The Los Angeles Lakers finally have their Hall of Fame foursome together again. Now, they’d like to win a game.
Malone was activated from the injured list Friday after missing 39 games with a sprained knee. The perennial All-Star power forward helped the Lakers look like the team that began the season an NBA-best 18-3.
However, the Midwest Division-leading Minnesota Timberwolves weren’t interested in letting Los Angeles celebrate the reunion, beating the Lakers 96-86 on Friday.
Malone played 21 minutes, scoring 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
“I think coach (Phil Jackson) wanted to play me more,” Malone said. “I’m sure he just thought that was enough. I felt really good, condition-wise. I think everyone’s just being cautious.”
O’Neal led the Lakers with 24 points and 13 rebounds, Bryant scored 16 points and grabbed 11 boards and Payton finished with 10 points and six assists.
“We feel like when Karl was on the floor, we played them even,” Jackson said. “When he came out, it changed the complexion of the game.”
The Lakers have lost two of three following a three-game winning streak, and are just one game in front of Memphis for fourth place in the Western Conference and home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Bulls are in the midst of their fifth straight non-playoff season. Chicago has lost five in a row, including Friday’s 88-76 setback at defending Eastern Conference champion New Jersey.
Jamal Crawford scored 24 of his 25 points in the second half as the Bulls nearly rallied to overcome an early 20-point deficit.
The Bulls, who were held to 65 points in a loss to Detroit on Wednesday, came out just as cold, going 1-of-16 from the field in falling behind 24-4. Even a slam dunk attempt by a wide-open Tyson Chandler, who stands 7-foot-1, banged off the back of the iron.
“It was terrible,” Bulls center Eddy Curry said. “When you are out there going through that you wonder `When is it going to stop?” These guys are coming down making baskets and we can’t get a look at the rim.”