L.A. Lakers 105, Dallas 103
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 6 (Ticker) --
If the Los Angeles Lakers go on to win their fourth straight title, this will be the game in which they turned their season around.
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The Lakers staged one of the greatest comebacks in NBA history, erasing a 30-point deficit for an improbable 105-103 victory
over the league-leading Dallas Mavericks, who have to believe they are hexed in Hollywood.
Kobe Bryant scored 21 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, when the three-time defending champions climbed out of an 88-61 hole with a rally that rocked STAPLES Center. Bryant's spinning jumper with 8.4 seconds left gave the Lakers the win.
"It shows we still have the heart of a champion," Bryant said.
The comeback was the biggest in franchise history. The Lakers had erased a 25-point deficit to beat Chicago on April 3, 1979. They fell just short of the greatest comeback in NBA history, Utah's rally from a 34-point halftime deficit against Denver on Nov. 27, 1996.
"It's nice to have a team believe that they have the ability to overcome insurmountable odds, and it certainly looked
insurmountable," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
On the other side was the collapse by the Mavericks, who appeared to have swung the balance of power in the Western
Conference in their favor until allowing 44 points in the final period.
When Michael Finley's open 20-footer from the left wing clanged off the rim, the Mavs were saddled with their 24th straight loss in Tinseltown since Dec. 12, 1990.
"We choked, just flat-out choked," Dallas guard Nick Van Exel said. "They played like the world champs and we played scared, we played tentative and we just choked."
"We probably need to go through this experience as a team," Mavs coach Don Nelson said. "It's going to be good for us. But it hurts like hell right now."
Shaquille O'Neal had 26 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers (8-13), who climbed out of the Pacific Division cellar, percentage points ahead of the crosstown Clippers and Golden State.
"Tonight, for the first time in a long time, we showed that championship attitude," guard Brian Shaw said.
"Confidence is not our problem. Our problem is complacency," O'Neal said. "It's not going to be easy ... we just have to
Former Laker Van Exel scored 25 points, Steve Nash added 22 and Dirk Nowitzki 21 for the Mavs (17-2), who had a three-game winning streak snapped. Dallas shot a blistering 60 percent (15-of-25) from three-point range but less than 33 percent (18-of-55) inside the arc.
A driving layup by Nash gave the Mavs a 92-69 lead with 9:25 to play, but Dallas went scoreless for nearly four minutes and L.A. scored 15 straight points.
"As soon as we got it down to 10 with 8:36 to go, then it is a whole new ballgame," Bryant said. "From that point on it is just a matter of taking our time and really executing."
Bryant took over down the stretch. He had two free throws, a three-pointer and a driving finger roll before O'Neal scored to make it 96-93 with 3:08 remaining. Nash threw in a scoop shot, but Bryant had a reverse layup and drive around two foul shots by Nash, then found Shaw for a three-pointer that tied it, 100-100, with 1:28 left.
"We stopped playing. I don't know what happened," Nash said. "We had a hard time scoring and we were terrible defensively in
the fourth quarter. It was too easy in the first half and too difficult in the fourth quarter. I can't explain it."
Ten seconds later, a free throw by Robert Horry gave the Lakers the lead. Van Exel answered with a three-pointer for a 103-101 lead with 1:04 to play, but Shaw drilled a corner jumper to tie it again just six seconds later.
Horry scored 11 points for the Lakers, who shot 51 percent (38-of-74), including a sizzling 89 percent (16-of-18) in the
Finley scored 11 points on 4-of-19 shooting for Dallas.
"You grow when you go through tough times together," Nelson said. "This is definitely a tough time for us."
The Lakers were booed off the floor in the first half. The Mavs used four three-pointers to race to a 22-10 lead, allowed the Lakers to creep within 31-30 early in the second quarter, then seemingly obliterated them with a 33-6 rush to the end of the period.
In the final 1:44 of the first half, Van Exel, Nash and Nowitzki buried three-pointers and Finley and Nowitzki drove for three-point plays, completing a frightening 15-0 run for a 64-36 lead that had owner Mark Cuban whooping it up behind the bench.
"If at any point we should have given up, tonight would have been the perfect time for us to do that," Shaw said.
A layup by Adrian Griffin opened the third quarter and gave Dallas its largest lead. Two free throws by Bryant cut the deficit to 75-56 with 3:12 left, but Finley made two three-pointers and Van Exel one to help rebuild the lead to 27 points entering the final period.