Lakers 100, Warriors 99
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Despite their offseason roster overhaul, the Los Angeles Lakers are back to their favorite strategy—watching Shaq and Kobe do it all.
Kobe Bryant scored 35 points and Shaquille O’Neal capped a dominant game by blocking Clifford Robinson’s shot in the final second of the Lakers’ 100-99 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night.
O’Neal had 31 points and 16 rebounds as the Lakers’ All-Star duo muscled past the Warriors in a tense fourth quarter to avenge a 107-98 loss in their previous trip to Oakland on Dec. 23. It wasn’t an easy night: The game featured short tempers, a short fight and O’Neal’s insult to a short coach.
Gary Payton was ejected in the third quarter for fighting with Golden State’s Speedy Claxton, but Bryant and O’Neal scored 27 of the Lakers’ 29 points over the final 16 minutes. None of their teammates managed more than Payton’s seven points.
“On any given night, we can do that,” O’Neal said. “But I can’t wait until we get back to full strength.”
O’Neal and Bryant each got a key rebound after Kareem Rush missed two free throws with 3.9 seconds left, and O’Neal—playing the final six minutes with five fouls—blocked two of Robinson’s shots in the final minute.
Afterward, O’Neal again complained about the officiating, calling it “8-on-5” basketball. He also had a few choice words for 5-foot-8 Golden State coach Eric Musselman.
“It’s kinda funny, the little midget Warrior coach can say anything he wants, but when Gary says something, he gets ejected,” O’Neal said.
Jason Richardson had 25 points and Robinson added 22 in the Warriors’ first game since Feb. 11. Nick Van Exel scored 13 points in his first game in two weeks, making clutch back-to-back baskets in the final two minutes to keep Golden State close.
The Warriors had a fine game despite numerous trade rumors around Van Exel and center Erick Dampier, who had just two points and nine rebounds in 34 minutes.
“There’s no time or use to talk about who’s going to get traded and who’s going to be here,” Robinson said. “Our focus is just playing hard with the guys we have right now.”
Van Exel’s high-arching layup with 1:15 left was the game’s final basket. The Lakers couldn’t score on their next two possessions, but Van Exel missed a floating jumper from the lane with five seconds left.
O’Neal rebounded Rush’s second miss, but the All-Star game MVP missed his putback shot. After Bryant rebounded and stepped out of bounds with 1.3 seconds left, Robinson’s jumper shortly before time expired was blocked by O’Neal, who grabbed the ball and ran the length of the court with it before rushing into the locker room.
Claxton had 18 points and four assists before fighting with Payton, who was ejected for the third time in 10 games. Though the point guards’ wrestling match carried them into the scorers’ table, no punches were thrown—and though television replays appeared to show Payton biting Claxton, the Golden State guard said it didn’t happen.
“He wasn’t having as good a game as he wanted to have, so he got frustrated out there,” Claxton said. “There was no cause for the ejection. There were no punches and no cause to eject us.”
“I thought Gary was frustrated most of the game because he couldn’t keep Speedy in front of him,” said Robinson, who helped break up the fight. “You could tell just by watching him that he wasn’t pleased. It worked out for them and hurt us, because Gary wasn’t playing that well and Speedy was making it happen.”
The Lakers played on the road for the eighth time in nine games, but came away with their fourth win in five games.
Tempers ran short in the frenzied atmosphere in front of 20,252 fans—the second-largest crowd in Golden State’s franchise history behind the Lakers’ first appearance in Oakland this season. In addition to the fight, Devean George and Bryant also got technical fouls.
“We’re putting more energy behind it,” Bryant said. “Our effort has increased. Defensively, we’re making more stops. Offensively, we’re executingbetter.”
The Warriors played the first of three home games in four days. … Bryant also had eight assists. … It was the Warriors’ fourth sellout of theseason.