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Posted Dec 13 2006 3:20AM
The good news for the Dallas Mavericks is they won't have to face Lamar Odom. The bad news is they still need to find a way to stop Kobe Bryant.
With their second-leading scorer expected to miss time with a knee injury, the Los Angeles Lakers (15-6) will look for Bryant to pick up the slack Wednesday against the Mavericks at the American Airlines Center.
Odom, who's averaging a career-best 17.5 points, sprained his right knee in first quarter of a 102-94 win over Houston on Tuesday when he landed awkwardly after having his shot blocked on a drive to the basket.
``I'll be really happy if he plays again in January,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of Odom, who leads the team with 8.7 rebounds per game.
Still, the Lakers have Bryant - who's in the top 10 in scoring at 26.2 points per game and won the scoring title last season averaging 35.4 points - but he will have to bounce back from one of his worst-shooting road games of the season. Bryant shot just 30.8 percent (8-for-26) from the field to finish with 23 points, but also had eight rebounds and seven assists.
Bryant left in the fourth quarter with the Lakers leading by 27, but Jackson had to insert him back in the game to help blunt a rally by the Rockets - who pulled within two late - before the Lakers pulled away for their third straight win.
``That was the weirdest game I've ever been a part of,'' Bryant said. ``That's the first time I've put the ice on and had to come back out and play. It's almost like Red Auerbach smoking the cigar.''
Bryant is averaging 33.4 points in his last five games in Dallas, including a 43-point effort in a 109-106 win Dec. 12, 2005. Los Angeles, which is 3-2 in its last five visits to Dallas, leads Phoenix by one-half game in the Pacific Division.
Los Angeles is trying to match a season high with its fourth straight win, established Nov. 12-21.
Dallas (14-7) enters this contest tied with Houston for second in the Southwest Division, 1 1/2 games behind San Antonio.
With the 6-10 Odom out, the Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki may find less resistance to the basket. The forward is averaging 24.6 points this season, but just 20.8 points in 13 career home games against the Lakers.
On Monday, Nowitzki had 26 points and 10 rebounds for his 13th double-double, but got little support as the Mavericks were routed 101-79 by the Utah Jazz.
``They really got the best of us at both ends of the floor,'' Nowitzki said. ``In the third and the fourth, we couldn't really get it down to 10, eight, to make it a ballgame. You've got to give them the credit.''
Anthony Johnson was the only other player to reach double figures, scoring 10 points in 10 minutes off the bench as the Mavs shot a season-low 37.7 percent (26 of 69) from the field.
Dallas has lost three of its last five following a 12-game winning streak. The Mavericks are averaging just 91.0 points in that span compared to 103.0 during the streak.
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