Regular Season Series (Game 4 of 4)

Series starts 1/5

Game 1: Wednesday, January 5th
Game 2: Friday, March 4th
Game 3: Thursday, March 10th
Game 4: Sunday, April 17th

Mavericks 114

(56-24, 28-12 away)

Lakers 112

(34-46, 22-19 home)

    12:30 PM ET, April 17, 2005

    STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

    1 2 3 4 T
    DAL 34 22 29 29114
    LAL 29 20 21 42112

    Top Performers

    Dallas: D. Nowitzki 24 Pts, 8 Reb, 3 Ast, 4 Stl, 2 Blk

    Los Angeles: K. Bryant 33 Pts, 7 Reb, 9 Ast, 2 Stl

    Kobe's return and 33 points not enough for L.A.

    LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Dallas Mavericks have been focusing on defense, and playing at their best since Avery Johnson succeeded Don Nelson as coach last month.

    Johnson had been satisfied until the fourth quarter of Sunday's 114-112 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

    "I don't like where we are after this fourth quarter. We can't have this kind of fourth quarter in the playoffs," Johnson said after the Mavericks won despite being outscored 42-29 in the final period including 25-12 in the last five minutes.

    "If you talk to me before the fourth quarter, I would have said we're doing OK," Johnson said. "But after this fourth quarter, our press offense wasn't very good, we missed free throws, we didn't execute. So we've got some stuff to work on."

    Dirk Nowitzki had 24 points and eight rebounds and five teammates scored in double figures as the Mavericks extended their winning streak to seven and raised their record to 14-2 since Johnson was promoted to head coach when Nelson retired.

    Michael Finley scored 20 points and Jason Terry added 17 points and 10 assists for Dallas (56-24), which has two games remaining before entering the playoffs with the third-best record in the Western Conference.

    "I won't make any predictions, but I think we're better prepared [entering the playoffs] than we've been since I've been here," said owner Mark Cuban, who purchased the Mavericks in January 2000.

    Jerry Stackhouse scored 15 points and Josh Howard and Erick Dampier added 13 each for the Mavericks, who shot 49.4 percent.

    "No one person feels like they have to carry the load," Stackhouse said. "We see all the talent here, and when we share the ball and help each other defensively, we are really good. We have just as good a chance as anyone to win it all."

    The Lakers (34-46) have two games left in one of their most dismal seasons. They have lost four straight, 17 of 19 and will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1994 and just the fifth time in franchise history.

    "I thought the crowd was great. I wish we could have won the final here at home for them," Lakers coach Frank Hamblen said of the 18,237 fans at Staples Center.

    The Lakers finished with a 22-19 record at home -- their worst in 11 years.

    Kobe Bryant scored 12 of his 33 points in the last four minutes, and also had seven rebounds and nine assists to lead the Lakers. He returned to action after missing Friday night's 115-106 loss to Sacramento to be with his wife, who was diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy.

    "She's doing much better. Her spirits are good," Bryant said, adding his wife, Vanessa, was recuperating at the family home.

    Jumaine Jones added 14 points and nine rebounds, Chris Mihm had 13 points, and Luke Walton scored 12 for the Lakers, who have a 7-40 record when allowing the opposition to score 100 or more points.

    Stackhouse made two free throws with 19.3 seconds left to give the Mavericks a nine-point lead, but 3-pointers by Sasha Vujacic and Devean George made it 113-110 with 3.6 seconds remaining.

    Stackhouse made another free throw before Bryant was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer with one second to play. He made the first two free throws and intentionally missed the third, but the ball was knocked out of bounds by the Lakers, and Dallas ran out the clock.

    Stackhouse scored seven points and Nowitzki, back in action after missing a game with a sore shoulder, added six during a 17-4 run to finish the third quarter, giving the Mavericks an 85-70 lead. It was 102-87 with five minutes to play.

    Bryant scored four quick points to cut Dallas' lead to 108-102 with 1:07 remaining, and missed a 3-pointer with about 40 seconds left that could have drawn the Lakers within three.

    Game notes

    The loss was the Lakers' fifth straight at home, one shy of the franchise record set in the 1992-93 season. ... The Lakers have a 45-9 all-time home record against the Mavericks, who have won two of the last three games between the teams in Los Angeles after losing 26 straight. ... The Lakers beat Dallas 108-103 at Staples Center on March 4 and 100-95 at Dallas six days later. But they've gone 3-17 since that time. ... Lakers C Vlade Divac floored Mavericks C Shawn Bradley with an elbow to the jaw early in the fourth quarter. No foul was called. ... Bryant picked up a technical foul late in the third period after protesting a non-call. He also made a 3-pointer left-handed from the left corner as the shot clock was expiring with 4 minutes to play.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 114 112
    FGM-FGA 38-77 (.494) 38-86 (.442)
    3PM-3PA 7-16 (.438) 14-29 (.483)
    FTM-FTA 31-41 (.756) 22-27 (.815)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 9-37 17-41
    Assists 25 30
    Turnovers 17 20
    Steals 15 10
    Blocks 5 1
    Fast Break Points 18 12
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 23 (1/0) 26 (2/0)
    Largest Lead 16 3

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles
    Dirk Nowitzki Nowitzki
    Points: 24
    Reb: 8
    Ast: 3
    Stl: 4
    Blk: 2
    Kobe Bryant Bryant
    Points: 33
    Reb: 7
    Ast: 9
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 0