Minus Shaq, Lakers change fortunes against Sonics

SEATTLE (AP) -- The Seattle SuperSonics had a chance to
capitalize with Shaquille O'Neal out of the game. Kobe Bryant would
have none of it.

Bryant scored 28 of his 30 points after O'Neal was ejected to
lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 107-92 victory over the
SuperSonics on Friday night.

O'Neal was ejected after getting two quick technicals with 2:12
left in the first quarter.

"They saw it as an opportunity to try to take control of the
game, and they made a couple of runs," Bryant said. "But we have
so much ammo, so much firepower. It's really tough to know where
you're going to focus as a defensive team."

Los Angeles, which lost all four meetings to the Sonics last
season, avenged a 121-88 loss in Seattle last Nov. 30. The victory
was the seventh straight for the Lakers, and it gave them a
franchise-best 14-1 record to start the season.

Derek Fisher scored 10 of his 14 points in the final period,
when Bryant had four fouls and played only three minutes. Lindsey
Hunter added 12 for Los Angeles.

"The big key was how our defense held together," Lakers coach
Phil Jackson said. "They came at us with all that intensity the
Sonics play with, and we were able to match it."

Fisher said being forced to play without either O'Neal or Bryant
makes the Lakers focus more.

"If anything, it might makes us better at times," Fisher said.
"We have to execute our offense, not solely relying on the fact
that those two guys are offensively the best guys on the court."

O'Neal got the technicals after he refused to stop shouting at
referees for declining to call a foul on a play. He got the second
technical when he charged onto the floor during a timeout, shouting
at referee Bob Delaney, and was restrained by teammates.

"It was two quick ones," Bryant said. "Usually a ref might
walk away or give you a little time, but it was quick."

The Sonics responded by going on an 8-3 run to close out the
first with a 24-20 lead.

Then Bryant went to work.

He scored 15 points in the second quarter, then added 10 in the
third, when the Lakers took an 81-66 lead.

It was never close after that, as the Lakers led by as much as
22 points in the fourth quarter.

Desmond Mason paced Seattle with 21 points, including 17-for-18
from the free throw line. Rashard Lewis added 19, and Vin Baker had
12 of his 13 points in the final quarter for Seattle.

Gary Payton, who was guarded by Bryant for much of the night,
finished with just 11 points on 5-for-15 shooting.

"We didn't play any defense," said Baker, who had nine
rebounds in 30 minutes. "There's no way we can win games with that
kind of defensive effort, and it starts with me."

"All they did was penetrate by us, draw their defense in, kick
to the open shooter. If you can't defend the ball and keep the ball
out of the middle, you're going to be in trouble," Sonics coach
Nate McMillan said.

Starting Seattle center Calvin Booth left at halftime with
tendinitis in his right ankle and did not return.

Booth, who signed a six-year, $34 million free-agent contract in
the offseason, came into Friday's game averaging 7.6 points and 4.2
rebounds per game. He was listed as questionable for Seattle's home
game Sunday against Milwaukee.

O'Neal had eight points and three rebounds when he was ejected.
The last time O'Neal was ejected for two technicals was Nov. 6,
1999, at Portland.

He already was on the team bus by the time the Lakers' locker
room was opened after the game.

Los Angeles led 50-43 at the half.

Game notes
Los Angeles ranked 23rd in the NBA last season in points
allowed per game, at 97.2, but they came into Seattle ranked sixth
this season, at 90.7. ... The Sonics' average margin of victory in
their sweep of the Lakers last season was 15.5 points. ... McMillan
thinks the Lakers are a good bet to top the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls'
record of 72 regular-season victories. "You have to give credit to
Phil," he said of Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "He's been able to
get these guys to believe that a system will work. Kobe was talking
last season about speeding up the system and going out on his own,
and Phil was able to control that."