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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

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Break out the brooms: Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki takes a shot against the Lakers on Sunday in Dallas. The Mavericks routed the Lakers 122-86 to sweep their playoff series. AP PHOTO

Mavs eliminate Lakers, sweep Jackson to retirement

AP

DALLAS — Phil Jackson walked off the court with a tight smile, shaking hands and accepting congratulations like he has after so many series-ending playoff games.

Never like this, though.

His team didn't win; they were crushed. Swept, too.

And he wasn't just heading to the offseason — he's calling it a career, ending the most successful run by any coach in NBA history.

Jason Terry and the Dallas Mavericks ended Jackson's tenure, and the Lakers' reign as two-time champions, with a 122-86 victory Sunday. After two tight finishes and another game that was relatively close, the Mavs turned this one into a rout in the second quarter.

With Terry, who had a game-high 32 points, leading the way, Dallas hit a barrage of 3-pointers to go ahead by 24 at halftime. When he made 3s on consecutive possessions early in the third quarter, Los Angeles knew it wasn't going to come back in this game or the series.

Things got ugly early in the fourth, with vicious, frustration-fueled cheap shots by Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum getting them ejected 45 seconds apart. But at game's end, Dallas coaches, players and team owner Mark Cuban lined up to bid farewell to the Zen Master.

"It's been a wonderful run," Jackson said.

The 65-year-old Jackson has retired before, but he insists it's for good this time. While he goes out with the sour taste of his first sweep in 21 postseasons, and his second-widest margin of defeat, it can't override all the sweet days.

A Hall of Famer since 2007, he leaves with a record 11 titles, and only 10 series losses. Take away Red Auerbach, who won nine championships, and Jackson won more titles than any two coaches combined.

Jackson won six championships with Michael Jordan, three with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, and the last two with Bryant leading the way.

He had to be talked into coming back this year. The lure of chasing a 12th title, bundled neatly as four three-peats, did it, but he knew it would be tough with a team worn down by three straight years of reaching the finals.

"(That) puts a lot of strain on the basketball club from all angles: personalities, spiritually, physically, emotionally, and getting charged up for game after game and assault after assault when you go in and play a team," Jackson said. "It was a challenge bigger than we could beat this year."

Hawks even series at 2-2

Atlanta AP

Josh Smith seemed to do it all. He attacked the basket. He defended. He rebounded. He made brilliant passes. He even won a crucial jump ball against a taller player.

There was only one thing Smith didn't do — park himself on the outside, putting up shots beyond his range.

The Atlanta Hawks were just fine with that.

Smith answered his critics with a huge game — 23 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists — and fill-in Jeff Teague came up with the Derrick Rose-like plays down the stretch to lead the Hawks past the Chicago Bulls 100-88 Sunday night, evening the Eastern Conference semifinals at two games apiece.

The Hawks snapped a nine-game home losing streak in the second round, their misery dating to a May 13, 1996, win against Orlando.

Smith is frequently criticized by Atlanta fans for his inconsistent play. He heard nothing but cheers in this one, largely staying away from the jumpers, dominating on the inside and finding the open man.



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