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GAME 5: LAKERS VS. MAVERICKS : It Isn’t Over Until Aguirre Misses : Maverick’s 70-Foot Shot Is Long, but He Gets 27 Points

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Times Staff Writer

Not until Mark Aguirre’s last-second two-hand overhead heave from 70 feet away sailed over the backboard and out of bounds could the Lakers safely start celebrating their 116-113 victory over the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday night in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Considering the way Aguirre’s seemingly unstoppable outside shooting had burned the Lakers the last three games, the Mavericks’ bulky forward could not be left alone no matter how far he was from the basket.

“When I let the ball go, I was just trying to direct it straight,” said Aguirre, who actually thought the desperation shot had a chance. “But I wanted to throw it in the basket, not over it.”

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Aguirre had no problem remembering how to shoot earlier Tuesday night. Coming off an impressive 39-point performance Sunday in Game 4, Aguirre made 12 of 25 shots to lead Dallas with 27 points in Game 5.

Drawing only one-on-one coverage because his Dallas teammates also were making their shots, Aguirre once again had his way with the Lakers. He camped on the perimeter and sank 20-footers, used his considerable lower-body bulk to post low and also scored on a few twisting layups.

One time in the third quarter, Aguirre found himself with no one to pass to and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar heading straight his way. Aguirre calmly sank a fadeaway jumper over Abdul-Jabbar’s outstretched right hand and trotted to the defensive end as if he expected to swish it.

“I’m just taking advantage of what I have,” Aguirre said. “I don’t feel I’m doing anything I haven’t done before this season. If I can get a guy one-on-one, there isn’t a whole lot they can do. I just have to make the shots.

“The way we’re playing, I’m going to get a lot of shots simply because Ro (Rolando Blackman) and Derek (Harper) are hitting. They can’t concentrate on me. It’s a good situation.”

Right now, though, the Mavericks are not in a good situation. They trail the Lakers, three games to two, but you couldn’t tell it from the player reaction in the locker room.

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As Harper walked by Aguirre’s locker, the players grasped hands and Aguirre said: “We are going to get them Thursday (in Game 6 at Dallas).”

Then, owner Donald Carter intervened and told Harper and Aguirre that a possible seventh game Saturday at the Forum will be the “doggondest thing” he will ever see.

The Mavericks might be accused of overconfidence--or at least looking ahead--but Aguirre doesn’t think so. It is the belief of Aguirre and other Mavericks that the Lakers would be one game away from elimination today had Dallas made most of its free-throw attempts.

The Mavericks made just 20 of 33 free-throw attempts (60.6%), surprising since they once again shot well from the field (51.7%).

“We can’t cry about that,” Aguirre said. “But that was the difference. We make only a few more free throws and the game is different. I really think if we had done two or three things differently, we would have won.

“It shouldn’t have come down to that point where I had to make that (desperation) shot. If we keep pulling together and playing like we have, we’ll win Thursday.”

Aguirre expressed some surprise that the Mavericks have come together in this series. The last two seasons, Dallas has been a collection of first-round draft choices sprinkled in with a few veteran role players seemingly with no leader. Now, Aguirre says, the Mavericks are a team .

“It’s been like this all through the playoffs,” Aguirre said. “In the playoffs, everybody needs a lift, even if they don’t think they need one. It generates a spirit, a feeling in the locker room. I’ve noticed it.

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“I think we know we’re playing good basketball and intense basketball. All the players on both teams are playing this way. It has become a classic series, I really think so. You don’t want to see it end.”

No doubt, the Mavericks don’t want to see it end Thursday night.

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