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Shaq hits 10 of 14 FTs, scores 32

3/7/2004

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- As Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone cheered from
the bench, Shaquille O'Neal and Gary Payton demonstrated how two
superstars -- instead of four -- can sometimes suffice.

O'Neal went 10-of-14 from the foul line and scored 32 points,
and Payton added 18 points Sunday to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to
a 94-88 victory over the New Jersey Nets.

The game was the Lakers' first since Bryant went out with a
shoulder sprain Friday night. Malone, meanwhile, is close to
rejoining the lineup after being out since Dec. 21 with a knee
injury.

The Nets weren't at full strength, either, as Jason Kidd missed
his fourth game with a bruised left knee.

Doctors said Bryant could miss up to a month, but the Lakers'
guard hopes he isn't out that long. He was sidelined for 13 days
and missed six games in January with the same injury.

"The first one was different. The first one, I had trouble
raising my arm up, because it would just go dead," Bryant said.
"This time, I can raise my arm up. It just hurts a lot when I do
it.

"We just have to wait and see. This is the type of injury that
takes four weeks to heal, from what I'm told. But let's see how it
goes. It won't be fully healed until the summertime, but I'll be
able to adjust to whatever the team needs me to do when I get
back."

O'Neal, who turned 32 on Saturday, also scored 32 points in a
99-91 win over Seattle on Friday night. Bryant hurt his shoulder in
a collision with the SuperSonics' Reggie Evans in the first minute
of that game.

O'Neal liked the way the Lakers moved the ball against the Nets.

"That should be the game plan for every game," the Lakers'
center said. "Guys were looking for me. The Nets were playing the
front and back defense at times, and our guys read the defense very
well."

The loss was the Nets' second in the four games Kidd has been
sidelined. He is listed as day-to-day.

"Hopefully, the knee will be ready to go, and I can come back
and play Wednesday," Kidd said. "That'll be 10 days of rest and
working out.

"It felt good working out this morning. I was excited about
trying to play here, but unfortunately it just didn't work out."

The Nets are at home Wednesday against Denver.

The Lakers took control in the fourth quarter of what had been a
tight game. O'Neal's three-point play capped an 8-2 spurt that
increased the Lakers' lead to 90-79 with 2:44 remaining.

The Nets went 5:36 without a field goal until Rodney Rogers'
layup with 2:31 left and shot 6-for-24 in the fourth quarter.

Richard Jefferson scored 21 points for New Jersey, but only five
after halftime. Kerry Kittles scored 19 and Kenyon Martin 17.

Early in the second half, the crowd gasped when O'Neal went
charging in for a rebound of Payton' missed layup and couldn't
stop, diving over the first row of seats and into the aisle.

O'Neal lay there motionless for a moment, then got up grinning
as the crowd roared.

The Nets outscored the Lakers 7-1 to begin the third quarter,
building a 55-46 lead after neither team led by more than three in
the first half.

Los Angeles came back to pull even at 65 on Payton's driving
finger roll with 2:10 left in the third period, and Los Angeles led
71-70 going into the fourth.

The first half featured 13 ties and 14 lead changes, and the
Nets were up 48-46 at halftime.

Game notes
The Nets still have won 10 of 14. They were 11-2 in
Lawrence Frank's first month as their coach. ... During a second
halftime timeout, Bryant stood with his teammates and bounced a
ball -- with his left hand. ... Asked about "protecting" Bryant's
shoulder when he does return, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he may
consider using some zone defense. ... The Lakers are 12-3 in their
last 15.