x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

NBA: Lakers power past Mavericks in battle for playoff spot

On a night when the Los Angeles Lakers retired former star Shaquille O'Neal's jersey number, it was their current crop of big name players that stole the show.

Kobe Bryant looks for a way past Dallas' OJ Mayo.
Kobe Bryant looks for a way past Dallas' OJ Mayo.

Kobe Bryant hit his 19th career triple-double as the Los Angeles Lakers ran out 101-81 winners over the Dallas Mavericks - on a night when the Lakers retired Shaquille O'Neal's number 34 jersey.

Bryant scored 23 points with 11 rebounds and 11 assists, Big man Dwight Howard scored a game-high 24 points and also grabbed 12 rebounds and Earl Clark contributed a double-double off the bench of 17 points and 12 rebounds as the Lakers pulled level with the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final spot in the West.

"I just thought our defence in the first half was great," Mike D'Antoni, the Lakers coach, said afterward.

"I didn't think we had a great game offensively ... didn't get 'hot'. But we were playing so hard defensively we won it that way."

The Lakers led by as many as 16 in the first half, and took a 55-40 lead into the interval.

After a halftime break prolonged for the tribute to O'Neal, the Lakers came out flat and Dallas closed the gap to 63-58 with three minutes left in the third quarter.

However, Clark and Antawn Jamison combined to score nine straight points to help the Lakers finish the quarter strongly and take a 72-61 lead into the fourth.

With just over four minutes to play the Mavericks trailed by seven, but the Lakers inexorably pulled away.

Bryant again played all but a few seconds of the contest.

"I'm a little sore right now," he admitted after the game. "My back's a little sore, hamstring's a little sore ... I've got to push through it a little right now."

In pre-recorded video played at halftime, Bryant called former teammate O'Neal "the most gifted specimen I've ever seen play this game."

Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson then spoke about O'Neal, who played eight seasons with the Lakers from 1996-2004, wining three titles in four NBA finals appearances.

"Fun, fun, fun, did we have fun!" said Jackson, who received a rapturous welcome from the Staples Center crowd.

"For me, Shaquille, I want to thank you for your dedication, leadership and the hard work you put in."

O'Neal dedicated the night to late Lakers owner Jerry Buss. He thanked his parents and six children.

"It's a dream come true. It's a blessing," O'Neal said.

"I didn't do it by myself. I had a lot of help — great teammates, great organisation, the Buss family, great leadership from Phil Jackson."

Elsewhere Carmelo Anthony matched his career-best haul with 50 points as the New York Knicks overcame the Miami Heat 102-90 to win a ninth straight game.

Anthony's half-century came up in the dying seconds of the Knicks' road win against a Miami side who saw their 27-game winning run end last week.

New York and Miami are clear leaders of the Atlantic and South-east Conferences, respectively.

The Washington Wizards posted a 90-86 home win over the Chicago Bulls on the back of 27 points from John Wall.