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This time, Mavs smother Kobe

SHARE This time, Mavs smother Kobe

Josh Howard had 22 points and was one of the Dallas defenders who helped frustrate Kobe Bryant most of the game, and the Mavericks beat the Los Angeles Lakers 102-87 Tuesday night in Dallas for their NBA-best 12th straight victory.

The Mavericks' winning streak coincides with their club-record streak of holding a dozen straight opponents under 100 points. This time, they showed they could defend Bryant, who was held to 24 points — well below his 52.5 average in his other two games against Dallas this year.

Before Bryant scored 81 points against Toronto two weeks ago, he scored 62 against the Mavericks on Dec. 20 and had outscored them on his own before not playing the fourth quarter in a 22-point home victory. The NBA's top scorer put up 43 in his other matchup against Dallas.

Brian Cook scored a career-high 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting and became the first player other than Bryant to lead the Lakers in scoring the past 17 games. But Bryant was the obvious focus of the Mavericks, who weren't going to be embarrassed again.

Dallas (38-10) took over the best record in the Western Conference, a half-game better than idle San Antonio. The Lakers, playing their sixth straight road game, lost their fourth consecutive game by double figures.

HAWKS 99, PISTONS 98: At Atlanta, Joe Johnson scored 29 points, including a layup with 7.5 seconds, to lift the Atlanta Hawks to a 99-98 home victory over Detroit on Tuesday night, denying the Pistons their 40th win.

Detroit, which still boasts the best record in the league, suffered its first two-game losing streak of the season. The Pistons (39-8) are off to their best start in franchise history.

Trailing 98-97, Atlanta (15-32) had possession with 26.7 seconds left. Johnson worked the clock down before driving past Rasheed Wallace for the layup.

CLIPPERS 85, KNICKS 82: At New York, Sam Cassell hit consecutive 3-pointers in the final two minutes, including the go-ahead one.

Elton Brand scored 25 points, nine in the fourth quarter, and grabbed 12 rebounds as the Clippers improved to 4-1 on their six-game road trip that ends tonight at Detroit. They have won nine of 10 overall.

Cassell was quiet most of the game. He finished with 13 points and, before his late surge, the most energy he showed was when he was hit with a technical foul that was taken away by another referee.

Jalen Rose scored 23 points for the Knicks, who have lost six straight and 12 of 13.

KINGS 104, GRIZZLIES 96: At Sacramento, Calif., Brad Miller scored 22 points, including two straight 3-pointers late in the game, to help the Sacramento Kings beat the Grizzlies.