DALLAS -- Asked before last night's game against the Lakers if they could hold All-Star guard Kobe Bryant to 14 points as they did in an earlier meeting in Los Angeles, the Mavericks, to a man, shot down that notion.
They said Bryant was too good and the first game was an aberration because everyone shot badly that night.
Well, the Mavericks almost did repeat the impossible Wednesday night at American Airlines Center, holding Bryant, the NBA's leading scorer, to just 15 points on 4 of 15 shooting. He was also harassed into seven turnovers.
But the Mavs didn't accomplish the larger goal and lost 96-91 to the Lakers in the final game before the All-Star break that signals the season's halfway point.
It left a sold out crowd of 20,577 dejected.
Many came out to relish in another victory against the Lakers, who were making their first trip to Dallas since being swept in the second round of the playoffs last summer as the Mavericks went on to their first NBA title.
The Mavericks (20-13) couldn't get it done Wednesday because they failed to make plays on both ends of the court in the fourth quarter and couldn't contain the Lakers down low.
Forward Pau Gasol scored 24 points and center Andrew Bynum had 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers (21-13), who won only their sixth of 17 road games.
Veteran guard Derek Fished scored seven of his 15 points in the fourth quarter to help offset Bryant's rare effort.
"The big thing with them is rebounding and keeping Bryant contained," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "The rebounding is what got us in the second half. They got too many chances. We struggled to hit the shots we normally hit. But give them credit. Their inside game really hurt us."
Forward Dirk Nowitzki, who is headed to his 11th straight All-Star Game, led the Mavericks with 25 points.
"Obviously Kobe gets a lot of attention," Nowitzki said. "We doubled him basically off of every screen and those big guys are beasts down there. They had a couple lobs at the beginning of the game and some big offensive rebounds late in the game."
Bynum actually scored on four alley-oop dunks over the Mavericks' defense in what was an impressive return to the AAC for the first time since getting ejected because of a flagrant foul in the close-out game of the playoff sweep.
What also hurt the Mavericks was a short-handed roster.
They were already without guards Roddy Beaubois and Delonte West who were missing because of the death of a family member and a fractured hand, respectively.
Carlisle announced before the game that forward Lamar Odom, who has struggled since coming over in a trade from the Lakers before the season, would not play against his former team because of a family issue.
Odom and Beaubois are expected back after the All-Star break. West is out at least another month.
The result Wednesday was Carlisle playing many of his veterans extended minutes after containing their playing time for much of the season's first half.
Carter epitomized the worn down Mavericks in the fourth quarter where he came up empty after scoring 20 points through the first three quarters.
"I just tried to make it my responsibility to be aggressive and attack to get us going," Carter said. "I've been disappointed with myself the last couple of games."
The critical juncture with just under six minutes left in the game saw the Lakers turn an 82-82 tie into a 89-82 lead. Bynum snared a rebound and hit two free throws. Jason Kidd and Jason Terry missed consecutive 3-pointers for the Mavericks who got a third rebound only to watch Brendan Haywood get fouled and miss two free throws.
Fisher followed with a 3-pointer and a driving layup.
To their credit, the Lakers kept giving the Mavericks chances, as Bryant made his seventh turnover. Los Angeles also missed six consecutive free throws down the stretch, allowing Dallas to get as close as 93-91 following two free throws by Nowitzki with :29 left. But another offensive rebound and two made free throws by Matt Barnes put the game away.
The Mavericks were out rebounded 30-23 in the second half, including 18-12 in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers also had 10 points in the paint to just two for the Mavericks in the final juncture.
Clarence E. Hill Jr., 817-390-7760