Dwight Howard rested, but many other Lakers used their Sunday to put in some serious work.

It was barely enough for the Lakers to avoid another devastating setback and edge the lowly Detroit Pistons, 98-97.

Pau Gasol, even though Howard mocked his lack of lift on an earlier dunk, got up just high enough to distract Detroit's Andre Drummond on a last-second alley-oop chance for Detroit — and led the Lakers with 23 points and 10 rebounds.

Metta World Peace wasn't afraid to assert himself physically even in the house where he endured his most infamous moment going into the stands to fight in 2004 — bringing the energy on a day when relieved Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said after surviving: "These are playoff games for us."

Kobe Bryant's alley-oop inbounds pass from midcourt to Earl Clark before and Bryant's steal and hammer slam on Pistons guard Brandon Knight after halftime triggered two wild– and rare — team-bonding moments of celebration. In another poor shooting outing as Bryant tries to prioritize teammates' shots over his own rhythm, Bryant powered to the basket for the go-ahead three-point play with 1:09 left.

"My heart's racing right now," D'Antoni said afterward.

The Lakers escaped with the victory without Howard, who rested his sore right shoulder. The Lakers have now won consecutive games with Gasol but without Howard, even though they were 0-3 earlier this season without both.

Despite Detroit missing newly acquired point guard Jose Calderon because of work visa delays and appearing to have its spirit broken in the third quarter, the Lakers did what they do lately and lost focus after starting well. They blew an 18-point lead because they couldn't keep up with jitterbug Will Bynum,who kept going to the rim — which left Bryant thinking about how "they think twice about that" if defensive stalwart Howard is standing in the paint.

Still, Bynum's shot from the paint over Gasol went in and out, and the Lakers held on even though Steve Nash — who had been 39 of 41 for the season on free throws — missed two in the final seconds with the Lakers ahead by one point. Nash's relief at not costing his team a much-needed victory in the chase for a playoff spot was undeniable.