LOS ANGELES (AP)—The Lakers showed why they’re by far the best in the West, and maybe the best in the league.
They’re more than just Kobe Bryant.
Bryant scored 28 points and led a late 12-0 run that put Los Angeles back in control, but Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom all had a big hand in Sunday’s 107-100 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
Ariza scored a career-high 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Gasol made his first 10 shots, finished 12-of-13 and scored 25. Odom had 10 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Bryant said he had told Gasol, “`We’re coming to you early and often,’ because I just don’t think they could match up with him. He’s just a tough cover for them. So we made a concerted effort to go to him early.”
Then there was Ariza’s performance.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” Bryant said. “He just knocked down the shots that we see him knock down in practice all the time. He works extremely hard on his game, he’s extremely patient and very efficient.
“One of Trevor’s best features is his length and his speed, which allows us to put him on guards that are smaller than him. That way he can block the court a little more.”
The matchup could be a preview of the first round of the playoffs. The Lakers already have clinched the Pacific Division and are battling Cleveland for the league’s best record. The Mavericks are fighting for a postseason spot.
The Lakers had taken the lead in the first quarter and were ahead by 15 midway through the third before Dallas reserve Jason Terry led a 21-2 run that put the Mavericks in front 95-89 with 7:13 left in the game.
Down 81-66 after Bryant’s three-point play with 5:58 left in the third, the Mavericks began their run on a pair of 3s by Terry. He added two more after a pair of Los Angeles turnovers in the closing minute of the period to narrow the gap to 87-80.
That was while both teams had mostly reserves on the court. When Bryant and the other Lakers starters returned early in the fourth, Los Angeles soon went on a 12-0 spurt of its own.
Bryant’s 3-pointer with 6:51 left ended a string of nine consecutive misses by the Lakers from behind the arc, and he made another with 3:36 that ended the run with them leading 101-95.
“It’s why he’s Kobe Bryant,” said Terry, who led Dallas with 29 points. “He does things in the fourth quarter that only a few players can do.”
Jason Kidd, who had nine points, nine assists and seven rebounds, said, “Kobe picked his spots when they had to have a basket.”
Dirk Nowitzki added 20 for the Mavericks, but missed 14 of his 20 shots. James Singleton had 16 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.
Terry took seven shots in the third, all 3-pointers, and was good on five of them. He finished 7-of-16 from 3-point range.
Terry considered the Mavericks’ comeback a confidence-builder.
“We got in a hole and we dug ourselves out of it,” he said. “We definitely thought we had a chance to pull it out.”