Lakers Gameday | 04/04/08 | Lakers 112, Mavericks 108
Lakers qualify for postseason for 55th time in 60 seasons
Lamar Odom scored a season-high 31 points, Kobe Bryant added 25 points and 10 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers clinched a playoff berth Friday night with a 112-108 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
The Lakers have qualified for the playoffs in 55 of their 60 seasons as a franchise, winning 14 NBA championships and 27 division titles -- hoping for a 28th with a magic number of five.
Phil Jackson has made the playoffs in all 17 seasons as an NBA head coach -- eight with the Lakers and nine with the Chicago Bulls. Jackson, whose nine NBA titles are tied with fellow Hall of Famer Red Auerbach, also holds the all-time mark for postseason victories with 179.
Pau Gasol had 25 points and seven assists for the Lakers, and Odom grabbed 10 rebounds. It was the sixth time this season that they have had three players with 20 or more points -- all victories.
Gasol and reigning MVP Dirk Nowitzki both were playing their second game with their respective clubs since returning from ankle injuries. Gasol was 11-for-20 from the field and Nowitzki was 13-for-19.
Nowitzki led the Mavs with 27 points, Jason Terry scored 25 and Josh Howard added 23. Jason Kidd had 10 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. This was the Mavericks' 10th loss that was decided by four points or less.
The Lakers won three of the four meetings with Dallas, reversing last year's results when the Mavs won the season series for the first time since 1986-87 and only the second time overall.
The Mavericks led 106-103 with 1:29 to play, but the Lakers ended the game with a 9-2 spurt that included a three-point play by Gasol and two free throws each by Bryant and Sasha Vujacic in the final 18 seconds.
Nowitzki, who was a last-minute replacement for Bryant in this year's All-Star 3-point shooting contest due to Bryant's dislocated right pinkie, did not attempt a shot from behind the arc until he connected with 8:51 left in the game to give Dallas a 94-89 lead. He did not go to the free throw line the entire game.
Los Angeles trailed by as many as 14 points midway through the second quarter before narrowing the gap to 68-64 on Bryant's layup with 8:17 left in the third. But the Mavericks responded with a 12-5 spurt that restored their double-digit lead to 80-69 with 4:32 left in the period.
They're both offensive-minded, game-changing 7-footers, but lately Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki had simply been two tall spectators in street clothes.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks were more than happy to see them back in uniform Wednesday.
One game after both teams got their star big men back in the lineup, Los Angeles will host Dallas on Friday night with each looking to improve its standing in the Western Conference playoff race.
Gasol got hurt two minutes into the Lakers' 108-98 loss at New Orleans on March 14, and including that game, Los Angeles (51-24) went 5-5 with its starting center on the shelf, including stunning home losses to Charlotte and Memphis.
Gasol finally returned on Wednesday, scoring only 10 points in 32 minutes, but he added six rebounds and seven assists in a 104-91 win over Portland. The victory gave the Lakers a one-game lead over Phoenix in the Pacific Division and kept them within 1 1/2 games of conference-leading New Orleans.
"I think he looked great," said Kobe Bryant, who led the Lakers with 36 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. "He looked good yesterday in practice and he played extremely well tonight."
With Gasol out, Bryant averaged 31.1 points, nearly three more than his average before the injury, but he also took five more shots per game.
When Bryant scores at least 39 points this season, Los Angeles is only 5-4.
Two of those performances have come against the Mavericks (47-28), who are currently sitting in the seventh spot in the West. Bryant scored 40 as the Lakers lost 112-105 in Dallas on Jan. 25, then had 52 to help Los Angeles to a 108-104 overtime win at Staples Center on March 2.
Games like those have helped put Bryant at the forefront of the debate over league MVP, the award Nowitzki won last year in leading the Mavericks to the NBA's best record.
When Nowitzki landed awkwardly on his left leg in the third quarter of an 88-81 loss to San Antonio on March 23, many thought Dallas might fall out of the playoff picture entirely with its leading scorer potentially out for the rest of the regular season.
But Nowitzki came back Wednesday and helped the Mavericks get one of their biggest wins of 2007-08. They thoroughly outplayed Golden State -- one of the teams they're battling for a postseason berth -- in a 111-86 victory, snapping an 0-9 drought against West contenders since the team acquired Jason Kidd.
"There was already a sense of urgency. ... And then seeing Dirk out there, it was very inspiring," said Jason Terry, who matched a season high with 31 points. "We were very surprised to see him (start)."
Nowitzki had 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting in his return.
"His presence is big on this team and we came out and played hard for him," said Josh Howard, who had 28 points. "He showed a lot of energy when he was on the court and that carried over to everyone."
Howard certainly did his best to step up with Nowitzki out. He averaged 30.8 points and 7.3 rebounds in those four games.
Howard is averaging 22.5 points in his last eight games against the Lakers. But Nowitzki has created the biggest matchup problems for Los Angeles this season, averaging 30.3 points and 11.3 rebounds.
He had 35 points in the teams' most recent meeting, a 102-100 Lakers' win in Dallas on March 18 when the Mavericks nearly rallied from a 25-point deficit.Copyright 2007 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited
NOTES & CONNECTIONS
The Lakers lead their season series with Dallas 2-1 with one game remaining after losing last season’s series with the Mavericks 1-3 for the first time since the 1986-87 season and only the second time ever (1983-84). This will be the 118th overall meeting between the two franchises with the Lakers holding an 89-28 series advantage. In their most recent meeting, the Lakers defeated the Mavericks 102- 100, snapping a four game losing streak at American Airlines Center. In their last meeting at STAPLES Center March 2, the Lakers defeated the Mavericks 108-104 in overtime behind Kobe Bryant’s then season-high 52 points. The Lakers are 5-5 against the Mavericks in their last 10 overall games. At Staples Center, the Lakers are 13-3 all-time against the Mavericks and are 7-3 in their last 10. In Dallas, the Lakers have gone 4-6 over their last 10 games at American Airlines Center. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 20-10 against the Mavericks. In December of 2005, Kobe Bryant established a new series record with 62 points against the Mavericks in a 112-90 victory at STAPLES Center. In that contest, Bryant singlehandedly outscored the Mavericks 62-61 through three quarters. In 39 games (33 starts), Bryant is averaging 25.2 points for his career against Dallas. The Mavericks’ Devean George played his first seven seasons with the Lakers, winning three championships. In 429 games, George averaged 6.0 points and 3.3 rebounds in 18.9 minutes and ranks among the franchise leaders in 3-point FG% (10th/.340) and 3-pt FG made (9th/282). Mavericks guard Eddie Jones (1994-99) played his first five seasons with the Lakers, averaged 15.2 points and still ranks among franchise leaders in 3-pt FG% (4th/.378), 3-pt FG made (tied 4th/ 489) and steals (10th/644).
50 Win Seasons