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Mavericks, Lakers close in on playoff series wins

THE surprising Dallas Mavericks and the highly touted Los Angeles Lakers both moved to within a win of clinching their first-round playoff series with Game Four victories yesterday.

The sixth-seeded Mavericks withstood Tony Parker's 43 points to beat the San Antonio Spurs 99-90, while the top-seeded Lakers overwhelmed the Utah Jazz 108-94 with Kobe Bryant scoring 38 points.

Both now lead their Western Conference series 3-1 and can advance to the second round with wins in their next game, the Lakers at home tomorrow and the Mavericks in San Antonio on Tuesday.

"It was a collective effort," Maverick Josh Howard told reporters after scoring 28 points to help rally Dallas from a first-half deficit against the Spurs.

Five Mavericks made double figures with Jason Kidd providing 17, Dirk Nowitzki contributing 12 points with 13 rebounds and Jason Terry and Erick Dampier adding an even 10 each.

Third-seeded San Antonio, meanwhile, relied on Parker's career playoff best and 25 points and 10 rebounds from Tim Duncan. The remainder of the team scored just 22 points.

"I'm really pleased we won, because it was a gut-check the way they finished the first half," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle told reporters.

San Antonio went on a 7-0 run to lead 55-49 with 33 seconds left in the half. But Parker, who had 31 points at the intermission, scored only 12 in the second half and Duncan was limited to 10 for the final two quarters.

"They have a lot more weapons than us," Parker told reporters. "Our focus is try to obviously limit Dirk and Jason Terry, and overall we are doing a good job on that. It's the other guys that are hurting us."

In Salt Lake City, Bryant recovered from a five-for-24 shooting performance in a Game Three loss to score 24 points for the Lakers in the first half alone yesterday.

Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol also had strong games, Odom pulling down 15 rebounds and scoring 10 points with Gasol adding 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Carlos Boozer powered Utah with 23 points and 16 rebounds, while Deron Williams chipped in with 23 points and 13 assists.

In other games yesterday, the Miami Heat routed the Atlanta Hawks 107-78 behind Dwyane Wade's 29 points for a 2-1 series lead

The New Orleans Hornets, meanwhile, edged the Denver Nuggets 95-93 after Chris Paul scored 32 points and handed out 12 assists to cut the Hornets' series deficit to 2-1.


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