It’s obviously nothing more than coincidence.
“It is impressive, but hey, we realize who he is and what he means to us. Guys have just found their stroke a little bit. Let’s not put the buggy ahead of the horse. We know what he means to us.”
Eight Los Angeles players scored in double figures, something that hadn’t happened for the Lakers since Feb. 19, 1998.
“They spanked us pretty good,” Washington’s Kwame Brown said. “If Shaq was in the game, who knows?”
The Lakers shot 59.2 percent without O’Neal in a 121-89 victory over Memphis on Sunday night.
“A lot of people are finding their stroke and then we are getting easy buckets and layups,” George said.
“We’re having fun, that’s good, that’s what we’re supposed to do—have fun and win games,” Lakers guard Gary Payton said. “As soon as the Big Fella comes back, it’s going to be even better.”
The game was essentially over by halftime, when the Lakers held a 61-36 lead. The Wizards (6-9) were playing their fourth road game in six nights.
O’Neal, who has a strained muscle in his right calf, said he hopes to return Friday night against the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.
“Right now, I’m about 70 percent,” he said before the game. “If I can get it up to 80, I’ll be ready to go.”
The win was the fourth straight and seventh in eight games for the Lakers (12-3). It also extended their regular-season home winning streak to 23, including eight this season.
The Wizards lost for the seventh time in 10 games. They played their second game without leading scorer Gilbert Arenas, who went on the injured list Tuesday with a severe abdominal strain.
“Those are the type of ones you forget about—throw away the tape,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “They are playing for a championship. They showed it. We’re just not good enough now to compete at their highest level.”
A three-point play by George with 7:33 remaining in the third quarter gave the Lakers a 73-44 lead. It was 92-69 entering the final period.
Hayes scored eight points and Dixon added five as the Wizards outscored the Lakers 15-8 to start the fourth quarter, making it 100-84.
But Bryon Russell and Fisher made back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Lakers ahead by 22.
Medvedenko and Fisher scored seven points each during a 22-7 run that extended the Lakers’ lead to 57-32 late in the second quarter.
The Lakers scored 10 straight points—five by Bryant—for a 14-6 lead in the opening 4:15 of play.
They led the rest of the way.
Bryant had 11 points and George had nine in the first period, which ended with the Lakers leading 31-21. The Wizards weren’t closer than 10 points afterthat. ^Notes: The win was the 11th straight for the Lakers over the Wizards in Los Angeles. … The Lakers’ longest regular-season home winning streak since moving to Los Angeles from Minneapolis in 1960 is 24. They can tie the mark against the Spurs and break it Sunday night against Indiana. … Since the Wizards didn’t replace Arenas on their active roster, he can return to action before he sits out five games. “We’ll have a much better feel when our doctors examine him firsthand at home,” Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld said. “He’s pretty sore right now.” … The game was the fourth in six nights for the Wizards—all on the road. They entertain Detroit on Saturday before beginning another four-game road trip Tuesday at Dallas. … Horace Grant started in O’Neal’s place and had three points and six rebounds in aseason-high 28 minutes. … Rush’s 14 points were a career high.