Regular Season Series (Game 4 of 4)

Series starts 11/30

Game 1: Friday, November 30th
Game 2: Tuesday, December 11th
Game 3: Thursday, February 14th
Game 4: Monday, April 15th

SuperSonics 104

(44-37, 19-22 away)

Lakers 111

(57-24, 33-7 home)

    Coverage: FSW

    7:30 PM ET, April 15, 2002

    STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

    1 2 3 4 T
    SEA 29 25 21 29104
    LAL 28 32 33 18111

    Top Performers

    Sea: G. Payton 20 Pts, 5 Reb, 8 Ast

    LAL: S. O'Neal 41 Pts, 11 Reb, 4 Ast

    Shaq: 'Nobody's going to beat us'

    LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Shaquille O'Neal appears to be ready for the playoffs.

    Kobe Bryant

    Kobe Bryant gave up his new shoes he wore during the regular season for the pair that helped him win two NBA titles with the Lakers.

    His Los Angeles Lakers teammates seem to be getting there, too.

    Despite his aches and pains, O'Neal had 41 points and 11 rebounds while playing 34 minutes Monday night, leading the Lakers to a 111-104 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics.

    The seven-point margin is misleading, since the Sonics outscored the Lakers 14-3 to finish the game -- after the outcome had been decided.

    O'Neal shot 16-of-21 from the floor and 9-of-11 from the foul line as the Lakers (57-24) won their 14th in a row at home and surpassed their victory mark of the regular season last year, when they won their second straight NBA championship.

    "Nobody's going to beat us," O'Neal said. "A lot of teams right now are playing great and we're not playing that great. So what's already up must come down and what's down must go up.

    "I think my guys are bored sometimes. Postseason's another matter. I know they're going to be focused and they're not going to be shying away. So I'm not worried at all. We'll be ready."

    O'Neal has been slowed all year by a painful arthritic big toe, and injured a knee slightly in Sunday's 128-120 double-overtime loss at Portland. But none of that was evident in this game.

    "Shaq was incredible and dominating out there," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We had a third quarter that looked like a team I remember that played a little bit in the playoffs last year."

    Kobe Bryant scored 15 of his 19 points in the third period, when the Lakers took command, outscoring the Sonics 33-21 for a 93-75 lead.

    A victory over the visiting Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night in their regular-season finale assures the Lakers of a first-round date with Portland and homecourt advantage against everyone except against the Kings, whose 60-20 record is the league's best.

    Derek Fisher added 13 points, Samaki Walker scored 12 and Rick Fox had 10 for the Lakers.

    Gary Payton had 20 points, five rebounds and eight assists, and Peja Drobjnak added 18 points for the Sonics.

    The Sonics (44-37), who lost their third straight and sixth in seven games, will be the seventh or eighth seed in the West.

    Seattle will be seventh if it beats Memphis in its finale Wednesday night, and Utah (44-36) loses to Dallas and San Antonio in its final two games.

    "We basically have stopped playing," Sonics coach Nate McMillan said. "We're going through the motions, I guess, until the playoffs start. But whoever we face, we'll be swept. There's no way you can flip the switch as we think we can."

    Bryant had only two points in the first half, which ended with the Lakers on top 60-54.

    The Lakers took command by outscoring the Sonics 21-4 to extend their lead to 83-62. Bryant had eight points, O'Neal six and Fisher five during the spurt.

    The Sonics outscored Los Angeles 15-5 to begin the fourth quarter to draw within eight points. But the Lakers scored the next 10 points -- the final six by O'Neal -- to clinch the victory.

    Seattle's Vin Baker, who had nine points and eight rebounds, believes the Lakers are vulnerable in the playoffs.

    "I think there's three or four teams in the league that can beat the Lakers," he said. "I mean, they're a great team, but this Western Conference is the best that I've seen in a long time."

    After O'Neal scored 11 of his team's 12 points in a little over four minutes of the second quarter, Devean George made a 3-pointer and Fox added four points to put the Lakers on top 53-45. Seattle led 29-28 entering the second period.

    Game notes

    O'Neal has scored 40 or more points seven times this season and is 19-of-24 from the foul line the last two games. ... All Los Angeles starters scored in double figures, the first time that's happened since March 19, 2001. ... The Lakers snapped a three-game losing streak to the Sonics at Staples Center. ... The Lakers are 33-7 at home, tying them with New Jersey for the second-best homecourt record in the NBA behind the Kings, who are 35-5. ... The Sonics played without starting forward Rashard Lewis, who missed his ninth game because of a sprained left ankle. Lewis is the Sonics' second-leading scorer, averaging 16.8 points. ... The Lakers were 3-1 against the Sonics this season after losing all four games to them last season. ... The Lakers have won 10 of their last 14 games. They won their final eight in the regular season last year before their remarkable 15-1 playoff run. ... Payton, with 6,918 assists, moved into 12th place on the NBA's career list ahead of Guy Rodgers.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 104 111
    FGM-FGA 42-86 (.488) 41-80 (.513)
    3PM-3PA 4-11 (.364) 5-14 (.357)
    FTM-FTA 16-23 (.696) 24-30 (.800)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 8-35 9-41
    Assists 26 25
    Turnovers 10 11
    Steals 5 6
    Blocks 4 2
    Fast Break Points 5 8
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 26 (0/0) 24 (2/0)

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles
    Gary Payton Payton
    Points: 20
    Reb: 5
    Ast: 8
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 0
    Shaquille O'Neal O'Neal
    Points: 41
    Reb: 11
    Ast: 4
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 0