Lakers commit franchise-low three turnovers

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- It was an impressive numbers game for the Los
Angeles Lakers.

Kobe Bryant, settling into a playmaker role, had 16 points and
11 assists as Los Angeles ended a two-game slump with a 114-90 win
over the Houston Rockets on Sunday night.

Six Lakers scored in double figures and every one of their
players scored at least three points, helping to make up for
Shaquille O'Neal's absence against Houston, which was missing Steve

The Lakers' biggest little number was three -- a franchise-low
three turnovers, their fewest dating back to at least turnovers
became of NBA statistics in the 1973-74 season.

"At halftime, we only had one turnover," Bryant said. "Phil
(coach Phil Jackson) mentioned something about it and some of the
guys said, 'Don't say anything about it because you're going to
jinx it. But that didn't happen.

"So it's great; we set a record."

The Lakers came into the game averaging 13.4 turnovers. Bryant,
Devean George and Mitch Richmond had one each against the Rockets.

The Rockets were without Francis, out with the flu, and Walt
Williams left the game in the third period shortly after he took a
hard fall. He has a sprained left ankle and will be re-examined on

Houston's Kevin Willis also was ejected with 7:15 remaining when
he drew his second technical from referee Joe DeRosa.

"It's been a weird year," Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said.
"Maybe the new year will bring some health and prosperity."

Robert Horry had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Rick Fox scored
16, including making all three of his 3-point shots as the Lakers
went 12-for-22 from beyond the stripe. George scored 16, and Lindsey
Hunter and Samaki Walker 12 each. Walker also blocked five shots.

"We had a great contribution off the bench and it's good for us
to have a game like that," Jackson said.

Shaquille O'Neal missed the fourth of what is expected to be a
five-game absence with an arthritic big toe on his left foot. Los
Angeles is 2-2 without him.

Bryant played just 31 minutes for the Lakers, who took control
in the second period and didn't let the Rockets closer than eight
points in the second half. The Lakers led 84-70 starting the fourth
quarter and 3-pointers by Hunter and George to start the period
gave them their first 20-point lead.

Cuttino Mobley had 18 points for Houston despite going 2-for-17
from the floor -- he made all 12 of his free throws. Eddie Griffin
added 17 points.

Francis had come off the injured list Friday and scored 10
points in 15 minutes of a win at Golden State, his first game since
he ruptured tissue in his left foot on Nov. 26. The Rockets are
1-16 in his absence.

O'Neal said before the game that he expects to be ready to miss
just five games, which means he would be out for Wednesday's game
at Denver and back for Friday's home contest against Phoenix.

The Lakers' win over the Rockets kept intact a streak by
Jackson, whose teams have not lost three straight since January
1995 when he was the Chicago Bulls' coach and Michael Jordan was
playing baseball.

The Lakers led 55-42 by halftime, with nine of their players
scoring in the second quarter, including Horry's seven points.

Game notes
The Lakers have committed just four turnovers on two
occasions since the stat has been kept, on April 1996 at Denver,
and on Jan. 19 of last year against Houston. ... Francis is
averaging a career-high 20.2 points, with 7.4 rebounds and 5.5
assists in 14 games this season. ... Although O'Neal said he
expects be return after a five-game absence, Jackson wasn't so
sure, saying, "I'm not counting on it." ... Mobley, who had
averaged 34 points in his previous three games, had gone 10-for-10
from the line and 0-for-11 from the floor before finally making his
first field goal with 3:04 left in the third quarter -- a 3-pointer.