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Nowitzki, Mavericks top Lakers with late run

Dec 14, 2006 - 5:38 AM DALLAS (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers kept getting knocked down. Dirk Nowitzki made sure they didn't get back up.

In an intense and physical contest, Nowitzki collected 23 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists and Josh Howard added 29 points as the Dallas Mavericks used a decisive fourth-quarter run en route to a 110-101 victory over Bryant and the Lakers.

Jason Terry had 26 points and nine assists for the Mavericks, who shot a blistering 60 percent (39-of-65) from the field and 28-of-33 from the line as their free-flowing offense was too much to handle for the Lakers.

Terry, who has been playing off the ball lately, was moved back to his natural point guard position.

"During stretches of the game, when I'm not as involved, if I'm spotting up and we're working our offense, it allows me to get back on the ball and get back into it," Terry said. "It allows me to be aggressive. When you have the ball in your hands, you can make plays."

While Bryant attempted to take over the game in the second half, he was swarmed by Dallas defenders and spent much of the game picking himself up off the floor. Bryant scored 28 of his 33 points after halftime, but could not do it alone as his teammates struggled to find their rhythm.

The superstar guard shot 9-of-18 from the field overall and showed his complete repertoire.

"To me, (Kobe's) the best player playing in this league," Nowitzki said. "He's tough to guard. He's got everything, he's got the shot, he's got the drive, he's got the finish around the hoop. He was just aggressive.

"I needed to get us rolling a little bit," Bryant said. "I needed to get us rolling, kick start us a little bit."

However, former teammate Devean George and Howard chased him all over the floor to make his buckets as tough as possible.

"We've been doing a good job on tough scorers as a team," George said. "We haven't been sending one guy; we've been giving scorers different looks, double-teaming, getting the ball out of their hands and rotating."

"We just do not win this game without George's defense," Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. "They were out there, they were in passing lanes and I thought (Josh) was awfully aggressive on offense and his defense on Bryant."

With the game tied, 83-83, with 11:28 left, the Mavericks used a 17-5 spurt, capped by Howard's acrobatic layup, to make it 100-88 with six minutes remaining.

"Defense set the tone for us. We got a couple of rebounds, ran down the court and had a couple of good looks," Nowitzki said. "Josh was phenomenal. Our energy was good. We were scrambling, trying to get the ball out of Kobe's hand. We were rotating. I think that's the kind of energy level we've got to have if we want to beat the good teams."

Nowitzki was 8-of-14 from the floor and 7-of-10 from the line, falling just short of a triple-double. Terry shot 8-of-15 and 8-of-8 at the line.

"Everybody at the end was saying, 'Get two more (assists),' but it's not PlayStation out there," Nowitzki said. "It's not that easy. I tried when I could but I couldn't get any more and we found a way to win."

Luke Walton had 13 points and seven rebounds for the Lakers, who shot 44 percent (32-of-73).

Star forward Lamar Odom injured his MCL in Tuesday's win at Houston and will miss at least one month.

"It was a challenge for us, no question, but we all expected to win the game," Bryant said. "We gave ourselves an opportunity at the end but we just couldn't sustain it when we needed to. We really missed him more on the defensive end of the floor. We missed him big time."

"It happened (playing back-to-back without Odom)," Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. "Whether it's bound to happen or not I don't know, but it happened. The road is tough and back-to-back games have their own difficulty."

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