LOS ANGELES, March 26 (Ticker) -- Shaquille O'Neal
and Kobe Bryant
took early seats and the Los Angeles Lakers toyed with the shorthanded Cleveland Cavaliers.
O'Neal scored 19 points in just 25 minutes and Bryant added 17 in 31 as the Lakers reached 50 wins for the third straight season with a 121-116 victory over the Cavaliers, their ninth straight home win.
"We couldn't find a way to stop them in the fourth quarter, but
fortunately we were able to hang on and get accomplished what we wanted to get accomplished in that game," Jackson said. "We have a long week and this is a good game to get without a whole lot of time from our big guys."
The Lakers used a late second-quarter surge to open a 55-44 halftime lead and widened the advantage to 91-74 entering the final period. O'Neal began the final quarter on the bench and did not return, while fellow superstar Bryant joined him there at the 7:13 mark.
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Kobe Bryant had it all working Tuesday night, making seven of the 10 shots he took.
Los Angeles was holding a 101-88 lead at the time, but Cleveland rallied behind Ricky Davis
, who scored 16 of his career-high 35 points in the fourth quarter. Lakers coach Phil Jackson did not re-insert O'Neal or Bryant and or call a timeout, simply watching from the bench.
"I knew their starters weren't coming back in because we weren't playing (point guard Andre) Miller
," Cavs coach John Lucas said. "I think we both decided that it would be decided by those guys on the court."
The Cavs closed to 114-111 with 1:11 to go on a 3-pointer by Trajan Langdon
, who scored 17 points. After a free throw by reserve Devean George
, the Cavs had a chance to get closer, but Langdon -- a shooting guard not known for ballhandling -- committed a turnover with 51 seconds to go.
Reserve Brian Shaw
made a bank shot 18 seconds later, sealing the Lakers' sixth consecutive win over the Cavs.
"I knew I wasn't going back in," Bryant said. "I remember his first year here as head coach in the preseason. We had a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter and blew it. I'm sitting right next to him and I said, `Come on, Phil.' He said, `They got themselves in this (situation); they've got to get themselves out.'"
"Kobe had been sitting on the bench for six or seven minutes and everybody else had been sitting out most of the quarter so I figured we had enough moxie out there to figure it out," Jackson said.
scored 18 points and Derek Fisher
added 14 for the Lakers, who shot 55 percent (43-of-78) from the field. O'Neal made 8-of-9 shots for the second straight game and Bryant sank 7-of-10.
Miller had 21 points and nine assists for the Cavs, who were without forwards Tyrone Hill
(sinus infection) and Lamond Murray
(back spasms), center Zydrunas Ilgauskas
(back spasms) and guard Wesley Person
(back spasms). In addition, center Chris Mihm
fouled out in 19 minutes.
"I think if we played somebody other than the world champions we might have had a chance to win that game tonight,
shorthanded as we were," Lucas said.
A short jumper by O'Neal gave the Lakers the lead for good at 43-42 and triggered a 14-2 run that closed the second quarter. Shaw capped it by throwing in a 38-footer at the buzzer.
Fox scored 15 points in the third quarter, when the Lakers shot 74 percent (14-of-19).
Shaw scored 13 points for the Lakers, who held a 38-33 rebounding edge. Bryant Stith
scored 14 points for the Cavs, who shot 52 percent (43-of-82).