Mavs send strong message with 16-point win

DALLAS (AP) -- As far as Raef LaFrentz and Nick Van Exel are
concerned, the Dallas Mavericks stack up pretty well with the Los
Angeles Lakers.

Steve Nash scored 30 points and LaFrentz tied up Shaquille
O'Neal enough to help Dallas beat the Lakers 114-98 Tuesday night --
two nights after a narrow loss in Los Angeles.

The Mavericks ended a seven-game losing streak to the Lakers and
beat them for just the fourth time in their last 45 meetings.

LaFrentz and Van Exel have only been around for the last two.
So, based on what they've seen, they like Dallas' chances should
the teams meet in the playoffs.

"We had a chance to win in Los Angeles and we won convincingly
tonight," said Van Exel, who had seven points and three assists.
"It makes them think."

O'Neal had 32 points and 10 rebounds, but picked up his fourth
foul with five minutes left in the third quarter. The Mavericks,
who were already on a roll and had taken the lead, used his absence
to break things open with a 13-2 run.

Kobe Bryant had only 12 points on 4-of-18 shooting, and none of
the other Lakers could bail them out. They had their five-game
winning streak snapped and endured one of their most lopsided
losses of the season.

"We're weak in mind and body," coach Phil Jackson said. "I
thought we looked soft, especially in the third period."

O'Neal left the locker room without speaking to reporters, but
stopped briefly in a hallway and said: "I'm done. I've got nothing
to say."

Bryant downplayed the game.

"It's just a loss," he said. "It's probably a big win for
them, but we just didn't play well. We'll take it and move on."

Despite losing 105-103 in Los Angeles on Sunday, the Mavericks
came in confident in a game plan that had LaFrentz going one-on-one
with O'Neal and defensive stalwarts Adrian Griffin and Greg Buckner
taking turns guarding Bryant.

That left the offensive big three of Nash, Michael Finley and
Dirk Nowitzki free to score -- and they did. Nash hit 11 of 18
shots, Finley added 22 points and Nowitzki had 19 despite making
only 5 of 16 shots. He also had 11 rebounds.

LaFrentz, who was acquired from Denver with Nick Van Exel at the
trade deadline, had 12 points and 13 rebounds.

A key for Dallas was attacking the basket instead of relying on
outside shots. The Mavs took only 24 3-pointers, compared to 40 on
Sunday, and got to the foul line far more often.

"On Sunday, we didn't take advantage of Shaq being away from
the basket," Nowitzki said. "Tonight we did and got some

The Lakers led by only three at halftime despite Dallas going
5:40 without scoring. Then Nash scored nine points and dished out
two assists at the start of the third quarter as the Mavericks
forced the up-tempo game they prefer.

O'Neal's fourth foul was the big difference-maker. In addition
to Dallas upping the lead, the Mavericks got the crowd of 20,112 on
their feet, cheering and chanting "Beat L.A." By the time O'Neal
came back he was rusty and Los Angeles was out of sync.

When Nash stretched the lead to 17 on a 3-pointer early in the
fourth quarter, he punctuated the moment by thrusting his first,
smiling and screaming "Yeah!" The Lakers never came close again.

Jackson refused to give up, though, calling timeouts and running
set plays all the way to the buzzer, drawing boos.

"It's our job to play hard all the way to the final buzzer, no
matter what the score," Bryant said.

Rick Fox had 16 points for Los Angeles and Derek Fisher scored
10, all in the fourth quarter.

Jackson was upset that O'Neal got into foul trouble. His ire was
aimed at the officials, not his big man, because he thought
LaFrentz got away with flopping.

Jackson said LaFrentz did the same thing Sunday to no avail. The
coach said he told his assistants, "I bet you a dollar we get down
to Dallas and they call those fouls on Shaq."

"And they sure did," Jackson said. "I hate to see that in an
NBA game, but those things happen."

Game notes
O'Neal hit his first four free throws, then missed three in
a row in front of the Dallas bench with Mavs owner Mark Cuban
pointing at his feet and screaming for refs to watch him toe the
line. ... Finley went through Sunday's game without a turnover and
made it almost until halftime before his first miscue. Robert Horry
stole the ball from behind with 3:30 left in the second quarter.
... Dallas hit its first 16 free throws, then Nowitzki missed one
that would've given him a four-point play. The Mavs finished
32-of-37 from the line.