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Nets have lost two of last three

2/29/2004

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- In a game in which Shaquille O'Neal
and Kobe Bryant didn't do a lot, the Los Angeles Lakers showed why
they still might be the team to beat in the NBA playoffs.

O'Neal had 19 points, 14 rebounds and a spectacular one-handed
slam, Gary Payton added 16 points and the Lakers held New Jersey to
51 points in the first three quarters in posting a 100-83 win on
Sunday.

"Everybody is starting to come around," Bryant said after the
Lakers won for the ninth time in 11 games. "It just takes some
time for everybody to get into the flow of things. This is the type
of effort that you'll see with everybody contributing."

It wasn't the type of game coach Phil Jackson was expecting.

The Nets had won 15 of 16, including 14 of 15 since Lawrence
Frank replaced Byron Scott as coach of the two-time defending
Eastern Conference champions.

This was supposed to be a challenge, especially with Karl Malone
still sidelined.

It turned out to be a laugher that sent the sellout crowd home
early.

"I kept telling the players as we went through the game that it
is much easier than it's supposed to be," Lakers coach Phil
Jackson said. "Get ready for the charge the Nets are going to lay
on you. We never got it. They had an off game and we played a
relatively good game."

The Lakers never trailed in winning their fifth straight road
game. They blew it open in the third quarter, leading by as many as
26.

"If we can develop a consistent way to play, we'll be a hard
team to beat," O'Neal said. "Tonight we played very, very well.
Everybody was involved. We played good defense. If we can play like
this our last 24 games, we're going to be a hard team to beat in
the playoffs."

Richard Jefferson had 19 points to lead New Jersey in what was
the first embarrassing loss of Frank's coaching career. It was his
second defeat in three games after winning his first 13 games.

"The Lakers were just better than us tonight," Frank said.

Kenyon Martin added 11 points and Jason Kidd had 10 points and
just three assists while playing 28 minutes with a bruised knee.
The Nets' big three combined to go 13-of-28 from the field in
seeing a nine-game home winning streak end.

"We missed a lot of bunnies," said Kidd, who plans to have an
MRI on his left knee on Monday. He hopes to play Tuesday against
Denver.

Payton came out with a point to prove. The veteran point guard
who signed with Los Angeles over the summer was quoted in recent
days as disappointed with his decision to come to the Lakers. He
said the triangle offense limited some of the things he does well
and he wasn't happy with his playing time.

On the Lakers' second possession, he drove the lane for a
basket. He got fouled on the next trip, hitting two free throws for
a 4-0 lead. Payton set up a basket by Bryant, hit another drive and
finished the quarter with 10 points in helping Los Angeles take a
26-17 lead.

The Lakers increased the margin to 14 at the half and then they
blew away the Nets, outscoring New Jersey 22-8 in the closing
minutes of the third quarter.

The play everyone will remember was Payton leading a break and
passing to Bryant, who found O'Neal on the left side of the lane.
O'Neal took the alley-oop pass with an extended left hand and
slammed it home. He walked upcourt staring at his extended left
hand, admiring it.<
^Notes: The Lakers outrebounded New Jersey 39-30 in ending a
three-game losing streak against New Jersey. ...The Nets finished
the game shooting 41.6 percent, getting 14 baskets in the final
quarter. ...The crowd of 19,968 was the Nets' second sellout of the
season. ... The Lakers shot 39-of-83 from the field for 47 percent.
... O'Neal fell hard to the court in the second quarter after
another dunk, when he let go of the rim with Collins holding his
legs.