Los Angeles (29-18) at Orlando (13-39)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Orlando, FL
Temp: 79° F
  • Game info: 12:30 pm EST Sun Feb 8, 2004
  • TV: ABC, ABC
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Although Kobe Bryant is back with the Los Angeles Lakers, it will be a few games before he actually starts playing again.

Bryant, who has missed five games with a cut on his finger, rejoined the team in Orlando for Sunday’s matchup with the Magic, but won’t play. He had been excused earlier in the week to be in court for his ongoing trial.

Bryant, though, had been expected to be back with the Lakers on Thursday in Philadelphia.

“I didn’t ask him for an excuse,” coach Phil Jackson said Saturday. “I didn’t think he needed one. It wasn’t important to me that he was standing there or sitting on the bench or whatever. The important thing was he was going to be down here. So, I didn’t get into it about that.”

The Lakers have split the first four games of their seven-game road trip, which concludes with matchups against Miami and Houston before next weekend’s All-Star break.

Los Angeles stumbled into Orlando following an embarrassing 96-73 loss to the 76ers on Thursday.

Shaquille O’Neal missed 11 of 13 foul shots in the first half, finishing 3-for-15 from the line with 17 points. Gary Payton was ejected in the first quarter after receiving two technical fouls.

“This is not a low point for us,” Jackson said. “These guys, they know what went on. They’re not depressed about it. They just had a bad game. Shaq couldn’t make any free throws, and that’s depressing for him. But, for the rest of the guys, they lost Gary and he’s a leader out there.”

The Lakers clearly were fatigued, having played four road games in five nights.

Orlando may be without star Tracy McGrady again on Sunday. McGrady has missed the last two games with back spasms, including Friday’s 120-99 rout by New Jersey.

Juwan Howard did his best to make up for McGrady’s absence against the Nets, matching his season high with 24 points. Gordan Giricek and Rod Strickland added 15 points apiece for the Magic, losers of five in a row and seven of eight.

“We put up a fight for a half, but it wasn’t for long,” Strickland said. “They pretty much dominated us from the third quarter on.”

Orlando is 0-4 this season and 8-14 overall without McGrady.

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