The Dallas Mavericks ended the title defense of the Los Angeles Lakers with a 122-86 rout on Sunday to send 11-time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson into retirement on a sour note.
Dallas tied an NBA playoff record with 20 three-pointers to land the knockout blow on the aging and weary Lakers and complete a 4-0 second-round sweep of the two-time defending champions.
The Hawks later surged down the stretch in Atlanta to claim a 100-88 victory over the Chicago Bulls and tie their best-of-seven series at 2-2 going into today’s Game 5.
Chicago’s Derrick Rose, coming off a career-high 44 points on Friday, poured in another 34 and had 10 assists, but the Hawks closed the game on a 16-4 run in the final four minutes to turn back the Bulls.
The Mavericks had no need of a late surge in Dallas and Jason Terry drained nine three-pointers of his own and 32 points to send the Mavericks into the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2006.
Dallas lost the NBA Finals despite holding a 2-0 series lead that year, but they suffered no such let down against Los Angeles on Sunday.
“We went to the finals that one year and have since had a couple early exits, but I think this team is as deep as any Mavs team I’ve been on and we’re trying to go for it,” Dallas All-Star Dirk Nowitzki told reporters after finishing with 17 points. “[The Lakers] are the defending champions. It was great to get through this series.”
Kobe Bryant led Los Angeles with 17 points, but the Mavs blitzed the visitors 36-16 in the second quarter to take a 24-point halftime lead.
The Lakers had reached the past three NBA Finals, but in a season marked by inconsistent efforts they ultimately collapsed in Dallas.
Los Angeles big men Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum were ejected in the fourth quarter after taking cheap shots on Dallas players once the game was well out of reach.
“All of my hopes and aspirations are that this is the final game that I will coach,” said Jackson, who was fined US$35,000 by the NBA earlier in the day for comments made about the officiating in the series.
Joe Johnson led Atlanta with 24 points and Josh Smith enjoyed an all-around performance of 23 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists to help the Hawks thrive down the stretch.
With the game tied 84-84 with 4 minutes, 31 seconds remaining, Atlanta scored the next 10 points to take a 94-84 advantage with 1 minute, 25 seconds left.
Al Horford tallied eight of his 20 points in the final five minutes and the Hawks forced Rose into two turnovers and a couple of missed shots in the closing minutes.
“Rose is a good player, an MVP player, but without the ball in his hands it slows down their offense a little bit,” Smith said. “No matter what anybody says about our ball club, I believe in it.”