In their first game without Odom since he emerged as a perfect complement to Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers overcame a rough start to make a late run at the Dallas Mavericks, but it wasn't enough to avoid a 110-101 loss.
"It was a challenge for us," Bryant said. "We missed him big-time tonight."
Odom sprained his right knee Tuesday night in a win over Houston. He was ruled out for at least a month after visiting with the team orthopedist in California on Wednesday. Odom had been the team's top rebounder and the next-best scorer after Bryant, and a big reason why Los Angeles had won three straight and six of seven.
Hoping someone else would step up to fill that void, Bryant scored only five points on 2-of-6 shooting in the first half. After no one did, Bryant decided he "needed to get us rolling and kick-start us a little bit," so he took over in the third, scoring 17 points to help the Lakers tie it.
They never got ahead, though, and wilted after Josh Howard powered Dallas' 12-2 run midway through the fourth quarter.
Howard led Dallas with 29 points and Dirk Nowitzki just missed his first career triple-double. He had 23 points, a season-high 14 rebounds and tied his career high with eight assists; the watch was on after he posted 11 points, five rebounds and five assists in the first quarter.
"We played a good second half and battled back, but they made a big run at us at the right time," Bryant said. "Without (Odom), we weren't able to match up on Nowitzki."
Bryant led the Lakers in points (33) and assists (four) and tied for the rebound lead (seven). There was a big drop-off after that.
The Lakers' defense suffered, too. They gave up their most points in 10 games, while watching Dallas shoot a season-high 60 percent (39-of-65). The loss also dropped Los Angeles a half-game behind Phoenix for the lead in the Pacific Division.
"Last night we played most of the game without him and played pretty well. But tonight was different," Walton said. "They made big plays and we made boneheaded plays. You can't do that against a good team like Dallas. Tonight our defense got away from us. We've got to learn from this and let it go."
Howard fell one point shy of the career high he matched two games ago. He scored 12 points in the first quarter and had five more during the game-sealing run in the fourth quarter. Jason Terry had 26 points and nine assists 26 points and Devin Harris scored 14 points.
The Mavericks were coming off a 22-point loss in Utah, their third defeat in five games since winning 12 straight.
They got back to the strong start that powered their streak, hitting nine of their first 11 shots.
"We came out tonight very focused," Terry said. "They played last night, so we felt if we could extend them to the fourth quarter and put together some runs that we could put them away."
Bryant made his first five shots in the third quarter, hitting a four-point play along the way. He tied it at 74 with a 3-pointer over former teammate Devean George, then his first miss came on a potential go-ahead 3.
Los Angeles tied it again at 83 on the first basket of the fourth quarter, but Dallas answered with its closing kick.
"We just kept scrapping," George said. "We just kept getting after it and the ball started bouncing our way."
Nowitzki was 5-for-5 in the first quarter and made his first shot in the second quarter, too. Yet he didn't make another field goal until the fourth quarter. He finished 8-of-14.
- Bennett Salvatore worked his first Mavs game this season. He was the official at the center of the controversies surrounding Dallas' overtime loss to Miami in Game 5 of the finals last season.
- Bryant's five first-half points came on 25 touches, according to Dallas statisticians. He scored 17 points on 18 third-quarter touches.
- The Mavericks had 10 assists in the first quarter after only eight the previous game.
- The Mavs lost backup point guard Anthony Johnson to a sprained right ankle early in the second quarter. He didn't return. An MRI was scheduled for Thursday.