The Dallas Mavericks lost to the Los Angeles Lakers at home, 103-99, severely dampening their chances of slipping into the playoffs. In a game that never for a minute looked like a matchup between the West's 9th and 10th best teams, it was a duel worthy of their primes for Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki, who went for 38-12 and 30-13, respectively. Vince Carter and Elton Brand both went 6-13 for the Mavs, for 15 and 14 points, and Steve Nash put in 20 for the Lakers.

It was a great, great game. I don't know what the largest lead either team had was, but I'd be surprised if it was more than 5 at any point. This was an old school battle, and it showed the difference between a really good player (say LaMarcus Aldridge) and one of the best ever, as both team's superstars performed like they were completely aware of the facts: that this was a game each had to have.

You're rarely going to see a night like this one from Kobe, where he both scored voluminously AND passed brilliantly (38 points 7 assists), while also hitting the glass like a madman. He was efficient, and driven. If he took a bit too many "Kobe shots" for some basketball purists, this time, he basically made them all.