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Medvedenko, Payton lead L.A. charge

1/15/2004

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A week after the Lakers' most lopsided loss
of the season in Denver, they paid the Nuggets back.

And Los Angeles did it without three of its best players.

Slava Medvedenko had 22 points and nine rebounds, Gary Payton
added 21 points and six assists and the Lakers beat Denver 97-71
Wednesday night for their third straight victory since a 22-point
loss to the Nuggets.

After that game, several Lakers said the team gave up.

They haven't lost since.

"We didn't care about that," Payton said of last week's
blowout. "We know what we can do against this team. I think that
game in Denver was the worst game we've played. Nobody came
prepared and ready to play."

That wasn't the case in this game. The Lakers handed the Nuggets
their most one-sided loss of the season.

"From start to finish, we just played bad," Denver's Andre
Miller said. "No energy, no hustle. We didn't make it easy on
ourselves. We didn't pass the ball, we didn't make plays for each
other."

The victory was the 800th for Lakers coach Phil Jackson. He
accomplished the feat in 1,101 games, making him the fastest to
reach 800 wins in NBA history.

"I didn't know if it would happen ever," Jackson said. "It
seems like these last three weeks, it's been very slow."

The Lakers had lost six of seven before winning their last
three.

"I'm happy and proud I could be with the Lakers to do that,"
Jackson said of reaching 800 wins.

Playing without Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and Karl Malone,
the Lakers (24-11) took command by playing a near-flawless first
half in taking a 55-35 lead.

They shot 54.3 percent to Denver's 35.1 percent; outrebounded
the Nuggets 20-14, and committed four turnovers while forcing eight
in the opening 24 minutes.

The Nuggets (23-17), who had won three of their previous four
games, including the one-sided win over the Lakers, didn't threaten
after that.

Probably the most impressive aspect of the Lakers' performance
was their defense, especially considering what Denver has
accomplished this season.

In addition to shredding the Lakers for 113 points on Jan. 7,
the Nuggets had scored 100 or more points 21 times in 39 games,
including their last four, and entered averaging 97.9 points per
game.

The Lakers wound up shooting 35-of-69 (50.7 percent) to 28-of-78
(35.9 percent) for Denver and outrebounded the Nuggets 40-28.

"It was not all us," Jackson said. "They obviously missed
shots tonight. It was a back-to-back for them."

The Nuggets beat Phoenix 105-92 on Tuesday night.

Devean George added 12 points for the Lakers. Payton, George and
Horace Grant, who had eight points and 11 rebounds, all sat out the
fourth quarter.

Miller and Voshon Lenard and Andre Miller led Denver with 15
points each. Rookie Carmelo Anthony shot a miserable 4-of-17 in
scoring 14 for the Nuggets.

Bryant missed his first game since spraining his right shoulder
Monday night against Cleveland. He is expected to be sidelined a
minimum of two to three weeks.

O'Neal sat out his sixth game since straining his right calf
Jan. 2, and Malone missed his 10th game since spraining a ligament
in his right knee Dec. 21.

"We showed we can play without our top guys," Payton said.
"We just gutted it down. Everybody played together and we've just
got to keep it up. When we play together and pass the ball the way
we did and get everybody involved, it's really easy for us. We
rebounded the ball and played good defense."

The Nuggets weren't closer than 16 points in the second half. It
was 78-59 entering the fourth quarter, and the Lakers scored the
first eight points of the period -- four each by Medvedenko and
Derek Fisher -- for a 27-point lead.

The Lakers outscored the Nuggets 14-3 to finish the first
quarter and start the second, putting them ahead 36-19. They led by
as many as 22 points before settling for their 20-point halftime
lead.

The Nuggets scored the first four points before the Lakers went
on a 22-9 run for a nine-point lead. Grant had seven rebounds at
that stage -- three more than the entire Denver team.

Game notes
Bryant was placed on the injured list, meaning he must sit
out at least five games. The Lakers replaced him by signing G Ime
Udoka to a 10-day contract. Udoka played six minutes and scored
four points. ... The Nuggets won only four road games and 17
overall last season. They have eight road wins and 23 overall less
than halfway through this season. ... Jackson said before the game
he wasn't projecting a date for O'Neal's return. "I may have
jumped the gun a little bit saying it was up to Shaq," Jackson
said, referring to a comment Tuesday when he said O'Neal had been
medically cleared to play. ... Grant, who has been starting in
O'Neal's place, will leave the team Thursday to be with his ailing
father in Georgia. "It could be a few days, it could be a week, I
want to get everything situated there with my dad and make sure he
has the proper care around him," Grant said.