The second-round playoff series between the Sacramento Kings and Dallas Mavericks has provided everything from impressive romps to thrillers decided in regulation and double overtime.
Now comes the ultimate challenge: Game Seven.
The Kings and Mavs will play for the final time tonight (8 p.m., TNT), with the winner advancing to the Western Conference finals against the San Antonio Spurs.
"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 Six 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 Seven 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 Six). That's what it's all about."
Having the game in Dallas is the Mavericks' reward for winning a franchise-record 60 games. Sacramento won 59.
Sacramento won Game Six by returning to the drive-the-lane formula that helped it beat the Mavericks in five games last year. The Kings had it so easy in that series that a sign went up in Dallas' practice facility reminding players of the 115 layups and dunks they allowed.
The Mavs gave up only 85 through five games this time, then almost made up the difference Thursday night.
"Letting them score (58) points in the paint is ridiculous. That's the difference in the game," Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki said. "It's tough to win when you're shooting jumpers and they're shooting layups."
73 declare for draft
NEW YORK -- High school senior LeBron James and Syracuse freshman Carmelo Anthony head a list of 73 players who declared for early entry in the NBA draft.
The list was announced by the league Friday and includes a record 31 international players.
James, expected to be the No. 1 pick, played in the national spotlight at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio. He was one of six high school seniors to apply for the draft. The others were Ndubi Ebi of Houston, James Lang of Birmingham, Ala., Travis Outlaw of Starkville, Miss., Kendrick Perkins of Beaumont, Texas, and Charlie Villanueva of Blairstown, N.J.
Anthony led Syracuse to the NCAA title and was the most outstanding player at the Final Four.