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Lakers tied with Kings for NBA's best record

3/18/2002

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Robert Horry usually waits for the playoffs
to play his best basketball. Seldom, however, has he been better
than Sunday night, and the postseason is still a month away.

Horry made two 3-pointers in the final three minutes to cap a
terrific all-around performance as the Los Angeles Lakers continued
their domination of the Dallas Mavericks with a 105-103 victory.

Playing 41 minutes to equal a season high, Horry had 19 points,
eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and four blocked shots.

His 3-pointer with 45.8 seconds remaining, with an assist from
Shaquille O'Neal, completed the scoring. The final six baskets --
three by each team -- were all from 3-point range.

"I just threw it up there and prayed," Horry said with a smile
of his winning shot. "They just pack it in on Shaq, he causes a
crowd. He kicks it out."

O'Neal had 28 points and nine rebounds; Rick Fox and Derek
Fisher each scored 16 points, and Kobe Bryant had 14 points, nine
rebounds and 11 assists for the Lakers. Fox also had eight rebounds
and seven assists.

Horry, a 10-year veteran, was inserted into the starting lineup
last month when Samaki Walker, who started the Lakers' first 50
games, went on the injured list due to a hyperextended right elbow.

Walker has returned, but Lakers coach Phil Jackson indicated
before the game he didn't plan to make another change.

"He's done that so many times throughout his career," Bryant
said of Horry. "He's really stepped up big for us."

Michael Finley led the Mavericks with 21 points and 10 rebounds,
but missed a 3-pointer as time wound down that would have given his
team the victory.

"I thought it was down," Finley said.

Mavericks coach Don Nelson agreed, saying: "I really thought
that last shot was going in. It was in rhythm in the open court and
it would have been a fitting ending."

The Lakers have won 41 of the last 44 games between the teams.

Steve Nash and Nick Van Exel added 20 points each, and Dirk
Nowitzki had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Mavericks. Van Exel
also missed a 3-pointer after Horry gave the Lakers the lead for
good.

The win was the fifth straight and 12th in 14 games for the
Lakers (47-18), who remained tied with the Sacramento Kings for the
NBA's best record.

The loss was just the third in 12 games for the Mavericks
(46-20), who made 15 of 40 shots from 3-point range. The Lakers
were 8-for-23 from behind the arc.

"We took way too many 3-pointers to win the game," Nowitzki
said. "We should have taken the ball to the basket more."

Of Horry's winning shot, Nowitzki said: "I thought we were
clamping down on Shaq, I left him too open. That was my fault."

A 3-pointer by Nash with 3:20 remaining put the Mavericks up
97-96, but Horry connected from long range 20 seconds later to put
the Lakers on top.

After that, Van Exel, Fisher, Nowitzki and Horry all made
3-pointers. The one by Nowitzki with one minute to play gave Dallas
its final lead.

O'Neal dunked off a nifty pass from Bryant to cap a 14-2 run
late in the third period, putting the Lakers ahead 75-68. O'Neal
had nine points during the spurt.

Bryant scored five straight points before Nowitzki's 3-pointer --
the Mavericks' first after eight misses in the third quarter -- made
it 80-76 entering the final period.

Nowitzki had eight points as the Mavericks outscored the Lakers
15-4 to start the second quarter for a 41-29 lead.

The Lakers scored 11 straight points -- seven by Fisher and four
by Horry -- to erase a 51-40 Dallas lead.

The Mavericks led 59-57 at halftime, having made 10 of 19 from
3-point range and 11 of 25 inside the arc.

Bryant, averaging 25.9 points, scored only two in the first half
on a dunk with 40 seconds left in the second quarter. He did have
seven assists.

Nowitzki, averaging 23.9 points, missed five shots while going
scoreless in the first quarter, which ended with the Mavericks on
top 26-25.

Game notes
The teams play again Tuesday night in Dallas. ... The
Lakers have won 23 straight games as the home team against Dallas
since the Mavericks won at the Forum on Dec. 12, 1990. ... The
Lakers have won 77 of the 93 games between the teams since the
Mavericks joined the NBA as an expansion team in 1980. ... The
Lakers began a season-closing stretch where 14 of their final 18
games are against teams all but assured of making the playoffs and
two others -- Washington and Miami -- with realistic playoff hopes.
... The Mavericks' schedule is nearly as difficult, with only three
of their last 16 opponents out of the playoff picture. ... The
Mavericks entered the game as the NBA's top scoring team
(105.5-point average) and were tied with Golden State as the worst
defensive team (101.9-point average). The Lakers were averaging
101.2 points -- fourth best in the league, and allowing 92.9 points
-- tied for sixth best.