Dirk, Mavericks top Kobe, Lakers
While most of the focus in recent days was on the newest members of the team, it was two of the longest-tenured Dallas Mavericks who carried them in the clutch against the defending champs.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 31 points, Jason Terry added 30 and the short-handed Mavericks won their fifth straight game, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 101-96 on Wednesday night.
The Mavericks acquired Caron Butler, who did not play because of a negative reaction he had to medication, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson in a seven-player deal with Washington on Feb. 13.
Los Angeles star Kobe Bryant praised the trade during the All-Star break, saying it made the Mavericks a legitimate threat in the Western Conference. Lakers coach Phil Jackson said before Wednesday's game that the new-look Dallas squad would be better defensively.
Down the stretch, however, the Mavs relied on Nowitzki and Terry, who scored 22 of Dallas' final 23 points.
"This is our type of ballgame," said Terry, who along with Erick Dampier joined the Mavericks in 2004 and trails only Nowitzki in service time with the team. "Any time in the fourth quarter and the game is close, it's going to be up to myself, (Jason Kidd) or Dirk to get the win. I think we welcome that challenge and we don't need to change it right now."
Bryant scored 20 points and moved into 13th place on the career scoring list. Bryant, who passed Reggie Miller, has 25,298 points.
After hitting the game-winning 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds left to beat Memphis on Tuesday night, Bryant missed a 3-pointer that could have tied it with 25 seconds left.
"We play this team extremely well," Bryant said. "We wanted to come in here and put a stop to them."
Bryant returned against the Grizzlies after missing the last five games with a left ankle injury. He shot 9 of 23 and missed four of six attempts in the fourth quarter.
"I thought he got other guys involved," Jackson said. "He was probably a little fatigued and tried to help the other guys get going."
Lamar Odom led Los Angeles with 21 points, Ron Artest had 13 and Derek Fisher finished with 12.
Kidd had 14 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds for the Mavericks, who improved to 5-1 since the trade with the Wizards. Haywood chipped in 11 points, nine rebounds and five blocks.
Neither team led by more than nine in a game went back-and-forth throughout. There were 24 lead changes and eight ties.
Dallas and Los Angeles split the four-game season series. The Lakers won the previous two meetings, including a 100-95 victory on Jan. 13 in which Bryant played, but was hobbled for most of the game.
"This was a big win," Nowitzki said. "They had everybody (healthy) this time. They really embarrassed us that one time out there and then stole one here. It was big for us to tie it up at 2-2."
Terry hit a 3-pointer that made it 90-84. After Bryant scored to make it 90-86, Nowitzki answered with a 17-footer that stretched the lead back to six with 3:18 remaining.
Haywood hit a free throw, the only point over the final 10:46 not scored by Nowitzki and Terry, to make it 93-86. Nowitzki stripped the ball from Andrew Bynum, starting a fast break that ended with Terry's layup and pushed Dallas' lead to 95-86 with 2:20 left.
Los Angeles went on a 8-2 run to trim its deficit to three. Odom hit a 3-pointer and Bryant drove for a layup to make it 97-94 with 57.9 seconds left.
Shawn Marion missed a short jumper, setting up the Lakers for what appeared to be another late comeback after they rallied to beat Memphis one night earlier.
Bryant's 25-footer went long, and Terry and Nowitzki combined to make four free throws to seal the victory.
"We've been playing pretty good defense with the new guys," Kidd said. "This was another example where our shots weren't going down, but we relied on our defense and got some stops. Then we made some big shots down the stretch."
This was the teams' first matchup since the Mavericks made the trade with the Wizards.
The Mavericks were without one of those acquisitions when the team announced just before the tip that Butler wasn't going to play.
Stevenson started in Butler's place and guarded Bryant for most of the first quarter. Bryant struggled early, missing his first five shots.
Bryant had a couple of baskets to cap a 10-0 run late in the second quarter. He hit an off-balance 13-footer, his first points of the game, and followed with another basket to give the Lakers a 48-39 lead with 2:58 left in the first half.
Dallas closed with a 10-2 surge before halftime. Terry, who had 18 points in the first half, hit three free throws, to bring the Mavericks within 50-49.
The Mavericks grabbed the lead by scoring the first six points of the third quarter.
Kidd closed the quarter with a 29-footer from beyond the arc just before the buzzer sounded, putting Dallas up 74-72.
NOTES: Rapper Jay-Z and wife Beyonce had courtside seats for the game. Jay-Z performed in Dallas at the American Airlines Center on Tuesday night. ... The Lakers have won eight out of their past 11 over the Mavericks.