It was a playoff-type atmosphere in the Staples Center Tuesday night, and the Lakers rose to the occasion.
Kobe Bryant notched his 19th career triple-double with 23 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds while adding four steals and two blocks as the Lakers defeated the Mavericks 101-81. He relentlessly attacked the defense and made plays for his teammates.
From the opening tip, Kobe seemed to play with more passion that anyone else on the court. He had a bounce to his step, and elevated his gameplay to inspire his teammates. His intensity trickled down to the others.
The Lakers' post players thrived in the paint, with Dwight Howard pouring in another double-double with 24 points and snatching up 12 boards. Both Pau Gasol and Earl Clark added double-doubles as the Lakers outrebounded Dallas 57 to 37.
In addition to the win, the Lakers also retired the jersey of Shaquille O'Neal during half-time, which was a great moment for the Lakers fans, and really set the tone for the second half.
Dallas had its chances to keep it close, but could never find any level of consistency. Dirk Nowitzki scored 11 points with a poor 4-13 shooting performance, but managed 5 rebounds and 6 assists.
Down the stretch, the Mavericks turned to the "hack-a-Howard" technique to send Howard to the free-throw line. Howard is shooting a mere 48 percent from the line this year. He made Dallas pay, however, by shooting a solid 7-12 late in the fourth.
In a game where both teams were aware of the magnitude of the game, Los Angeles made a statement. Each time Dallas began to gather momentum, the Lakers had an answer.
The 20-point victory moves the Lakers two-and-a-half games ahead of the Mavericks, and ties them once again with the Utah Jazz for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Lakers' next game is on Friday at home against the Memphis Grizzlies.
For further new on the Lakers, you can follow Mitch Kunzler on Twitter at: @MitchKunzler