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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Wednesday, February 24th (All times eastern)

Los Angeles Lakers (43-14) at Dallas Mavericks (36-21), 9 p.m.

(Sports Network) - It didn't take long for Lakers star Kobe Bryant to find his groove as he nailed a game-winning jump shot last night in his return from a five-game absence due to a balky ankle. Bryant will lead Los Angeles again tonight against the Dallas Mavericks in Big D.

The 12-time All-Star hit a three-pointer with 4.3 seconds remaining to lift the Lakers to a 99-98 victory at Memphis on Tuesday and finished with 32 points, including the team's final nine.

"It's fun," Bryant said after playing in his 1,000th regular season game. "That's my responsibility to make plays down the stretch. If it's not taking the shot, then it's making the play for someone else. I enjoy it."

Pau Gasol had 22 points and 13 rebounds, while Andrew Bynum contributed 15 points and 10 boards before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. The Pacific Division-leading Lakers have won five of their last six games overall and three straight on the road. The top seed in the West also owns a 17-9 record away from Hollywood.

After tonight's game in Dallas, Los Angeles will return to Staples Center for a three-game homestand versus the Sixers, Nuggets and Pacers.

The Mavericks will shoot for their fifth consecutive victory tonight in the finale of a three-game homestand versus the Lakers. They improved to 2-0 on the residency with Monday's 91-82 triumph over Indiana, as Dirk Nowitzki scored 23 points and pulled down seven rebounds to lead the way.

Jason Terry added 14 points off the bench, while newcomer Brendan Haywood had 13 points and tied a career high with 20 rebounds. Jason Kidd chipped in 10 points and seven assists for Dallas, which leads the Southwest Division by 3 1/2 games ahead of San Antonio and is currently seeded fourth in the West.

"We definitely have some work to do, but we'll take the four-game win streak especially this late in the season and we have a big one obviously coming up on Wednesday, a huge challenge with the Lakers," Nowitzki said. "So, these guys really fit in well. I think Haywood really made this trade great and the sky is the limit of we keep working."

Dallas has won three in a row at home and is 18-9 at American Airlines Center in 2009-10.

Los Angeles has taken two of the first three matchups with Dallas this season and posted a 100-95 road victory in the previous meeting on January 13. The Lakers won all three meetings a year ago and eight of nine overall with the Mavs, who are winless in the previous three as the host in this series.

In 46 games (40 starts), Bryant, who is fourth in the NBA with 28.0 ppg, is averaging 24.9 points for his career against Dallas. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 26-11 against the Mavericks.

02/24 10:34:11 ET

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