<
>

Shaq scores 29 in win

2/21/2004

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant were the
most talked about players during the recent All-Star break. The duo
did some communicating of their own, agreeing to make a statement
in the second half of the season.

O'Neal had 29 points and 13 rebounds and the Los Angeles Lakers
defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 116-88 Friday night to improve to
3-0 since the break.

Bryant added 28 points although he played just two minutes in
the third quarter after picking up his fourth foul.

"We can get it cracking quickly. We've done it. We know how to
do it," Bryant said. "He's happy, I'm happy. He's playing with a
lot of energy. It's old hat."

O'Neal had a different take on how the duo communicated.

"We didn't talk about anything. We can just look at each other
and say, `You ready?' and turn it up," he said. "We've been in
this league long enough to know when to turn it up and know how to
turn it up."

Allen Iverson, who scored 40 points in Philadelphia's win at
Seattle on Thursday, was held to 13 points on 3-of-18 shooting. He
fell short of a third consecutive double-double with nine assists
in 38 minutes.

"He got banged up a little bit last night, but he competes,"
76ers interim coach Chris Ford said.

Iverson had his shoulder examined after the game and didn't talk
to reporters.

Kenny Thomas had 22 points and 12 rebounds and Glenn Robinson
added 19 points for the 76ers, who are 2-17 in their last 19 games
against the Lakers in Los Angeles.

"They have a lot of weapons. They got a lot of easy buckets in
transition," Thomas said. "People get out on runs, especially at
home."

On retro night, the Lakers didn't revert to the shabby showing
that doomed them in Philadelphia on Feb. 5. They had season lows in
field-goal percentage (.341), first-quarter points (10) and
free-throw percentage (.423) in a 96-73 defeat. They also gave up
39 points to Iverson.

"They just got us on one of those tired nights," O'Neal said.

"We're supposed to beat them like we did tonight. They're not
really that big in the middle. The guys got the ball inside very
nicely and we got a lead, a lead good enough for me to sit out the
whole fourth quarter," he said.

It was Philadelphia's worst loss to the Lakers since a 117-88
defeat on March 29, 1992.

"They pounded the ball inside. We had no answer for it," Ford
said. "We've got to be able to get the ball to the hole and we
settled on jump shots. We just weren't making them."

Ahead by 17 going into the fourth quarter, the Lakers quickly
put the game out of reach. With O'Neal resting, they ran off 15
straight points, including eight by Bryant, for a 106-76 lead with
5:34 remaining.

Los Angeles outscored the 76ers 62-36 in the paint and
controlled the boards 52-37.

Bryant left the game with 3:46 to play and the Lakers' ahead
108-82. The final 12 minutes were such garbage time even Jack
Nicholson left early.

"It was so long, I can't remember," Lakers coach Phil Jackson
joked after the game ended about 10:15 p.m. PST.

The 76ers managed just one rally in the second half. They got
within five points after Robinson scored their first seven early in
the third. Then O'Neal and Rick Fox took over, scoring nine in a
row for a 72-60 lead. Moments earlier, Bryant went out with his
fourth foul and didn't return until the fourth.

"It was pretty ragged at times," Jackson said. "We finally
settled into some things in the third. We didn't have to play big
minutes with the starters and obviously that's important."

Besides Fox, O'Neal got help from reserves Kareem Rush and Luke
Walton, who converted a three-point play for a 17-point lead -- the
Lakers' largest of the quarter.

Thomas scored 10 straight points for the 76ers in the third when
Iverson was shut out. Iverson's turnover ended the quarter with the
Lakers ahead 87-70.

O'Neal and Bryant combined to score 26 of the Lakers' 32 points
in the second quarter. Bryant dominated the start of the period
before picking up his third foul. O'Neal finished strongly, scoring
their final seven points, including three consecutive dunks, to
give Los Angeles a 59-51 halftime lead.

The Lakers' defense held Iverson to 0-for-8 shooting until he
scored his first basket with 5:50 left in the second quarter. He
ended the game 0-for-7.

Game notes
Bryant was fined $20,000 by the NBA for missing a Western
Conference team photo and a pregame media session before last
Sunday's All-Star game in Los Angeles. "It's a merited fine. Me
being late, I take full responsibility for that," Bryant said.
Payton was fined $25,000 for withdrawing from Saturday's skills
competition. ... It was Payton's second fine of the day. He was
penalized $15,000 by the league for fighting with Golden State's
Speedy Claxton on Wednesday. ... The Lakers activated F Brian Cook
from the injured list. He missed 12 games after breaking a bone in
his right pinky finger against Dallas on Jan. 22. ... Lakers
reserve C Horace Grant overcame a bout of food poisoning to play.
He received intravenous fluids after vomiting before the game.