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Lakers have 15-game home win streak snapped

12/12/2001

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- If Kobe Bryant is the NBA's best player, as
Shaquille O'Neal has claimed, what does that make Seattle's Gary
Payton?

Payton, a 12-year veteran named to the All-NBA defensive
first-team for the eighth straight time last season, dominated his
younger foe as the SuperSonics surprised the Los Angeles Lakers
104-93 on Tuesday night.

The 33-year-old Payton had 29 points on 14-of-29 shooting, and
10 assists and held Bryant to 16 points on 7-of-23 shooting and one
assist.

When asked if he was a Kobe-stopper, as Ruben Patterson, a
former Laker and Sonic and current Portland Trail Blazer once
proclaimed himself, Payton smiled and replied: "Nah, I just
play."

"One night you can be good, the next game you can be bad,"
Payton said. "He's a little bit bigger, I'm a little bit feisty."

Payton said Sonics coach Nate McMillan left it to him to contain
Bryant.

"He chooses to guard me, too," Payton added of the 23-year-old
Lakers star.

The Sonics came in having lost four straight games, and six of
seven to drop to 9-14.

"I just thought we'd come to LA, make a statement that we were
still a good team," Payton said. "We needed to stop the bleeding,
this is good."

The loss was the second straight and just the third of the
season for the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers, who had won
their previous 15 regular-season games at Staples Center --
including 11 this season.

Dating to last season, the Lakers had won 39 of their previous
41 games before losing this game on top of a 97-91 setback at
Sacramento on Friday night.

Vin Baker added a season-high 27 points and nine rebounds and
Rashard Lewis had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Sonics, who
took command late in the third quarter.

The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for the Sonics,
who were 4-0 against the Lakers last season.

Los Angeles (16-3) won a 107-92 decision in Seattle on Nov. 30
despite the fact that O'Neal was ejected late in the first quarter
after picking up two technical fouls.

O'Neal led the Lakers with 37 points, 16 rebounds and six
blocked shots.

The Lakers converted only 9-of-21 foul shots, including 1-of-7
by O'Neal.

Neither Bryant nor O'Neal stuck around after the game. But Derek
Fisher, who scored nine points on 3-of-12 shooting in his first
start of the season, pointed directly to Payton.

"He definitely has the capabilities to take over a game,"
Fisher said. "That's the reason why he's been an All-NBA player
for so many years. You have to give him credit for kind of
controlling the game and getting things off to a good start, the
way they needed."

Rookie Earl Watson, who played at nearby UCLA, scored a
career-high 14 points including five in a 7-0 run that gave the
Sonics a 96-82 lead with 5:37 to play.

The Lakers wouldn't threaten after that.

"They were quicker to the ball than we were tonight," Lakers
coach Phil Jackson said. "I mean, we outrebounded them (44-43),
but the offensive opportunities that they regained for themselves
by chasing down loose balls, and their outright hustle for the ball
was really obvious."

Baskets by Brent Barry and Payton to start the second half put
Seattle on top by 11 points, but five straight points by Bryant and
six in a row by O'Neal tied it at 65.

A layup by Slava Medvedenko gave the Lakers a 77-76 lead, but a
3-pointer by Watson triggered a 9-0 Seattle run to finish the third
period, putting the Sonics ahead 85-77.

Payton and Art Long opened the fourth quarter with baskets to
give the Sonics 13 consecutive points and an 89-77 lead. A bank
shot by O'Neal with 9:32 left ended a four-minute Los Angeles
scoring drought.

The Lakers went over five minutes without scoring shortly later
before O'Neal's basket with 3:50 left made it 96-84.

Baker scored 20 points and Payton added 19 in the first half as
the Sonics made 25 of 42 shots (59.5 percent) in taking a 61-54
lead. The Lakers trailed despite going 24-of-43 (55.8 percent).

Baker had 16 points in the first quarter, which ended with
Seattle leading 35-30.

Game notes
Seattle shot 41-of-88 (46.6 percent) to 40-of-91 (44
percent) for the Lakers. ... The Lakers entered leading the NBA in
opponents' field-goal shooting at 40.7 percent, and were fourth in
points allowed at 90.5. ... Seattle's Antonio Harvey was activated
from the injured list, and started at center as a replacement for
Calvin Booth, sidelined due to right ankle tendinitis. ... The
Sonics hadn't won since Desmond Mason, averaging 13.6 points, went
on the injured Dec. 4 with a sprained right knee. ... Watson
entered averaging 4.2 points. Steve Lavin, his coach at UCLA,
attended the game.