7:30 PM ET, January 22, 2002
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
Shaquille O'Neal's 40 points weren't enough to offset Denver's sharp shooting.
For a change, they didn't.
Shaquille O'Neal scored 40 points in his return from a three-game suspension Tuesday night, but Lenard scored 13 of his season-high 29 in the fourth quarter as the Nuggets stunned the Los Angeles Lakers 107-91.
The Nuggets (13-28) won for only the fourth time in 18 games and snapped a 14-game road losing streak.
Denver, 3-16 in road games, won by making 39-of-69 shots, a season-best 56.5 percent.
"We were about due for a win," Lenard said. "You wouldn't expect it to come against a great team like the Lakers. We had nothing to lose, and that's the way we played tonight. Maybe this is the start for us."
O'Neal, who also had 11 rebounds and five assists, scored 27 points in the first half, but had little help from his teammates. Kobe Bryant, who had 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists, was the only other Los Angeles player to score more than eight points.
O'Neal didn't speak to reporters afterward.
|A man of a few well-chosen words|
Shaquille O'Neal, a man of few words for the media since being suspended for three games last week, spoke briefly with reporters before Tuesday's game.
"I haven't got anything nice to say yet, I'd rather save my money," O'Neal said before scoring 40 points in his first game since Jan. 12, when he swung at Brad Miller following a flagrant foul by the Chicago center in the fourth quarter of a 106-104 overtime loss to the Bulls.
O'Neal was ejected from that game, and two days later suspended by the NBA for three games without pay and fined $15,000, costing him more than $700,000.
O'Neal, averaging 25.6 points and 10.7 rebounds, hadn't spoken on the record with local reporters since the suspension, speaking only with the New York Times. He told that newspaper he warned Miller several times before taking action.
When asked if he was upset with the local media, O'Neal replied: "Oh, no, never, especially not my media. I love the L.A. media, even Plaschke, it's nothing personal."
O'Neal referred to Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke, who wrote O'Neal was to blame for taking a swing at Miller, no matter how much he might have been provoked.
"It's a game we should have won," Bryant said. "We had them in hand, had a six-point lead. They came back, hit some big shots that really hurt. Voshon hit a couple shots with guys all over him."
"We needed one," Hamilton said. "It's always great when you beat the No. 1 team on the planet. Voshon was great at the end of the game."
Van Exel's 3-point shot capped an 8-0 run that gave the Nuggets an 85-77 lead -- largest of the game for either team to that point -- and his layup made it 92-79 with 5:25 remaining.
The Lakers outscored Denver 9-1 to make it 93-88 with 3:13 to play, but two free throws by Lenard and five straight points by Posey triggered a game-closing 14-3 run by the Nuggets.
"We're not in any way up to the level to win a championship right now, offensively or defensively," Lakers forward Rick Fox said. "We beat San Antonio defensively the other day. We didn't defend Denver the same way."
Teammate Mitch Richmond put it a bit differently.
"No defense at all," he said.
Three straight baskets by O'Neal put the Lakers on top 69-63 late in the third quarter. But the Nuggets responded by going on a 14-4 run to take a 77-73 lead into the final period.
The Lakers scored the first four points of the fourth quarter before the Nuggets went ahead for good.
"Well, that was quite an exhibition," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Sometimes it's hard to figure out which team is going to show up, and tonight, you've got to give credit to the Nuggets."
Guarded mostly by Hamilton, generously listed at 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds, O'Neal had an easy time getting good shots in his big first half.
Trouble is, his teammates combined for only 23, and the Nuggets led at halftime 51-50.
"All I'm saying is I'm glad I've got a day off tomorrow," Hamilton said with a smile when asked about guarding the Lakers' big man.
O'Neal was knocked to the floor late in the first quarter when fouled by Raef LaFrentz, and again early in the third period when fouled by Hamilton. Both fouls were clean, and O'Neal didn't react.
Many in the Staples Center crowd of 18,997 stood to applaud when O'Neal was introduced before the game, and he was cheered again when he dunked for the first Lakers' points.
He hadn't played since taking a swing at Chicago's Brad Miller late in the fourth quarter of a 106-104 overtime loss to the Bulls on Jan. 12, for which he was suspended and fined.
The Lakers (28-10) were 2-1 during O'Neal's suspension including a 98-81 victory at San Antonio on Saturday. ... The Nuggets played without Scott Williams, who sat out his sixth game because of a sore lower back, and George McCloud, who missed his ninth with a strained right calf. ... The Nuggets snapped a 10-game losing streak to the Lakers in Los Angeles, winning here for the first time since Jan. 7, 1996. ... Denver's 3-16 road record is the second-worst in the NBA; the Chicago Bulls are 1-19. ... Denver rookie Chris Anderson, playing with a chip fracture in his right wrist, drew a reaction from the crowd when he shot a pair of free throws underhanded late in the first quarter. He made 1-of-2.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||39-69 (.565)||37-82 (.451)|
|3PM-3PA||10-17 (.588)||3-22 (.136)|
|FTM-FTA||19-31 (.613)||14-21 (.667)|
|Fast Break Points||6||9|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||22 (2/0)||26 (0/0)|