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Shaq scores 40, but teammates offer little help

1/25/2002

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Voshon Lenard said it was simply a matter of
the Denver Nuggets playing with nothing to lose.

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.

"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."

James Posey had 23 points and eight rebounds; Nick Van Exel had
17 points and 12 assists, and Zendon Hamilton also scored 17
points, a career high, for the Nuggets, and grabbed eight rebounds.

"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.

Game notes
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.