Lakers 108, Mavericks 103

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LOS ANGELES (AP)—The Los Angeles Lakers have been sitting on the playoff bubble all season, and it’s starting to feel uncomfortable. So Kobe Bryant took matters into his own hands.

Bryant scored 10 of his 40 points in the final 2:15 and the Lakers snapped a four-game losing streak with a 108-103 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night. It was Bryant’s 37th career game with 40 or more points, and his seventh this season.

Caron Butler had 20 points and Lamar Odom added 18 points and 11 rebounds, helping prevent the Lakers from slipping under the .500 mark for the first time since they were 3-4.

“That was a big motivational factor for us,” Bryant said. “We knew this was a big game and pretty much a must-win situation against a great team, and we were able to pull it off.”

Bryant hasn’t been on a team that lost five straight since he was a high school freshman. The Lakers haven’t lost more than four straight since the 1993-94 season, when they dropped their final 10 games with Magic Johnson coaching the team.

“We were on a four-game skid, and it was important for us to get off that skid,” Bryant said. “No way did we want to lose five games in a row. I don’t like losing two in a row, let alone five in a row.”

The Lakers shot 51.9 percent from the field, despite going 1-for-18 from behind the 3-point line. The victory put them a half-game ahead of idle Denver and a full game ahead of Minnesota in the race for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff berth.

“I know a lot of people don’t even think we’re even going to make the playoffs. But there’s no reason why we can’t slide up. That’s our mentality,” Bryant said.

Dirk Nowitzki had 23 points and 13 rebounds, and Jerry Stackhouse scored 19 points for the Mavericks, who have lost three of four following a six-game winning streak. They have lost 27 of their last 28 against the Lakers in Los Angeles, with the only victory coming last season.

Dallas forward Michael Finley sat out the game because of a sore left calf. The two-time All-Star, who turns 32 on Sunday, had been kicked in the leg three times in the past three weeks—including Wednesday night’s loss to the Clippers when he had just four points in 30 minutes. He missed 15 games earlier this season with a sprained right ankle.

The Mavericks used their 14th different starting lineup, with center Shawn Bradley making his first start of the season and scoring six points in 17 minutes. Erick Dampier missed his sixth straight game because of a stress fracture in his right foot, and isn’t expected back for at least another two weeks.

Neither team led by more than four points in the fourth quarter until Bryant’s layup gave the Lakers a 97-92 edge with 2:15 remaining. The seven-time All-Star added a 14-foot fadeaway jumper and six free throws, offsetting seven points by Nowitzki in the final 1:34.

“They were able to make a couple of stops and put together a small run,” Stackhouse said. “We had a lot of missed layups that we blew ourselves. When we look back at the game, no matter what they did, it was on us because we had a chance. But we missed 10-15 point-blank shots.”

Bryant gave Los Angeles a 59-57 lead with 10:15 left in the third, driving the left baseline and making a poster shot of Nowitzki with a slam dunk that brought the sellout crowd to its feet. But Dallas took an 81-80 lead into the fourth after an 11-point quarter by Stackhouse.

Bryant had 18 points in the first half, but the Lakers were 1-for-11 from 3-point range and had to settle for a 52-all tie at intermission. Dallas guard Marquis Daniels took 12 shots in the half—more than any of the Mavericks’ starters—but made only four of them and finished 7-for-18 from the field.

Keith Van Horn, who fouled out Thursday night against the Clippers, missed his first eight shots against the Lakers before ending the drought with a driving layup 16 seconds into the final quarter.

Stackhouse, playing his second game after missing the previous seven games because of a groin strain, missed his first four shots and was 4-for-15. But he made all 11 free throws.

Notes

The Lakers held a halftime ceremony to honor Bill Sharman, who last September joined Lenny Wilkens and John Wooden as the only men inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach. Sharman guided the Lakers to an NBA title and a league-record 33-game winning streak in 1971-72. His first induction was in 1976 for his years with the Boston Celtics as Bob Cousy’s backcourt mate. … Finley, who never sat out a game during his first six NBA seasons, has missed 52 games over the last four because of injuries. The Mavericks are 9-7 this season when he hasn’t played. … Bradley started five of 66 games last season. … Lakers F Brian Grant turns 33 years old on Saturday.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Dallas
D. Nowitzki D. Nowitzki
7-17,  23 Pts
13 Rebs, 3 Assists
 LA Lakers
K. Bryant K. Bryant
13-27,  40 Pts
8 Rebs, 6 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists