Lakers 112, Mavericks 108: No Kobe, No Problem

Apr 15, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) is defended by Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol (16) at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

The Lakers eked out a close victory over the Mavericks in overtime 112 to 108 after a slow start and uneven defense threatened to turn the game upside down from the start. Andrew Bynum (23 points on 9-24 shooting, 16 rebounds) and Pau Gasol (20 points on 6-14 shooting, 10 rebounds, five assists) were the primary culprits in the Lakers' poor showing to begin the game along with Dirk Nowitzki, who only tallied 24 points on 28 shots despite a Lakers defense that constantly switched smaller players to him on the pick-and-roll. In general, the Lakers' defense was shoddy, leaving shooters open, lanes to the rim, and at least for the first half, when the Lakers allowed the Mavericks to shoot 55% from the field, it appeared like another uninspired Sunday performance.

Ramon Sessions kept the Lakers offense humming with 22 points and five assists, following up on his superlative performance last time these two teams met, and he constantly penetrated into the heart of the Mavericks' defense off the high pick-and-roll. This afternoon's game also saw the Lakers' small forwards, constantly heralded in the past as one of the primary weak links on the squad, continue to do solid work in Kobe Bryant's absence. Metta World Peace had 18 points along with six rebounds and four assists and Matt Barnes, after arguably his best game of the season at home against Denver, came just short of a triple double with an 11 point, 11 rebound, and eight assist performance.

The Lakers' rough first quarter largely gave way to more sustained effort as better ball movement and a more focused defense gave them the lead on a Devin Ebanks jumper in the third quarter, after which the game seesawed between the two teams for the rest of the contest. Sessions in particular came up big for the Lakers down the stretch in the fourth quarter, nailing a three with three minutes left to give the Lakers the lead and hitting floater after floater in the lane. Poor communication between MWP and Bynum resulted in a Terry three with two minutes left that kept Dallas in the game, and the Lakers' miserable crunch time execution failed to gain any more separation. Overtime was punctuated by two huge Gasol threes, something he's only done two other times in his career per Kevin Pelton, that gave the Lakers the lead for good for the rest of the game.

Without Kobe, the Lakers are now 4-1 and have ensured that they still have a hold on the third seed. The next game is against San Antonio at home on Tuesday and if the Lakers continue to get contributions from all departments, they should have as good of a shot as they did on the road on Wednesday.

Follow this author on Twitter @brosales12.

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