Lakers power forward Pau Gasol reacts to a play against the Mavericks in… (Harry How / Getty Images )
Some things to take away from Lakers' 112-108 overtime win Sunday over the Dallas Mavericks:
1. The Lakers collectively secure the win in overtime.
No Kobe Bryant, no problem. They'll lean on his coaching from the sideline for now, and find various ways to contribute. In overtime, Pau Gasol hit two consecutive three-pointers, including one on which the Mavericks thought referees should've called Matt Barnes for offensive interference. Though replays showed Barnes touched the rim, he didn't alter where the ball landed since it swished right into the net. Andrew Bynum nailed a turnaround jumper, prompting him to pump his fist in delight. Metta World Peace did the same. And Barnes confronted Jason Terry's movement to the rim enough to change his comfort level on the final possession.
The result: the Lakers (39-22) secure a regular-season sweep against the Dallas and more cushion for the third seeding in the Western Conference. The game also provided another team-building exercise in which the Lakers survived adversity with Bryant there to bail them out.
2. The Lakers collapsed in the fourth quarter. It appeared the Lakers would walk away with a win that featured a collective closeout effort. Sessions made a runner and a deep three-pointer. Barnes made both a block on Brandan Wright and tipped out a loose ball twice that forced Dirk Nowitzki into an off-balance shot. Bynum also made a key left-handed hook shot just before a double team.
But the Lakers unraveled for several reasons. They didn't defend the perimeter. After a strong overall game, World Peace went 0-of-5 from the field. Sessions airballed an open turnaround jumper. The Lakers are fortunate Nowitzki missed an open turnaround jumper or else this game would've been a squandered opportunity.
3. World Peace played a huge part in the Lakers' second-half comeback. The Staples Center crowd no longer gasps when he shoots the ball. Instead, they stand up and cheer. That's because World Peace continues to provide further proof that his poor conditioning and shooting days are behind him. His 18 points on seven-of-20 shooting reflects a monthlong trend in which he's averaged 14 points. Just when it appeared the Lakers' sleepwalking in the first half would prove too hard to overcome, World Peace proved otherwise. He opened the second half, by attacking the basket, nailing a corner jumper, converting on an offensive putback and then drawing a successful trip to the free-throw line.
He showed his strong engagement on defense as well. After Delonte West lit up the Lakers in the first half with 16 points on eight-of-11 shooting, World Peace started guarding him and the following happened. West missed on four field-goal attempts, while the lone basket West made in the second half happened when World Peace wasn't in the lineup. With 9:20 remaining in the fourth quarter, World Peace also swiped the ball out of West's hands, and it went off his shoe before rolling out of bounds. His shot may have been off in the fourth quarter and overtime, but World Peace's play beforehand still outweighe that circumstance.
World Peace's production will inevitably drop whenever Bryant returns to the lineup after sitting out the last five games because of a sore left shin. But that doesn't matter so long as World Peace gives the same effort.
4. The Lakers had a sluggish start. Bynum's excuse: an upper respiratory infection. Everyone else's rationale: it's a Sunday afternoon game. So instead of replicating the crisp ball movement and disciplined defense the Lakers showed in wins against San Antonio and Denver, the Lakers featured the exact opposite. They rushed shots, resulting in poor first-quarter shooting marks for Bynum (one for eight), Gasol (0 for 3) and World Peace (0 for 3). The Lakers looked lifeless on their defensive rotations. Jason Kidd blew by Sessions on the slowest drive to the basket known to man. West looked like an All-Star by scoring 12 of his 20 points in the first quarter.
The Lakers may have missed Bryant. But the Mavericks missed Nowitzki too. At least in the first half, when he went two-of-10 from the field. The Lakers also remained fortunate their efforts on the glass and in limiting turnovers proved enough to withstand Dallas' 12-for-21 shooting from three-point range.
The Lakers in the past have struggled in Sunday matinee games. But their 2-2 mark on such dates this season included signature wins against Miami and Boston. It appeared the time of day affected the Lakers play. But they should know better, especially since it's likely they'll play a few of those in the postseason.