<
>

Rapid reaction: Lakers 96, Mavs 91

How it happened: A strange game in which the Lakers led once by 10, but could never blow it open, yet the Mavericks could never fully recover from a 9-0 Lakers spurt in the second quarter after Dallas tied it at 37-37.

Down by eight to start the fourth quarter, the Mavs kept chipping away and got to within 91-89. Pau Gasol made one of two free throws to make it 92-89 and then Jason Terry missed an open look from nine feet away on the baseline with 12 seconds left and then Andrew Bynum salted it away with free throws for a 96-91 victory for the Lakers.

Bynum had a monster game with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting and 15 rebounds. Kobe Bryant did not have a good game, finishing with 16 on 6-of-20 shooting, but he had six points in the 9-0 run in the second quarter and an assist on a 3-pointer during the stretch.

Shawn Marion played huge in keeping the Mavs in this thing time and time again. He finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Dirk Nowitzki had 25 points and 10 rebounds, but he had two turnovers, one being an extremely costly bad pass with 1:19 left and the Mavs down 89-85 that sailed out bounds under the Mavs' basket when it looked like he was going to put up a patented fallaway.

Dallas' backcourt really hurt them. Jason Kidd had just five points on 2-of-5 shooting with nine assists. Roddy Beaubois did not look comfortable in his first high-intensity, high-stakes game of the season. He missed his first six shots and had consecutive turnovers in the second quarter during the Lakers' 9-0 run. He finished with two points on a last-second bucket.

But, the Mavs will have to try to figure out something to do with Bynum and Gasol, who finished with 18 points and three assists. Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood combined for 14 rebounds, eight from Haywood and eight points.

The balanced scoring the Mavs were priding themselves on during their run of 20 wins in 23 games was not working tonight. Jason Terry was the third and last double-digit scorer with 13 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Three starters -- Chandler, Beaubois and Kidd combined for 11 points.

Steve Blake was 3-of-5 from the 3-point line off the bench for the Lakers, including two in the final minute or so of the third quarter that gave the Lakers a 73-63 lead just minutes after the Mavs cut the deficit to two points and Bryant limped to the bench with a twisted left ankle.

What it means: The Mavs are 2-3 in their last five games. More importantly, the Lakers inched a little closer to catching the Mavs for the second seed in the Western conference. Both teams have 47 wins and Dallas is now just one game up on the Lakers in the loss column. Dallas has 16 games remaining; L.A. has 15.

Play of the game: With the Mavs trailing 89-84, the closest they had been to the Lakers in the fourth quarter, Nowitzki backed down into the lane and looked like he was getting ready to put up a fallaway. Instead, he ripped a line-drive pass through the middle to no one and it sailed into the first row. Ron Artest made the Mavs pay for the turnover with an offensive rebound and score for a 91-85 lead with 54 seconds to play.

Stat of the night: The Mavs blocked nine shots with six players credited with at least one and three -- Marion, Nowitzki and Chander -- credited with two each. The Lakers had just two blocked shots.