Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Playoff Ready Lakers Outlast Mavs

If Sunday was supposed to be a playoff preview then the Dallas Mavericks should be concerned. The Lakers winning an OT battle without Kobe Bryant isn’t so surprising. Not with the way the Lake Show has been playing in Bryant’s now five game absence.

What should make Mark Cuban start planning a vacation in June is that without the game’s best closer it was L.A. that was calm in the clutch. Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Ramon Sessions, Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes all made big plays in late game situations helping lift the Lakers to a 112-108 victory.

On the flip side Dallas got some big misses and mistakes from Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry which allowed the Lakers to take a win right from under Rick Carlisle’s nose.

You just can’t say enough about how well Mike Brown’s team has come together without Bryant. It has been a true total team effort since that forgettable loss in Phoenix.

Both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol continue to lead the charge by asserting themselves this time punishing the Mavericks with a combined 43 and 26. Just imagine what these two would do to Dallas in a seven game series.

But you expect Gasol and Bynum to do this type of damage with KB24 on the floor. The continued contributions around the Laker bigs is what has helped L.A. to a 4-1 mark while Mamba rests.

World Peace is stuck in the Artest Zone. Another high-activity effort netted Metta 18 points in 41 minutes. The amount of burn World Peace got is most surprising. Once upon a time he was sitting through some single digit minute nights. Not any longer now that he’s found his legs.

Barnes is single handedly giving the Lakers a championship caliber bench. 11 points and 8 boards in 33 minutes is they type of bench production you’ll need for a title run. A little help from the refs goes a long way too. One basket by Gasol should have been waived off thanks to basket interference by Barnes but those are the breaks when you’re on a roll.

The man that is truly keeping the engine running smoothly is Sessions. Can’t say enough about what he brings to this team. Suddenly 22 points and 5 dimes is becoming standard for a Laker point guard. What is else becoming routine is the way Sessions shoots from deep. The more opponents cheat underneath screens the more punishing his shot becomes. That too will be vital for the playoffs.

Sunday wasn’t so much a playoff preview as it was a warning. Even without Kobe the Lakers are a cold group of killers out for revenge. Guys like Sessions weren’t around for last season’s embarrassment but you’d better believe he’s got something to prove too. Can’t say L.A. is all the way there for another title chase but you know they’ll be in good shape if they draw Dallas in round one. Today reassured what we already knew. The Mavs have no interest in defending their title and the Lakers have enough to at least give it another shot.

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Tags: Andrew Bynum Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki Jason Terry Kobe Bryant Mark Cuban Matt Barnes Metta World Peace Pau Gasol Ramon Sessions Rick Carlisle

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