DALLAS — Dirk Nowitzki reached another milestone and the Dallas Mavericks avoided their first three-game losing streak of the season by outlasting the Los Angeles Lakers 102-98 Friday night at American Airlines Center.
The Mavericks (21-10) not only took advantage of the Lakers playing on the second night of the back-to-back, but the visitors were without superstar guard Kobe Bryant. Dallas has won five straight against Los Angeles.
Did Lakers coach Byron Scott second guess not playing Bryant?
“Obviously we need help, no doubt about that,” he said. “I don’t think about that though. I decided to rest him, the other guys are playing, they are professional. They still have the chance to win the game.”
Mavericks guard Rajon Rondo scored 21 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out seven assists, as Dallas improved to 2-2 since the blockbuster trade landed the four-time All-Star from Boston.
“I was able to get to the paint,” Rondo said. “Coach talked all week about getting to the paint, being aggressive and taking my shots. It’s about making reads and I feel like I fit right in.”
All five Dallas starters scored in double figures, with center Tyson Chandler finishing with a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds. Nowitzki added 14 points and eight boards. Shooting guard Monta Ellis, who like Nowitzki was questionable before the game, scored 15 and had seven assists. Veteran forward Charlie Villanueva was key in the fourth quarter and had 15 points off the bench.
“I got to give a lot of credit to my teammates who kept finding me for the open shots,” Villanueva said. “I have spent a lot of hours in the gym with practice and repetition getting my game sharp and working on my craft. We are working things out now and all the guys need to step up.”
The Lakers (9-21) remained competitive despite being without the NBA’s third-leading scorer all-time for the third consecutive game. Veteran power forward Carlos Boozer had 18 points and eight rebounds in a reserve role.
Los Angeles dominated the offensive boards but couldn’t overcome poor shooting. Starting small forward Wesley Johnson missed 11 of 14 shots, typifying the Lakers’ 36.4-percent shooting.
Nowitzki made his latest climb up the all-time scoring list with a jumper to open the second half, moving past Elvin Hayes for eighth on the all-time list. Bryant stood up to join in the ovation for Nowitzki.
“It’s hard to describe what we’re seeing in real time,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s making it look sort of easy. The amount of work that’s gone into him getting to this point in his career is something that none of us will ever really be able to fathom.
“It’s not an accident. A lot of blood, a lot of sweat, a lot of guts go into a career like this. Kobe Bryant’s the same kind of guy. These guys are once-a-generation type players. We’re just very fortunate we’ve even had a chance to watch it for an extended period of time.”
The Mavericks raced from the gates early to take control of the Bryant-less Lakers. Dallas opened the game with a 10-0 lead, with a pair of buckets coming off lobs to Chandler at the rim for dunks.
“They are a better basketball team,” Scott said. “That’s the bottom line. We had our chances, I thought the first quarter we came out very lackadaisical, we just didn’t play well, didn’t seem very interested in the first quarter.”
The Lakers gradually worked their way back into the game and tied the game at 30-all with a 9-0 run. Boozer was a catalyst in the surge and had 10 points at the break for Los Angeles.
Dallas did regroup and went go into halftime up 48-42 thanks in solid offensive showings from Rondo, forward Chandler Parsons and Chandler, and 57-percent shooting. Nowitzki only had four points at halftime.
The Mavericks opened up some breathing room to start the third quarter and kept Los Angeles at arm’s length for the remainder of the game. Lakers forward Nick Young (15 points) tried to rally his team late, but Dallas held on.
NOTES: Dallas starters F Dirk Nowitzki and G Monta Ellis were both ill and missed the morning shootaround but were active. Nowitzki came into the game six points shy of passing Elvin Hayes for eighth on the NBA career scoring list. … Lakers G Kobe Bryant missed his third straight game to rest a myriad of aches and pains. Bryant, third in the league in scoring, has listed his knees, feet, back and Achilles’ as sore.
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