"It's hard not to shoot the ball when you can make shots from
everywhere," Odom said.
Bryant gave several more eye-popping examples Monday night,
making a spectacular layup in the third quarter, then swishing a
jumper from about 30 feet while falling away with a hand in his
face, the shot clock expiring and 34.9 seconds left to send the Los
Angeles Lakers past the Dallas Mavericks 109-106.
The Lakers went from leading by 11 before halftime to trailing
most of the second half until Bryant, who scored 43 points, tied it
at 97 with a 3-pointer. Los Angeles was down by two when Bryant
lost the ball at the top of the key, chased it down and heaved up
the go-ahead 3 with defender Adrian Griffin coming at him.
"That's backyard stuff," Bryant said.
Bryant, Luke Walton and Smush Parker all made key plays the rest
of the way, capping a 4-1 road trip for the Lakers and giving them
five wins in six games. It also ended Dallas' five-game winning
"It's a confidence builder for this team," Los Angeles coach
Phil Jackson said. "It shows we can overcome odds."
The Mavericks had their chances to pull out the win, but
couldn't get it done. Jason Terry missed a 3-pointer in the closing
seconds and Lamar Odom batted away the rebound, conking Dirk
Nowitzki in the face as he followed through. Nowitzki, who had 27
points and 15 rebounds, was sprawled on the court for several
minutes after time expired.
"My neck popped a little bit," he said. "I'll be stiff
tomorrow, but I'll be all right."
He was bothered more by Dallas' lousy defense, especially in the
first half, when Bryant made eight of his first 11 shots and scored
27 points. He was about to have more when seldom-used Mavs center
D.J. Mbenga made a phenomenal block on a dunk attempt in the final
minute of the second quarter.
Bryant struggled in the third quarter, missing three straight
shots and having a turnover during a 10-0 run that put Dallas in
control. Although he went 2-of-10 in the period, that included a
twisting, scooping, bank shot along the baseline that even Michael
Jordan and Julius Erving would be proud of.
The fourth quarter opened with Bryant on the bench for the first
time all game. The rest certainly helped when he put up the big
shot over Griffin.
"He said he wasn't ready to come out," Jackson said. "But
then he sat down for a while, came back, and made a shot like that.
We wanted him to rest his legs. Your legs can suffer when you take
as many shots as he does."
DeSagana Diop had a chance to tie it for Dallas after that, but
missed his second foul shot. Los Angeles stretched the lead to four
on a free throw by Bryant and a pair by Walton, who had rebounded
Bryant's missed second free throw.
After a 3-pointer by Devin Harris got the Mavericks back within
one with 8.5 seconds left, Parker made two free throws.
Marquis Daniels scored 23, Terry had 20 and Harris 19 for
Mavs forward Josh Howard returned to the lineup after missing
eight games with an ankle injury. He started and had four points
and three rebounds in 11 minutes, all in the first half. His return
might be good timing as forward Keith Van Horn bruised his right
hip in the second quarter and didn't return. He's scheduled to have
an MRI exam and an X-ray on Tuesday.
Diop had seven points and eight rebounds. Starting center Erick
Dampier had only two points and four rebounds. He went to the bench
after picking up his fifth foul midway through the third quarter
and didn't return.
"We were just battling uphill all night," Dallas coach Avery
Johnson said. "We couldn't get it in gear tonight."
The Mavericks took a season-high 44 free throws but missed
10, including four in the fourth quarter. ... The Lakers improved
to 3-4 against the Mavericks since ending a 46-5 run of dominance
against them. ... Bryant's 43 points matched his second-most this
season. It's the most by an opposing player against Dallas this
season. ... Lakers part-owner Magic Johnson, in town for his other
business ventures, visited the Los Angeles locker room prior to the