Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant had 38 points to win a scoring duel with Dirk Nowitzki, and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Dallas Mavericks 103-99 Sunday in a matchup of teams fighting to get in the playoff race.

With chants of MVP from a strong contingent of Lakers fans, Bryant scored 14 in the fourth, including seven in the final 3 minutes to hold off a spirited Dallas effort.

Nowitzki finished with 30 points and 13 rebounds for the Mavericks, who had a chance to pull virtually even with the Lakers for ninth place in the Western Conference. Houston is in eighth, with a cushion of several games.

Bryant, who also had 12 rebounds and seven assists, was playing in Mark Cuban’s building two days after the outspoken Dallas owner suggested in a radio interview that the Lakers might have to consider dumping the five-time NBA champion through the amnesty clause.

Steve Nash had 13 of his 20 in the second half against his former team in a game that neither team led by more than six.

– Reported by Schuyler Dixon of the Associated Press