L.A. avoids dipping below .500 mark

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kobe Bryant scored 10 of his 40 points in the
final 2:15, Caron Butler had 20 points and the Los Angeles Lakers
snapped a four-game losing streak with a 108-103 victory over the
Dallas Mavericks on Friday night.

Lamar Odom added 18 points and 11 rebounds, helping prevent the
Lakers from slipping under the .500 mark for the first time since
they were 3-4. They shot 51.9 percent from the field, but were
1-for-18 from behind the 3-point line.

The victory put the Lakers a half-game ahead of idle Denver and
a full game ahead of Minnesota in the race for the eighth and final
Western Conference playoff berth.

Dick Nowitzki had 23 points and 13 rebounds, and Jerry
Stackhouse scored 19 points for the Mavericks, who have lost three
of four following a six-game winning streak. They have lost 26 of
their last 28 against the Lakers in Los Angeles, with the only
victory coming last season.

Dallas forward Michael Finley sat out the game because of a sore
left calf. The two-time All-Star, who turns 32 on Sunday, had been
kicked in the leg three times in the past three weeks -- including
Wednesday night's loss to the Clippers when he had just four points
in 30 minutes. He missed 15 games earlier this season with a
sprained right ankle.

The Mavericks used their 14th different starting lineup, with
center Shawn Bradley making his first start of the season and
scoring six points in 17 minutes. Erick Dampier missed his sixth
straight game because of a stress fracture in his right foot, and
isn't expected back for at least another two weeks.

Neither team led by more than four points in the fourth quarter
until Bryant's layup gave the Lakers a 97-92 edge with 2:15
remaining. The seven-time All-Star added a 14-foot fadeaway jumper
and six free throws, offsetting seven points by Nowitzki in the
final 1:34.

Bryant gave Los Angeles a 59-57 lead with 10:15 left in the
third, driving the left baseline and making a poster shot of
Nowitzki with a slam dunk that brought the sellout crowd to its
feet. But Dallas took an 81-80 lead into the fourth after an
11-point quarter by Stackhouse.

Bryant had 18 points in the first half, but the Lakers were
1-for-11 from 3-point range and had to settle for a 52-all tie at
intermission. Dallas guard Marquis Daniels took 12 shots in the
half -- more than any of the Mavericks' starters -- but made only
four of them and finished 7-for-18 from the field.

Keith Van Horn, who fouled out Thursday night against the
Clippers, missed his first eight shots against the Lakers before
ending the drought with a driving layup 16 seconds into the final

Stackhouse, playing his second game after missing the previous
seven games because of a groin strain, missed his first four shots
and was 4-for-15. But he made all 11 free throws.

Game notes
The Lakers held a halftime ceremony to honor Bill Sharman,
who last September joined Lenny Wilkens and John Wooden as the only
men to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a
player and coach. Sharman guided the Lakers to an NBA title and a
league-record 33-game winning streak in 1971-72. His first
induction was in 1976 for his years with the Boston Celtics as Bob
Cousy's backcourt mate. ... This was Bryant's 37th career game with
40 or more points, and his seventh this season. ... Finley, who
never sat out a game during his first six NBA seasons, has missed
52 games over the last four because of injuries. The Mavericks are
9-7 this season when he hasn't played. ... Bradley started five of
66 games last season. ... Lakers F Brian Grant turns 33 years old
on Saturday.

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