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Bryant, Lakers snap skid, top Mavericks

Mar 19, 2008 - 5:23 AM DALLAS (Ticker) -- A 25-point cushion almost wasn't enough, but the Los Angeles Lakers held on just long enough to avoid a three-game slide.

Kobe Bryant scored 29 points and Lamar Odom added 17 and 17 rebounds to lead the Lakers to a 102-100 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.

Vladimir Radmanovic added 21 points and 10 rebounds for Los Angeles (46-21), which snapped a two-game losing streak and jumped ahead of the idle New Orleans Hornets (45-21) into a tie for first place in the Western Conference.

"It's a big win for us," Bryant said. "We had to stop the bleeding after coming in here shorthanded."

The Lakers are tied with the red-hot Houston Rockets (46-21), who had their 22-game winning streak snapped against the Boston Celtics later Tuesday night.

The Mavericks had a shot to win at the end, but Dirk Nowitzki's 3-point attempt sailed long with no time left on the clock.

"I didn't really have the ball unfortunately," Nowitzki said. "Four seconds is a lot of time. If I would have caught it clean, I probably would have been able to move and get off a better shot. Unfortunately, I didn't have it but I still got a good look at a three. It just didn't go down."

Up by as many as 76-51 after Bryant's layup with 5:43 left in the third quarter, the Lakers allowed Dallas to creep back into the contest by going without a field goal for the next six minutes, bridging the third and fourth quarters.

The Mavericks ended the third on a 14-1 run to pull within 77-65 heading into the fourth, and cut it to 79-74 with 9:36 left in the game with a 9-2 run to open the fourth.

"We hustled and we fought," Nowitzki said. "That third quarter was big for us to drive, get to the foul line, stop the clock there and shoot a lot of free throws and just keep fighting. That really helped us get back in it."

"Guys started pushing the ball on the break, we started rebounding and just really became the scrappy team that I love," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said.

Radmanovic nearly single-handedly kept the Lakers afloat, pouring in three 3-pointers during an 11-4 run to push the lead back to 90-78 with 7:31 remaining.

"I was happy for him," Bryant said. "I was a little concerned about him. He's very emotional and very hard on himself, and he just stuck with it and he had a breakout game tonight. He was unbelievable."

"That hurt us," Mavericks forward Devean George said. "He stepped up big for them tonight. But that's what guys have to do when we deny Kobe and double-team him - other guys have to make shots, and he stepped up for them tonight."

With Los Angeles up 98-91 after Sasha Vujacic's jumper with 1:12 to play, Nowitzki brought the home crowd to its feet with back-to-back 3-pointers to trim the deficit to 98-97 with 41 seconds to play.

After Radmanovic missed a jumper on the ensuing possession, Mavericks swingman Jerry Stackhouse was called for a questionable loose ball foul on Odom, who hit two free throws to increase the lead back to 100-97.

"I just jumped up, I got the ball at it's highest point and knocked the ball away," Stackhouse said. "There was a whole lot going on all night. We'll suck it up like we always do."

"It was really big," Bryant said. "I'm happy for Lamar. For him to be put in that situation, teams are going to make somebody else beat them down the stretch. For him to step up in a crucial situation - and make those free throws - was big."

Jason Kidd missed his 3-point attempt on Dallas' next chance, and Vujacic split a pair of free throws to make it a two-possession game before Jason Terry nailed a deep 3-pointer with four seconds left.

"We're proud of our fighting back but, at this point in the season, we can't dig ourselves holes like that, and we know that," Terry said. "That game's over with, on to the next one."

Derek Fisher split a pair of free throws before Nowitzki's errant final shot.

Nowitzki finished with 35 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Mavericks, who shot just 33 percent (12-of-36) in the first half to fall into a 59-38 hole at the break and had their five-game winning streak stopped.

"We knew what we needed to do defensively," Bryant said. "We got after them. We got our hands on balls. We stretched them out offensively and we attached them. We ran our offense pretty well.

"The game's always about momentum. Once we got that surge going, and got a couple of balls, a couple of steals, I knocked that three down right before the half, and that gave us a big boost. That's what happens."

"It wasn't pretty there in the first half," Nowitzki said. "We couldn't give up 60 points like we did. We made everything too easy in the first half. You can't spot teams 20-25 points. It takes a lot out of you."

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