Thursday , Jan , 29 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Shaq’s back; Lakers roll over Sonics

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) – Gary Payton tied a season-high with 24
points, as the Los Angeles Lakers welcomed Shaquille O’Neal and Rick Fox back
to the lineup with a 96-82 victory over Seattle at the Staples Center.

O’Neal, who had been sidelined 12 games with a strained right calf, played
just 18 minutes and scored seven points with five rebounds. He saw about nine
minutes in each half.

“That was just fine what he gave us out there,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson
said. “That was just the right amount of time.”

Fox, making his season debut after off-season foot surgery, scored two points
in eight minutes.

“I got a little anxious out there a couple of times,” Fox acknowledged. “But
from the standpoint of running up and down the court and changing ends of the
floor, playing defense, boxing out, all of those things felt good.”

Derek Fisher had 11 points and stepped up his defense with a career-high tying
six steals, as the Lakers won their second straight on the heels of a three-
game slide. Kobe Bryant added 14 points in the win.

Ray Allen paced the SuperSonics with his third-career triple-double, scoring
18 with 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Rashard Lewis scored 22 to lead Seattle,
which has dropped two straight.

The Lakers held a 54-46 halftime lead, but Seattle trimmed it down to one
point at 71-70 heading into the fourth quarter.

The Sonics then took their first lead since 27-26 when Ronald Murray’s bucket
1:30 into the fourth made it 72-71, but LA responded with a game-clinching
12-0 run to take an 83-72 advantage.

Five players combined for the 12 points, with Bryon Russell scoring four,
including a jumper at 5:56 to cap the burst.

Allen converted a pair of free throws to stop the bleeding and pull Seattle
within 83-74, but LA rattled off seven straight points after that to seal the

The Lakers got off to a slow start in this one, falling behind 10-1 just two
minutes into the first quarter after Allen connected on a pair of three-

Seattle later went ahead by as many as 13 when Lewis’ bucket made it 22-9
midway through the first, but the Lakers responded with a 13-2 run to pull
within two.

The Sonics then carried a 26-24 lead into the second quarter, but LA would
lead by eight points when halftime rolled around.

Bryant keyed an 18-5 burst with seven points, and Kareem Rush’s three midway
through gave the Lakers an 11-point lead at 42-31.

LA shot 48 percent from the floor in the first half and carried a 54-46
cushion into the locker room behind Bryant’s 12 points. Allen led all first-
half scorers with 16 points.