kings' first possession against Dallas -- but Sacramento didn't

make another turnover in the first quarter.