The Lakers' one-two punch was failing to connect, whiffing and flailing, but it didn't even matter.
If the Chicago Bulls thought they were a deep team without Carlos Boozer, they hadn't met the Lakers, who weren't exactly shallow without Andrew Bynum.
Pau Gasol made three of 10 shots and Kobe Bryant was third on the Lakers in scoring on Tuesday night, but Lamar Odom had 21 points and Shannon Brown matched it to continue his torrid start this season in the Lakers' 98-91 victory over Chicago at Staples Center.
Winners of five consecutive games, the Lakers (13-2) didn't seem affected by Bryant's scoring only 20 points and Gasol's misfiring.
"The last couple of years, when we've been making a run at it, it's our depth, our ability to get production from different guys," Odom said. "We've got so many different lineups."
Unlike their three-game romp through the Midwest last week, not to mention their easy home victory Sunday against Golden State, the Lakers were tested squarely by the Bulls, who have more than survived despite playing every game so far without free-agent signee Boozer ( fractured wrist).
Derrick Rose punctured the Lakers for 30 points and eight assists as the Bulls stuck around for most of the game, trailing by two at halftime and by one after the third quarter.
Then came the fourth quarter.
On a night when Gasol had only 12 points and Ron Artest combined with Derek Fisher to make one of 14 shots, the Lakers leaned heavily on their reserves.
In fact, the backups might have won the game with a barrage of threes in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers trailed, 81-79, before Brown hit a three with 7:48 to play. Then, after a Bryant 15-footer, came a three-pointer from Steve Blake, a three from Matt Barnes, and another three from Blake to put the Lakers up, 95-83.
The Bulls weren't willing to quit, closing within 96-89 on a made free throw by Rose with 2:14 left, but a tip-in by Gasol with 49.9 seconds left ended the Bulls' chances.
The Bulls came close, with double-doubles from Joakim Noah (19 points, 13 rebounds) and former USC star Taj Gibson (16 points, 12 rebounds).
"It was physical," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.
The Bulls are in the middle of their early annual nosedive — a.k.a. the two-week "circus trip" in which they're kicked out of the United Center to make room for clowns and performing animals — but they've held their own so far on the trip, unlike past years.
They came into Tuesday's game with a 2-1 mark on their seven-game swing, including victories over the Dallas Mavericks and the Houston Rockets.
As they found out, the Lakers are a step or three above the Mavericks and Rockets.
Toward the end of the second quarter, Brown had 16 points in 11 minutes, which scaled out to 69.8 points, had he played all 48 minutes.
Of course, it's a ridiculous stat, but Brown's value this season cannot be stated enough ways.
"He was remarkable," Jackson said.
"He had a terrific half to keep us in the ballgame when things weren't going great for us."
Said Odom: "He's on his way to one of those awards, you know?"
Before the game, there was acknowledgment of the sometimes sad reality of life.
The Lakers had a moment of silence for 2-year-old Lucas Anthony Tang, who fell from a luxury suite and died of massive head injuries after Sunday's game at Staples Center.
"We all felt very sad about it, for everybody," Artest said.