"We are the hottest team in the league,'' O'Neal said Sunday n
after he had 39 points and 10 rebounds in the Lakers' 106-92
victory over Philadelphia. "My teammates have done a better job
with the ball and I have done a better job with the ball.
"We are playing good defense and moving the ball around. We
just have to get better at staying consistent.''
Kobe Bryant added 28 points and nine assists for the Lakers,
winning for the ninth time in 10 games and 16th in their last 19.
Now 35-26, they were a .500 team just over a month ago.
Allen Iverson scored 30 points on 12-of-28 shooting, and Keith
Van Horn had 19 points for Philadelphia, losing for only the second
time in 13 games since the All-Star break.
O'Neal went 14-of-24 from the field and 11-of-19 from the free
throw line, and Iverson said the Lakers' center was simply
"He's the hardest man in the league to guard. Nobody can guard
him. If you double on him, you have so many guys out there just
licking their chops for the opportunity to hit a wide-open shot,''
Iverson said. "Just imagine if they kept throwing him the ball on
every play? Nobody could do anything.''
The game was tight most of the way until the Lakers opened their
first double-digit lead when Iverson, coach Brown and Tyrone Hill
each were called for technical fouls five minutes into the third
Iverson protested when the Lakers were awarded the ball after he
and Derek Fisher dove for it near the sidelines. When referee
Derrick Stafford slapped Iverson with a technical, Brown complained
to referee Joe Forte and Forte called a technical on him. While
Bryant was making the two free throws, Hill complained and Stafford
gave him a technical.
Bryant then converted the third free throw to give Los Angeles a
64-54 lead, and the Lakers were up 80-70 heading into the fourth
"I don't think we had a shot after that. It is just
frustrating,'' Iverson said. "I think that referee, Derrick, has a
vendetta against us and it was evident today. We weren't able to
talk to him at all. When we asked about things, he gave us smart
comments and pretty much juked us.
"My head was mentally out of the game after that because I felt
like we didn't have a shot.''
Brown said: "One of the officials has it personal for some of
our players and if that wasn't the greatest forum to see that,
nothing is. He's been personal with us for a long, long time.''
Stafford had already left the arena when the Sixers made their
complaints and was unavailable for comment.
O'Neal drew a technical foul of his own nine minutes into the
game when he yelled at referee Gary Zielinski to protest a lane
violation called against him. Although there was a timeout
immediately following the lane call that wiped out a layin by
O'Neal, the Lakers' center kept jawing at Zielinski from Los
Los Angeles led 53-48 at halftime, thanks in part to scoring 12
points on 13 Philadelphia turnovers. The Lakers committed seven
turnovers that led to five points for the 76ers.
The 76ers finished with 19 turnovers, the Lakers with 13.
Iverson had 16 first-half points and Van Horn had 13, while
O'Neal and Bryant had 15 apiece for the Lakers.
O'Neal is shooting 61 percent from the field (82-of-135)
over the last seven games. ... Los Angeles opens a six-game road
trip in Chicago on Tuesday, while the 76ers finished a five-game
road trip. ... O'Neal was coming off a season-high 40-point
performance in a 106-96 win over Minnesota on Friday. Iverson also
scored 40 on Friday in the 76ers' 108-99 win at Seattle. ... The
76ers beat the Lakers 107-104 in overtime at Philadelphia on Dec.