L.A. Lakers 98, Orlando 96
ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 8 (Ticker) -- Shaquille O'Neal
and Tracy McGrady
were billed as the stars, but the Los Angeles Lakers' bench proved to be the difference.
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Reserve guard Derek Fisher
's steal led to Gary Payton
's go-ahead layup with four seconds remaining as Los Angeles rallied from an 18-point second-half deficit to post a 98-96 win over the Orlando Magic.
The Lakers started the fourth quarter with a 24-6 run, taking a 91-87 lead with 4:16 remaining on a free throw by O'Neal, the former Magic center.
scored three straight baskets to put Orlando back on top, 96-93, with 1:21 left. But the Magic committed an eight-second violation with 28 seconds remaining and Rick Fox
drained a game-tying 3-pointer with 11 seconds to go for his only field goal of the contest.
"We had a prayer answered by Rick and were able to escape with this win," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "It was supposed to be for (Fisher) and they covered it. Rick had to manufacture that shot."
At mid-court, Fisher made a clean steal from point guard Rod Strickland
and hit Payton with a bounce pass for a layup.
"Strickland was looking to set the play," Fisher said. "You knew the ball was going to end up in Tracy's hands at some point. Rod is one of the best ballhandlers in history, but because we had a foul to give, I wanted to be aggressive. I just went for it."
The Magic could not get the ball to McGrady for the last shot and Payton blocked Gordan Giricek
's jumper as time expired.
"Those turnovers at the end of the game cost us," McGrady said. "Guys were telling me (on the last play), 'Don't worry about it, T-Mac, go ahead and take it home.' Unfortunately, I couldn't get the ball.
"I was really looking forward to knocking down a big shot right there because I felt like it was going to go in for me because I just had that feeling. But I couldn't get the ball."
Los Angeles fell behind, 79-61, with 1:38 left in the third quarter but rallied behind its bench.
Fisher scored 10 of his 15 points after halftime while Devean George
had seven of his 11 after intermission. Rookie Luke Walton
added seven assists and Horace Grant
grabbed eight rebounds.
"Most of the time, I give them a chance to get us back in the ballgame as a bench, and if they can get us back in the game, I'm going to get the starters back in sometime in the six-minute mark so they can get loose," Jackson said. "But (the reserves) were playing much better than the starters were, so I had to
leave the majority of them in there."
O'Neal had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Payton added 18 points for the Lakers, who improved to 3-2 on a seven-game road trip.
McGrady, who was questionable after missing two games with upper back spasms and shook off a lower back injury in the middle of the contest, scored 35 points. Howard chipped in 18 for Orlando, which lost its sixth straight game.
"We did not make the sound basketball plays down the stretch, which ultimately cost us," Magic coach Johnny Davis said. "It was a game that I thought our guys played hard, but down the stretch when we absolutely had to have it, we came up short."
The 18-point lead was the largest the team has given up in a loss this season. It also was the largest deficit overcome by the Lakers in a win.