- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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How it happened: Kobe Bryant and his supporting cast crushed the Mavericks’ playoff hopes.
In a game that all but mathematically eliminated the Mavs from the playoffs, Bryant produced the 19th triple-double of his career, stuffing the box score with 23 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, four steals and two blocks while playing all but the final 56 seconds. Then again, it’s no surprise to see a future Hall of Famer come up with that kind of performance in a critical game.
Nor was it surprising for perennial All-Star center Dwight Howard to post a double-double (24 points, 12 rebounds).
On the other hand, it was hard to see a double-double coming from Lakers reserve forward Earl Clark, who had 17 points and 12 rebounds. Clark had a total of 16 points and 13 rebounds in the previous six games, when the Lakers sputtered to a 2-4 record.
Clark’s five-point possession -- a layup, missed free throw and 3-pointer -- after a timeout in the third quarter killed the momentum of the Mavs, who had scored 11 consecutive points to trim the Lakers’ lead to five. Clark’s spurt accounted for the majority of a 9-0 run that made the Lakers’ lead comfortable again.
The Mavs never mounted another serious threat.
Dallas superstar Dirk Nowitzki, who was so spectacular in comeback wins over the Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago Bulls last week, never got going Tuesday night. He finished with only 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting.
Surprise starting center Chris Kaman led the Mavs with 14 points, but that wasn’t nearly enough for Dallas to keep up with Kobe’s Lakers.
What it means: The Mavs won’t be reaching for their razors after failing to get to .500 again, and it’s a major reach to see them making the playoffs. Dallas (36-38) is 2½ games behind the Utah Jazz and Lakers in the fight for the West’s final seed. Both teams hold the tiebreaker over the Mavs due to winning the season series.
Play of the game: Bryant made a move so sweet that it left Shawn Marion lunging at the air and slammed over Elton Brand. Dribbling near the right elbow, Bryant hesitated before blowing by Marion and then took off for the tomahawk before Brand could get in position to seriously challenge him at the rim, not that it necessarily would have mattered.
Stat of the night: The Mavs are 2-13 on the road this season against West teams that currently have winning records. One of those wins was against the Lakers on opening night.