When they needed it most, the Dallas Mavericks put together a record-setting romp in their first really good game of the playoffs.
With Jason Terry leading the offense and Josh Howard setting the defensive tone against Tracy McGrady, Dallas took a huge lead in the opening minutes and built on it the rest of the way for a 116-76 victory over the visiting Houston Rockets last night.
Reggie Miller, left, forward Jermaine O'Neal, second from left, and other Pacers whoop it up as their teammates finish off the Boston Celtics.
(Charles Krupa -- AP)
It was the most lopsided Game 7 score in NBA history.
Terry scored 21 of his 31 points in the first half, while Howard forced McGrady to miss six of his first seven shots. Although McGrady finished with 27 points, he shot 10 of 26 while trying to force the Rockets back into it. Frustrated that he couldn't, he punched the air and came close to hitting an official. Teammate Mike James also let his emotions get the best of him and was tossed in the final minute of the third quarter for arguing a non-call.
Dallas led by 15 on a three-pointer by Terry early in the second quarter. It was the Mavericks' biggest lead yet this series, but they were only getting started.
They were up 24 before halftime and stretched it to 28 at the end of the third quarter. The advantage reached 30 points soon after, and the only drama left was how many records the would be set.
Dallas had its largest postseason margin of victory ever and dealt the Rockets the most lopsided playoff loss in franchise history.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the final victory margin broke the record of 39 for a Game 7 set by the St. Louis Bombers when they defeated the Philadelphia Warriors 85-46 in the final game of the 1948 league semifinals.
Dallas became just the third team in playoff history to win a seven-game series after losing the first two games at home. The reward is a trip to the desert to play the well-rested Suns and their MVP-to-be, Steve Nash, who spent six seasons with the Mavericks until signing with Phoenix as a free agent last summer.
PACERS 97, CELTICS 70: Jermaine O'Neal broke into a smile when asked about returning to the scene of the ugly brawl that nearly ruined the Indiana Pacers' season.
"It's only right," he said. "It's what I wanted. I wanted to see that team, and I'm pretty sure Detroit is wanting to see us, too."
He got his wish when Indiana routed Boston in the deciding game of their first-round series and advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Pistons. They did it with the slow pace they prefer, keeping alive the 18-year career of Reggie Miller.
The Game 7 rout was so complete that Boston Coach Doc Rivers began clearing his bench with 4 minutes 32 seconds left. And Larry Bird, the former Celtics great and now the Pacers' president of basketball operations, left his seat behind the Indiana bench with 3:31 to go.
"I don't know if the leprechauns took the day off," Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle said. "All I know is we had Number 33 sitting on our side of the building. I've got to believe that makes a little difference when you're here for a Game 7."
The Celtics played very poorly in a big game, missing easy shots and allowing Indiana to take uncontested ones, and had the second-lowest point total in their playoff history. They also lost three home games for the first time in a seven-game series.
"In Game 7, for us to go out and play the way we did is disappointing," Boston's Paul Pierce said. "No one wants to end the season getting blown out."