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Lakers give Dallas a make-up kiss-off with regular-season sweep

By Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES — There’s no such thing as regular-season vengeance for an embarrassing playoff ouster the previous year.

But the Los Angeles Lakers have put together a portfolio of victories against the Dallas Mavericks this season, winning four and losing none, the latest a 112-108 overtime win Sunday at Staples Center.

It’s interesting mainly because they might play each other in the first round of the playoffs, which are finally coming soon in this chaotically compressed lockout season.

It’s also something — eye-opening? Amusing? Telling? — that the Lakers keep beating teams with Kobe Bryant on the sidelines because of a sore left shin.

Now 4-1 without the NBA’s leading scorer, the Lakers found ways to beat some pretty good teams on their own. In no way are they better without Bryant, but they have some talent in the cupboard, undoubtedly.

Andrew Bynum had 23 points and 16 rebounds, Ramon Sessions scored 22 and Pau Gasol had 20 as the Lakers overcame a six-point deficit near the midpoint of the fourth quarter to sweep the defending NBA champions.

“I think this team just shows how much quality we have, how many other weapons we have and how good we are when we play the right way,” said Gasol, who pushed the Lakers to victory by scoring eight of their 14 points in overtime, including two three-pointers, one of which was controversial.

The Mavericks led, 101-100, when Gasol drilled his first three-pointer from the left corner with 3:49 left in overtime. It went through, but teammate Matt Barnes touched the rim simultaneously while awaiting a tip-in possibility.

It didn’t make Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle a happy man.

“It was a goal-tend that was missed, yes,” he said before referring to the NBA offices. “They’ll see that in black and white in New York.”

Gasol’s second three-pointer had no such debate. He lined up from almost the same spot and drilled it cleanly, giving the Lakers a 106-103 edge.

The Lakers still had to watch and wait as Jason Terry blew past their defense with the Mavericks down two but somehow missed a double-clutch layup with 3.9 seconds left. Barnes moved in late on the play, apparently enough to throw off Terry, whose attempt hit the bottom of the rim.

“I saw a clear lane to the basket,” Terry said. “Obviously, there was just some misfortune there in not going strong enough. … I’ll take the blame for that.”

Bynum didn’t shoot well, making nine of 24, but neither did Dirk Nowitzki, who had 24 points on nine-for-28 shooting for Dallas (34-27).

The Lakers (39-22) took another step toward securing third place in the Western Conference and also moved closer to getting back Bryant. He told an ABC reporter during the game he would “definitely” be back “well before playoffs.”

“It’s feeling a lot better,” Bryant said, adding he would be playing now if it was the postseason.

The Lakers have five games left and conclude the regular season April 26 against Sacramento. Bryant didn’t talk to reporters after the game.

Bryant, however, still hasn’t started running, so his return might not come Tuesday against San Antonio. The Lakers took him out of a walking boot a few days ago but said they would not let him return to action until he started running and then jumping without pain.

Despite the Lakers’ record without him, Lakers Coach Mike Brown stated the obvious about Bryant’s return, whenever it comes.

“It’s not going to change. Kobe’s our guy and he will always be our guy,” he said. “But obviously even when he was playing we had gone to Andrew down the stretch some, specifically in the post, and we ran some plays for ‘Sess’ playing pick-and-roll and Pau pick-and-pop. So we feel like we have some guys that can do some different things to help us score in tight ball games down the stretch.”

It certainly happened Sunday.

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