Dallas Mavericks without Marion can't handle Kobe, Lakers

DALLAS -- In case no one knew it, the Los Angeles Lakers reminded everyone Wednesday night why they're a serious threat to win this year's NBA title.

With Kobe Bryant showing why he's still the game's best player, and Ramon Sessions showing why the Lakers recently acquired him, the Lakers rolled into American Airlines Center and defeated the Dallas Mavericks 109-93.

The loss snapped the Mavs' four-game winning streak, dropped their record to 27-21, and pushed them 2 1/2 games behind the Lakers (29-18) going into Friday's game in San Antonio.

While the Mavs doubled center Andrew Bynum nearly every time he had the ball, the Lakers made them pay with forays from Pau Gasol, Bryant and Sessions. And with Shawn Marion missing his third straight game with a sore left knee, and center Brendan Haywood also out with a sprained right knee, the Mavs put up little resistance against the team that won the NBA championship in 2009 and 2010.

"They're the best team I've seen in recent years of making the big, big interior pass,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. "They just have a great feel for that. When they had Lamar [Odom] there, they had a third guy that could do it and it was even tougher.

"But Gasol and Bynum do a great job of it. It's a very challenging situation."

Bryant finished with 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting. With Marion guarding him the two previous games, Bryant had 29 total points on 11-of-37 shooting.

Gasol contributed a season-high 27 points (13 of 16 shots) and eight rebounds, and Sessions tallied 17 to go with nine assists.

The game pitted the teams that won the past three NBA titles, which made for an interesting matchup. However, it was clear from midway through the second quarter on that the Lakers were the superior team on this night.

"You always like big games against big names," owner Mark Cuban said beforehand. "I think we get into it, the fans get into, just a lot of energy and a lot of excitement.

"So it's always a good thing."

Perhaps, but when Bynum flew down on a fast break and hammered home a thundering dunk, the Lakers were ahead 94-78 with 6:45 remaining in the game. A bucket by Gasol pushed the Lakers up 103-86 with 2:53 left and sent the fans scrambling for the turnstiles.

Bryant, Sessions and Gasol combined for 39 points in the first half when the Lakers led 59-44. With no Marion to worry about, Bryant had his way with Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Rodrigue Beaubois, who all had little success trying to slow down the league's top scorer.

Bryant tallied 15 of his points in the first half, and Sessions came off the bench to add 12 points and seven assists. Combined with the 12 points the Lakers got from Gasol, and the Mavs just didn't have enough answers to combat the Lakers.

Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 26 points and 10 rebounds and Terry added 23 points.

After a pair of free throws from Terry, the Mavs raced to a 16-8 lead with 5:38 left in the first period. But the Lakers quickly caught fire and later used a 16-4 rally to assume a 43-36 lead late in the second period.

The Mavs never recovered from that, as the Lakers maintained control for the duration of the game. It also kept the Mavs, who went into the game sixth in the Western Conference standings, from possibly being No. 4 by this weekend.

"I don't care what the seeds are," Cuban said. "I'd like to have home court [advantage] because I make more money.

"But beyond that, from a basketball perspective, I don't care."

Dwain Price


Twitter: @DwainPrice

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