Nowitzki leads Mavs to win over Lakers

DALLAS (Reuters) - Dirk Nowitzki scored 31 points to guide the Dallas Mavericks to a 101-96 win over the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

The German finished the game strongly with 13 points in the fourth quarter, while Jason Terry totaled 30 points as the Mavericks (37-21) rolled to their fifth win in a row.

"We knew they were going to keep coming. Our defense won us the game," Nowitzki told reporters.

"We made it tough for Kobe (Bryant) down the stretch. With great players you have to make them work for every point."

Bryant, who drained a game-winning three-pointer on his return from a five-game absence on Tuesday, missed a similar effort that would have tied the contest with 25 seconds remaining.

Bryant also misfired on his first five shots and finished 9-for-23 with 20 points. Lamar Odom led the Lakers with 21.

The victory gave Dallas a 2-2 split in the season series with Los Angeles (43-15).

It was the first matchup between the teams since the Mavericks traded for scoring forward Caron Butler, guard DeShawn Stevenson and center Brendan Haywood, a deal that has propelled the team to a 5-1 stretch.

Butler missed the game because of a negative reaction to medication while Haywood continued his steady play inside with 11 points and nine rebounds.

Dallas were able to beat the Lakers on the glass with a 13-7 advantage in offensive rebounds, a key factor in helping the home team turn a close game into a 95-86 lead with 2:19 left.

Los Angeles responded with an 8-2 run but the Mavs clinched the game with four straight free throws.

"Free throws and offensive rebounds, those are the things that stand out statistically," said Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson.

"We would have loved to see Butler out there tonight, but they got it done without him anyway."

A jumper in the second quarter sent Bryant past Reggie Miller into 13th place on the NBA's career scoring list.

(Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles, California; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Nick Mulvenney)