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Ex-Sonic Payton scores 24; Allen has triple-double

1/29/2004

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- It wasn't vintage Shaquille O'Neal or Rick
Fox, or anywhere close. But it was a beginning.

O'Neal and Fox returned from injuries, and Gary Payton had 24
points against his former team as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated
the Seattle SuperSonics 96-82 Wednesday night.

The Lakers won despite Ray Allen's third career triple-double
and first this season. Allen had 22 points and season-high totals
of 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

O'Neal missed 12 games because of a strained right calf, and Fox
was playing for the first time since tearing a tendon in his left
foot nine months ago.

O'Neal had seven points and five rebounds in 18 minutes and Fox
scored two points in eight minutes.

O'Neal didn't speak with reporters in the locker room, although
while signing autographs as he left Staples Center, he did say:
"I'm cool. It's a little sore, but I'm cool."

Coach Phil Jackson said beforehand that O'Neal would play
limited minutes, and he was true to his word. The All-Star center
played nearly nine minutes at the start and a little over nine to
begin the third quarter.

O'Neal had been sidelined since being injured Jan. 2 in the
second quarter of a 111-109 loss at Seattle. The Lakers were 5-7 in
his absence.

Fox received a standing ovation upon entering the game at the
start of the second quarter.

"You can talk about wanting to be composed, under control. It
got a little anxious out there," he said. "It's just a matter of
building and being ready when called upon."

Kobe Bryant, playing his second game since missing six because
of a sprained right shoulder, had 14 points and Derek Fisher added
11. Los Angeles' reserves outscored their Seattle counterparts
36-23.

Bryant admitted his shoulder bothered him.

"It felt all right. I had to compensate in some areas," he
said. "It's good enough to play. It goes dead through certain
parts of the game but I just try to shake it off."

The Sonics committed seven of their 18 turnovers in the fourth
quarter, when the Lakers outscored them 25-12.

"We really struggled to score and stop this team tonight,"
Sonics coach Nate McMillan said. "I thought their defense was
pretty good, but I thought it was our turnovers. Their defense did
tighten up a little bit, but it was just bad execution."

Rashard Lewis scored 22 points and Flip Murray added 13 for
Seattle.

Allen minimized the significance of his triple-double.

"We didn't win. It would have been great to celebrate if we had
won the game," he said. "It's like a ship passing in the night.
You just see it and it goes."

A jumper by Murray 30 seconds into the fourth quarter gave the
Sonics a 72-71 lead -- their first since early in the second period.

But the Lakers scored the next 12 points on two baskets by Bryon
Russell and one each by fellow reserves Kareem Rush, Fisher, Horace
Grant and Luke Walton for an 11-point lead.

Allen made two free throws with 5:38 left for Seattle's first
points in nearly five minutes.

Murray's basket late in the third period capped a 17-6 run and
tied the game 65-all. The Lakers led 71-70 entering the final
period.

Allen had eight points and three assists as the Sonics took a
16-3 lead in the opening 3:40 of play.

Wearing a sleeve on his calf, O'Neal scored his first points on
dunk with five minutes gone.

It was 22-9 before the Lakers went on a 15-4 run to finish the
first quarter, cutting Seattle's lead to 26-24. The Lakers led by
as many as 11 points in the second period before settling for a
54-46 halftime lead.

Game notes
Karl Malone, sidelined because of a sprained knee ligament,
criticized the Utah Jazz for a skit presented during a timeout in
Saturday night's Lakers-Jazz game in Utah. Malone, who played 18
years for the Jazz before joining the Lakers last summer, was upset
about the way the skit mocked Bryant's legal situation. "For them
to put that out there about him, that's disrespectful," Malone
said. "I will never, ever forgive them for this. No class at
all." ... The Sonics played without G Brent Barry, who will have
surgery on his broken right ring finger Thursday and is expected to
miss at least five weeks. Barry was injured during Tuesday night's
118-116 loss to Dallas. ... Lakers C Jamal Sampson missed his
fourth game because of a sprained right ankle. He said he hopes to
available Friday night against Minnesota in the Lakers' last home
game until Feb. 17. ... Fox picked up two fouls in his first 1:23
of action and finished with four in his eight minutes.