Dallas — The second-round playoff series between Sacramento and Dallas has provided everything from impressive romps to thrillers decided in regulation and double overtime.
Now comes the ultimate challenge: Game 7.
The Kings and Mavs will play for the final time tonight, with the winner advancing to the Western Conference finals against San Antonio.
"I really don't think we'd have it any other way," Sacramento guard Doug Christie said. "Two good teams going at it for 48 minutes in a violent environment. You couldn't ask for anything better."
Of course the Kings feel that way. Down 3-2, their only hope was to win Game 6 and force a deciding game. They did exactly that with a 115-109 victory Thursday night at Arco Arena in a game that fits into the thriller category.
The Kings controlled most of the final three quarters, although the Mavs briefly led by one with 8:16 left. Dallas could have gone ahead again with 12 seconds left, but Walt Williams missed a three-pointer, putting the Mavericks into a winner-take-all game for the second straight round.
While Game 7 against Portland brought out their best, they would have preferred ending things in Sacramento. It was the fourth time in five tries this postseason that Dallas wasted a chance to end a series.
"You've got to be hungry," said Mavericks reserve Nick Van Exel, who had 35 points on 15-for-23 shooting in 37 minutes Thursday.
"They were more hungry (in Game 6). That's what it's all about. ... We are going to be confident going back home, but we had a great opportunity."
Having the game in Dallas is the Mavericks' reward for winning a franchise-record 60 games. Sacramento won 59.
The Kings overcame early-season injuries to win that many and to claim the Pacific Division, which earned them the second seed. Dallas started hot, going 14-0, but finished cold, blowing the Midwest Division. The Mavericks remained a win ahead of Sacramento by beating the Spurs in an otherwise meaningless season finale.
Whoever wins this will next play Monday night in San Antonio. The winner of that series advances to the NBA Finals, where they'd be a huge favorite over whoever makes it out of the East.
It might be tough for either of the next two rounds to equal the fast-paced excitement these teams already have produced.
Befitting their status as two of the three highest-scoring teams this season, the winner of each game has scored at least 99 points. Only twice has the loser scored less than 109 points.