for this game

Odom dazzles as Lakers clinch playoff berth

Apr 5, 2008 - 6:52 AM By Jonathan Raber PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) This much is for sure, the Los Angeles Lakers will be in the NBA playoffs. The rest, however, remains up in the air.

Lamar Odom had a season-high 31 points and 10 rebounds as the Lakers clinched a playoff berth with a 112-108 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday.

Kobe Bryant collected 25 points and 10 rebounds and Pau Gasol also scored 25 as the Lakers captured their third consecutive postseason berth in coach Phil Jackson's second stint.

"It feels good to clinch, obviously, there's still plenty of work to be done," Bryant said. "But it's the first step."

With San Antonio (52-24) losing, Los Angeles (52-24) moved into a tie with the defending champion Spurs for the second seed in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

The Lakers also remain just 1 1/2 games behind the New Orleans Hornets (53-22) for first place in the conference with six games remaining in the regular season.

"It's fun (clinching), but it's not over," said Odom, who made 12-of-14 shots. "We want to finish first."

The Mavericks (47-29) continue to fight for their playoff lives, currently occupying the seventh spot in the West - just one-half game ahead of the Denver Nuggets (46-29).

Dallas just came off a lopsided win over Golden State, which sits in the ninth spot in the conference standings.

"We can't worry about seven, eight, and nine," Mavs guard Jason Kidd said. "We can't worry or scoreboard watch or worry about lower teams, because we have to go out there and win ballgames. We have to take care of business and we'll be in the playoffs."

Late in the fourth quarter, Odom found Gasol streaking downcourt to complete a three-point play as the Lakers grabbed a 108-106 lead with 40 seconds remaining.

Bryant's steal led to a pair of free throws to push the lead to four points on the ensuing possession with 17 seconds left.

"We came back from a big deficit," Gasol said. "And we were able to get it together when it mattered."

In his second game back from an injury, Dirk Nowitzki finished with 27 points while teammate Jason Terry added 25 for the Mavs.

"Every game is a playoff game, and you can't afford any slip-ups, we can't afford to not execute," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said.

Los Angeles had cut the deficit to one point on two separate occasions in the fourth, before tying the game at 101-101 on two foul shots from Bryant with 3:45 left.

The Lakers took their first lead of the quarter on Odom's layup with 2:21 left, prior to the back-and-forth conclusion.

"I was being as aggressive as possible," Odom said. "I was just trying to make as many plays as I can."

The Lakers, who trailed by as many 14 in the opening half, got within 70-66 on Bryant's jumper early in the third. The Mavericks regain momentum behind an 8-3 run before holding an 87-80 lead heading into the fourth.