Andrew Bynum had 19 points and 14 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers hit the halfway point of their season with a 96-91 victory over the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.
Bynum had a huge smile on his face when he grabbed a rebound of his own miss and was fouled trying to go back up with 5:29 left. He made both free throws to break an 82-all tie and finally put the Lakers (20-13) ahead to stay after 13 ties and 10 lead changes.
Pau Gasol had 24 points for the Lakers, while Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher each had 15.
Dirk Nowitzki had 25 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Mavericks (21-13), who played their final game before the All-Star break. Vince Carter had 20.
After the Mavericks failed to take advantage of a turnover by Bryant when Jason Terry gave it right back, Bynum was underneath the basket with the ball. But he instead passed it to Fisher in the left corner for a 3-pointer. Bynum was smiling broadly when he ran and hugged Fisher when Dallas called timeout.
Fisher's driving short jumper with 3:41 left ended a 9-0 run that made it 89-82. The Lakers held on despite missing six consecutive free throws after that.
Bryant missed two free throws with 37 seconds left. After Nowitzki's tip-in got the Mavericks within 93-91, Gasol was fouled and missed both of his free throws with 20 seconds left.
But Matt Barnes grabbed the rebound and was quickly fouled. He ended the Lakers' charity-line slump with two free throws.
Bynum had one more big play in that closing streak, with an alley-oop dunk from Bryant with 1:05 left for a 93-86 lead.
The Lakers have one more game before the All-Star break, on Thursday night at Oklahoma City.
Lamar Odom missed the game for the Mavericks against his former team. Odom was the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year for the Lakers last season and won three NBA championship rings in seven years in Los Angeles.
Coach Rick Carlisle said Odom was excused from the game to attend to a family matter and will rejoin the team after the All-Star break.
Steve Blake had a steal on a turnover by Terry and passed ahead to Gasol for a one-handed slam that gave the Lakers their largest lead, 42-28 with 6:21 left in the first half.
That was the end of 12 consecutive points that were part of a 17-2 Los Angeles run.
That included a pair of 3-pointers by Andrew Goudelock in a 66-second span. In between that was another turnover by Terry that Troy Murphy turned into a layup when he realized nobody was around him under the basket.
But the Mavericks finished the half with a 20-6 run over the final 5:33 to tie the game at 48-all by the break.
Nowitzki scored the last six Dallas points, two free throws with 1:23 and then a pair of jumpers in the final 42 seconds. He made a 15-foot floater and after grabbing a long rebound of a miss by Gasol, Nowitzki made a tying jumper.
The Lakers jumped out to a 12-3 lead in the first 4 minutes of the game, and coach Rick Carlisle had already used two timeouts by then.
They needed only 2 minutes after the second timeout to get back within 12-10 when Carter hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Bryant was still scoreless until two free throws with 10 seconds left in the first quarter to make it 25-18. Carter made a 3-pointer to end the first and a short jumper to start the second, though the Mavericks didn't take their first lead on Brian Cardinal's 3-pointer from the left corner.
But Barnes hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to start the 17-2 Lakers run.