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Kobe scores 36; Mavs shoot 36.7 percent

DALLAS (AP) -- If the Los Angeles Lakers are going to make the
playoffs, they're going to have to do it on the road. Kobe Bryant
got them off to a good start Thursday night.

Bryant scored 36 points and made two huge plays on each end of
the court in the last 1:20, giving the Lakers a 100-95 victory over
the Dallas Mavericks in the first game of their travel-filled
closing run.

The Lakers, in a tight race with Denver and Minnesota for the
West's eighth and final playoff seed, play 15 of their final 23
away from home, starting with this one. This also was the first of
six straight road games -- and they'd lost their last three away
from the Staples Center.

"Obviously we have a long haul ahead," Bryant said. "We have
to take this and move on. ... This is the way we wanted to start
this road trip."

While Lamar Odom nearly had a triple-double (15 points, 14
rebounds and seven assists) and Tierre Brown revived his game with
10 points, including two big 3-pointers, it was still Bryant who
made the biggest plays.

He grabbed one of his nine rebounds after Dallas missed two
potential go-ahead shots with just over a minute left. He took it
all the way for a layup that put the Lakers up by three points,
then came back and stripped Dirk Nowitzki from behind on a jump
shot.

Bryant scooped up the loose ball and fed Jumaine Jones for a
layup, but he missed and Bryant wound up putting it back in for a
98-93 lead with 58 seconds left.

"I know his game pretty well," Bryant said, "so I just waited
until he made his move."

Nowitzki, who scored 25 points but shot just 6-of-19, also
missed a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left that would have tied it at
98.

Dallas, which leads Sacramento by two games for the West's
fourth seed, lost for the fifth time in seven games and continues
to look less and less like the team that won an NBA-best 36 home
games last season. This was the Mavericks' 11th home loss, the last
two coming after they led at the start of the fourth quarter.

Part of the problem is not having their full rotation. Even with
Nowitzki and Michael Finley -- their top two scorers -- returning
from injuries, coach Don Nelson started a three-game layoff to care
for his wife, who is recovering from surgery, and they were without
starting center Erick Dampier (foot) and sixth man Jerry Stackhouse
(groin).

"We were getting some guys back that we wanted back, but they
were just a little rusty tonight and it's going to take some
time," acting coach Avery Johnson said. "We'll get it together."

The Lakers were boosted by contributions from a variety of
players, starting with Brown, who hadn't scored in the last six
games, two of which he didn't even get into.

"He made some big shots when they doubled Kobe," coach Frank
Hamblen said. "I told him at the shootaround today that we're
going to give him more minutes."

Chris Mihm added 10 points and seven rebounds, and Chucky Atkins
scored 13. Los Angeles was 7-of-16 on 3-pointers after going just
1-of-18 in a win over the Mavs last week.

Bryant also made his first six free throws to give him a
club-record 43 in a row. He finished 8-of-10 from the line.

Alan Henderson had 10 points and a season-high 17 rebounds for
Dallas. Josh Howard, who sprained his left ankle when tangled with
Bryant, had 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Finley, wearing a long white sleeve on his left leg to protect a
bruised calf, was just 4-of-14 for 12 points. Jason Terry went from
consecutive 20-point games to 11 points on 5-of-17 shooting.

After swapping the lead 15 times and being tied five times by
halftime, the Mavericks grabbed control with a 12-2 surge midway
through the third quarter. The Lakers trailed by as many as 12
points then used an 8-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter to
move back in front. The five-point margin at the end was their
biggest lead of the game.

"We knew this would be a tough way to start the trip," Hamblen
said. "I'm proud of the way our guys played."<
^Notes: Dallas' Shawn Bradley missed his only two shots, both of
them dunks. ... Bryant's free throw streak topped the 40 in a row
by Gail Goodrich, who did it twice in the early 1970s. ...
Officials called the game so tightly that Finley wasn't allowed to
check in at one point because he didn't report to the scorer's
table in time. ... The Mavericks wore throwback jerseys from their
1987-88 team, which came within a win of reaching the NBA Finals --
ousted by the Lakers. Four key players from that Dallas team were
honored at halftime. Magic Johnson attended, too, but obviously
wasn't part of the ceremony.