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Mavs Frustrate Kobe, Win 12th Straight

February 8, 2006

DALLAS (AP) _ The Dallas Mavericks weren’t going to let Kobe Bryant embarrass them again.

No scoring at will this time for Bryant, or outscoring the Mavericks on his own.

``They made a concerted effort to run two, three, four guys at me,″ Bryant said. ``They trapped me all over the court.″

Josh Howard had 22 points and was one of the defenders who helped frustrate Bryant, and Dallas beat the Los Angeles Lakers 102-87 Tuesday night for its NBA-best 12th straight victory.

The winning streak coincides with the Mavericks’ club-record streak of holding a dozen straight opponents under 100 points.

But this time, they showed they could defend Bryant, who was held to 24 points _ well below his 52.5 average in his other two games against Dallas this season.

``We wanted to keep the ball out of his hands as much as possible,″ Howard said. ``Through this whole winning streak, we’ve been playing great team defense. The last two times we played the Lakers, we didn’t play great defense and let them take advantage of it. We got tired of it.″

Before Bryant scored 81 points against Toronto two weeks ago, he had 62 against the Mavs on Dec. 20, and had outscored them on his own before not playing the fourth quarter in a 22-point home victory. The NBA’s top scorer put up 43 in his other matchup against Dallas.

On Tuesday, he had his lowest output since 21 against Orlando on Dec. 23, the game after his 62 against the Mavs when he made 18-of-31 shots.

Using Adrian Griffin, Jerry Stackhouse and Howard as the primary defenders, and often using double teams, Dallas did everything they could to deny Bryant the ball. And Bryant struggled when he did get shots, making only 5-of-22.

``My assignment was to make Kobe work for each shot,″ Griffin said. ``The team did a great job of having my back, and whoever guarded him played with a lot of energy. ... Fortunately, he didn’t get going like he usually can.″

With so much focus on Bryant, Brian Cook scored a career-high 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting. He became the first player other than Bryant to lead the Lakers in scoring the past 17 games.

Dallas (38-10) took over the best record in the Western Conference, a half-game better than idle San Antonio. The Lakers, playing their sixth straight road game, lost their fourth consecutive game by double figures.

Still, Dallas squandered a 20-point first-half lead, and the Lakers went ahead for the only time when Lamar Odom made two free throws to make it 66-64 with 2:56 left in the third.

Howard tied the game with a drive for a shot off the glass, then stripped Bryant of the ball. After a foul away from the ball, Howard drove for another layup and the Mavericks led the rest of the way.

The consecutive baskets by Howard started a 19-2 run for Dallas, which turned around the game without a point from Dirk Nowitzki in that spurt. A 3-pointer by Keith Van Horn made it 83-68 with 9:40 left.

``They embarrassed us in the last meeting, and I thought we took the challenge,″ said Nowitzki, who still finished with a team-high 26 points.

Nowitzki made a short hook to put the Mavericks up 40-20 in the second quarter before the Lakers had an 16-8 run in which Cook made five straight baskets.

Determined to make an impact after halftime, after getting off just one shot in the second quarter, Bryant missed two quick shots and also grabbed two defensive rebounds. And his frustration was obvious.

Even when a foul was called on DeSagana Diop guarding him, Bryant got a technical for something he said to the official. Bryant then made his two free throws, the first of eight points he scored in a three-minute stretch to get the Lakers within 56-53.

Pressed about the officiating after the game, Bryant was careful with his words, saying ``Easy on my piggy bank.″

The frustrated Lakers were called for four technical fouls, including a delay of game when coach Phil Jackson purposely kept them in the huddle after a timeout. There were also two flagrant fouls.

``It was a poorly refereed game,″ Jackson said.

After Bryant drove for a layup to make it 58-57 with 6:11 left in the third and being fouled, he missed a tying free throw.

Dallas jumped ahead 9-0, and Bryant missed his first three shots before a 3-pointer made it 14-6 with 6:09 left in the first quarter. The Lakers didn’t score again until more than 5 minutes later when Bryant drove for a layup and hit a free throw to make it 24-9.

It was 27-10 at the end of the first, matching Los Angeles’ lowest-scoring quarter this season. It was the lowest by a Dallas opponent.

Notes: While Odom was back after missing two games with a strained rib. Chris Mihm missed his second straight game with a strained right shoulder. ... The Mavericks have led after the first quarter in 13 straight home games. ... Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong sat courtside with a group of guys. He split with rock star Sheryl Crow last week.

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