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Kobe nets triple-double, Lakers top Mavericks in must-win, 101-81

Dwight Howard hits foul shots to thwart Mavericks' strategy and Kobe Bryant finishes with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

April 02, 2013|By Ben Bolch

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It was a two-for-one celebration, the Lakers honoring an all-time great while rejoicing in the active legend on their roster.

On the same night that Shaquille O'Neal's jersey was unveiled in the rafters at Staples Center, Kobe Bryant again showed why he will one day join his former teammate in lofty territory.

Bryant played all but 56 seconds and logged a triple-double Tuesday during the Lakers' had-to-have-it 101-81 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

He finished with 23 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds, helping the wobbly-legged Lakers prevail on a night they used only seven players before the final minute. Bryant even threw in a running sky hook late in the game.

"I just got to push through it a little bit right now," said Bryant, who noted that his back and hamstrings were a little sore from so much mileage. "Hopefully we can catch up a game, get a game or something, get a little breathing room perhaps."

A playoff atmosphere might not be as close to the postseason as the Lakers (39-36) get after they pulled into a tie alongside Utah for eighth place in the Western Conference. The Jazz holds the tiebreaker after winning two of three meetings with the Lakers.

The Mavericks (36-38) fell 21/2 games behind both teams and two games below .500, meaning a group of players who had vowed to shave only after reaching the break-even mark must wear gangly beards for at least a few more days.

Lakers forward Earl Clark provided a jolt of vitality with 17 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks and Dwight Howard almost met of the 28-point, 10-rebound mandate O'Neal placed on his successor with 24 and 12.

Howard performed an unintended tribute to O'Neal at the free-throw line by making 10 of 20 shots, though he did make seven of 10 in the final 31/2 minutes after the Mavericks adopted the hack-a-Howard strategy.

"Everyone else is going to compare," Howard said. "I'm just going to be myself."

Bryant still had plenty of vigor in the fourth quarter, swatting a shot by Brandan Wright before finding Pau Gasol for a dunk that gave the Lakers an 80-68 lead. Gasol had 14 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

Clark was particularly effective late in the third quarter after the Mavericks had pulled from a 15-point halftime deficit to within five, sapping the energy from a crowd that had been electrified by O'Neal's halftime ceremony.

Clark rebounded a missed Bryant jumper and drove for a layup. He made a three-pointer. He fed Antawn Jamison for a layup that gave the Lakers a 12-point lead, receiving an emphatic high-five from Bryant on his way to the timeout huddle.

Then, as a topper, he blocked Dirk Nowitzki's driving finger-roll layup, a moment that was symbolic on a night the Mavericks forward had 11 points on four-for-13 shooting.

O'Neal's jersey was uncovered in the rafters at halftime next to Magic Johnson's and underneath Jerry West's. Not bad company for the big man who won three of his four titles during his eight seasons with the Lakers.

Lakers fans, many of them wearing replica No. 34 jerseys, roared for O'Neal from the moment he stepped on the court. They also showered former Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who spoke during the ceremony, with chants of "We want Phil!"

"I want Phil too," O'Neal said.

Said Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni after the game: "He only won 58 rings. Why wouldn't they?"

Bryant appeared on the scoreboard with a video tribute to the teammate who helped him win back-to-back-to-back championships. O'Neal thanked fans Jimmy Goldstein and Jack Nicholson during his speech but did not reference Bryant.

Bryant was particularly spry in the early going, dribbling past Shawn Marion in the second quarter for a one-handed dunk. He appeared to glance over at Jackson, seated in the second row next to bride-to-be Jeanie Buss, the Lakers' governor and executive vice president.

Buss clapped madly. Jackson didn't react. There would be plenty to cheer later.

Times staff writer Melissa Rohlin also continued to this story.

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