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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Sunday, January 3rd (All times eastern)

Dallas Mavericks (23-10) at Los Angeles Lakers (26-6), 9:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - A pair of division leaders meet in Hollywood tonight when the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers play host to the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center.

The Pacific Division-leading Lakers improved to 2-0 on a four-game homestand with a thrilling 109-108 win over Sacramento on Friday. Kobe Bryant drilled a game-winning three- pointer as time expired in that one.

Ahead 108-106, Sacramento's Ime Udoka had a chance to ice the game at the foul line but missed a pair of free throws with 4.8 seconds to play.

After a timeout, Bryant set a pick on Sergio Rodriguez, who fell down to allow Bryant an open look on the left wing. The scoring leader nearly stepped out of bounds before narrowly getting off the game-winner as the buzzer sounded.

"It's always exciting to hit those," Bryant said of the game-winner. "The back side was open, it was a matter of getting to the spot. I just wanted to get out of here, so I wanted to take a three."

Bryant scored 27 of his 39 points in the second half, Lamar Odom chipped in 20 points and 10 rebounds and Pau Gasol ended with 17 and 16 for Los Angeles, which has won three of its last four.

Bryant, who is averaging 30.6 points per game, has now scored at least 34 points in six straight games, his longest such scoring streak since a 13-game stretch from Jan. 29-Feb. 23, 2003. The reigning Finals MVP also now has 24,800 career points, just 15 behind Patrick Ewing for 15th place of the all- time NBA scoring list.

On the injury front for the Lakers, defensive stalwart Ron Artest, who has missed the past four games with a concussion, is questionable for tonight's contest.

The Mavs, meanwhile, kept a two-game lead in the Southwest Division thanks to a 99-91 win in Sacramento on Saturday. Dirk Nowitzki had 25 points and seven rebounds in that one.

Jose Barea added 17 points for the Mavs, who have won three of four overall. Josh Howard finished with 16 points, and Jason Kidd had 14 points and seven assists for Dallas. Jason Terry contributed 11 points and five assists in the victory.

"We have a pretty experienced team," Nowitzki said. "We didn't want to give them transition baskets. We did a decent job with that and I think our defense has been pretty good all year.

The Lakers, who are a gaudy 18-3 at Staples Center this season. have historically dominated the Mavericks in LA, amassing a 37-5 home record against Dallas since the 1988-89 season. One of those Laker losses came this season, however, a 94-80 Mavs rout on Oct. 30. Nowitzki led the way in that one with 21 points and 10 rebounds as Dallas snapped a six-game skid to Los Angeles.

01/03 11:34:00 ET


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