Kobe Bryant was just a little better than Dirk Nowitzki in a spirited game befitting Western Conference leaders -- not teams battling for ninth place.
Bryant had 38 points to win a scoring duel with Nowitzki, and Steve Nash helped beat his former team by getting 20 points for the first time with the Los Angeles Lakers in a 103-99 victory against the host Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.
Nowitzki finished with a season-high 30 in a game that had a playoff feel from the start.
Bryant and Nowitzki had 16 points apiece in the first half and were still even at 24 after the third quarter before Bryant scored 14 in the fourth, including seven in the last 3 minutes. They were a combined 8 of 9 from 3-point range and hit 24 shots and 12 free throws between them.
Bryant, who went past the 31,000-point mark, 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 Bryant through the amnesty clause.
The Lakers responded by calling the comment inappropriate, and Cuban defended himself before the game, saying he was speaking hypothetically.
Spurs 97, Suns 87: Former Saint Mary's star Patty Mills and Kawhi Leonard scored 16 points apiece to lead six San Antonio players in double figures, and the Spurs ended their nine-game trip at 7-2 with a victory in Phoenix. The Spurs' Tony Parker sat out because of a sore right
Thunder 102, Bulls 72: Russell Westbrook scored 23 points, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka both had double-doubles and host Oklahoma City held Chicago to 29.1 percent shooting, worst in the NBA this season.
Heat 109, Cavaliers 105: LeBron James scored 28 points, Dwyane Wade scored 11 of his 24 in the final five minutes, and host Miami extended the NBA's longest current winning streak to 11 games by beating Cleveland.
Hornets 110, Kings 95: Anthony Davis had 20 points and eight rebounds, and Eric Gordon added 17 points and eight assists to lead host New Orleans.