Lakers, without Kobe Bryant again, lose to Mavericks, 102-98

Lakers, without Kobe Bryant again, lose to Mavericks, 102-98
Lakes center Jordan Hill fights through the double-team defense of Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, right, and guard Monta Ellis in the first half. (Tom Pennington / Getty Images)

The Lakers played another game without Kobe Bryant and might have learned something about themselves.

Mainly, they're not that bad sometimes.


They played the Dallas Mavericks to a near-draw before falling Friday, 102-98, and were left to ponder a series of what-ifs afterward.

What if Nick Young hadn't started one for 10? What if Wesley Johnson hadn't finished three for 14? And the big one, as always, what if Bryant played instead of taking a third game off for rest?

It's a series of hypotheticals in a Lakers season as real as their 9-21 record.

If nothing else, there was progress, because the Mavericks hammered the Lakers here last month, 140-106, shooting 62.2% for the game and scoring 110 points through three quarters.

Dallas had a more reasonable 72 points going into the fourth quarter Friday and the Lakers almost stole one.

If — and there's that tricky word again — only they hadn't gone so cold after Young's three-pointer pulled them within five with 6:51 left. Dallas quickly re-established a 16-point lead and held on from there.

The night wasn't without its quirks, including another Young technical foul for arguing with the referees. He now has three this season, a surprising number for him.

"I'm the new Rasheed Wallace," he said afterward, and he'd have a ways to go until that would be true.

"I think sometimes the refs might need to take a look at film and they should get fined for fouls they just miss," Young said. "But we're all good. I like the refs. I like the NBA. I like [Commissioner] Adam Silver."

Friday marked another page filled with notes in the Bryant analysis book. Observers who say the Lakers are more efficient without him could point to parts of this game. But the Lakers shot 36.4% as a team, which wouldn't please any of their fans.

Bryant's biggest proponent said there probably would have been a victory with him in the lineup despite his 37% accuracy.

"Let's see, he averages 25 … yeah, probably," Lakers Coach Byron Scott said. "Yeah, obviously if you have him, that fourth quarter, the last three or four minutes …we couldn't throw it in the ocean. Obviously, he's a guy that can help. No doubt about that."

The date of Bryant's return is still in doubt but Sunday against Phoenix makes sense.

"Give it another day and a half and I think he feels pretty good about being ready for that Sunday game," Scott said.

This might not be the last time Bryant rests this season, however.

"It's so hard to predict. It all really just kind of goes down to how his body feels," Scott said.

At the very least, Bryant will now play fewer than the 35.4 minutes he has averaged so far this season.

Scott said Bryant's playing time was "maybe" a reason for his fatigue. Bryant will play closer to 32 or 33 minutes a game, Scott added.

The bizarre stat of the day belonged to the Lakers, who received double-doubles from all three starting frontcourt players. Johnson had 11 points and 10 rebounds, Ed Davis had 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Jordan Hill had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Sure enough, the Lakers pummeled Dallas in rebounds, 63-40, at American Airlines Center.

But Rajon Rondo had 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in his fourth game with Dallas, and Dirk Nowitzki passed Elvin Hayes for eighth on the NBA's all-time scoring list.

Nowitzki had 14 points Friday and now has 27,322 in his career, almost 5,000 behind Bryant.

Twitter: Mike_Bresnahan