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Shaq Makes Point 50 Ways

Pro basketball: He gets some payback against Nets in Lakers' 117-106 victory.


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Shaquille O'Neal was dispatched to the line in the fourth quarter after a technical foul had been called against New Jersey Net Coach John Calipari. He was told to shoot the free throw. No, he was ordered.

This 50-point performance Thursday night did not simply happen. Well, it did at the outset, when he scored 17 points in the opening 7 minutes 16 seconds, but it became a devised plan all its own by the end, after the Lakers had built an insurmountable lead that would become a 117-106 victory at Continental Airlines Arena. And that some Nets were upset at the developments, all the better.

This was payback for the first meeting, when New Jersey won at the Great Western Forum in the days just after the Lakers had four players named to the All-Star game and Kendall Gill mocked them for it. This was payback and then some.

O'Neal stayed in to get 50--and then shot a long two-pointer in the closing seconds, not more than a few feet away from the Net bench, when he could have let the clock expire.

The Lakers stayed with their "A" team--Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, Rick Fox, Robert Horry and O'Neal--even with about three minutes left and a comfortable lead.

O'Neal, in the greatest sign of carnival, was told to shoot the free throw with 2:21 left, first by Kobe Bryant, who would ordinarily have the assignment, and then, after waving Bryant back to the line, by Coach Del Harris. He made it.

"I didn't think it was necessary," New Jersey's Keith Van Horn said of having the Lakers rub it in.

"I don't think we've done that to anybody. We've blown teams out, and we took our starters out. Just a sign of respect."

Or disrespect. Or, just as prominently, of how much teammates wantedO'Neal to become the first Laker to score 50 since Cedric Ceballos did it against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Dec. 20, 1994.

Which is why, after resting at the start of the fourth quarter, he was sent back in with 8:32 left, the Lakers up by 21 and O'Neal needing 10 more points, even though tonight could offer a tough game at Cleveland. Damn the rest.

"When he had 40, we knew he was going to get 50," Bryant said. "Once you come that close, you might as well go ahead and get it. Might as well go for the gusto."

Said Harris: "I wanted him to get the 50 after he got to 45. After the third quarter, I knew I was going to put him back in and let him get a crack at it."

All of which left O'Neal less than overwhelmed. The man who was born a few miles up the road in Newark and spent his early years in New Jersey was at least interested enough to chase down the arena record of 50, held by Moses Malone and Nick Anderson.

Maybe he could even make a run at his career high of 53, set April 20, 1994, while with the Orlando Magic.

"If he would have taken me out, I wouldn't have minded," he said after making 18 of 26 field goals, 14 of 20 free throws and grabbing nine rebounds. "I'm just glad we got the win."

And about being told to shoot the free throw?

"Del's a good guy," O'Neal said. "He probably wanted me to get 50 more than I wanted to get 50."

Harris and every other Laker. When the mission had been accomplished, when O'Neal got 50 on a free throw with 1:20 remaining, providing a 115-100 lead, Harris immediately motioned for Sean Rooks to enter in relief. But there was never a stoppage in play, so O'Neal ended up going the final 8:32 and 42 minutes in all.

To think a big victory would have been enough to satisfy, what with Gill's January comments still fresh. And just in case they weren't, a clipping had been tapped to a wall in the locker room.

"I've been looking forward to it since the buzzer went off [the previous game]," Bryant said. "I think the whole team, ditto."

Added Van Exel: "When a player makes those comments, unexpectedly, you're looking for them."

They had to look fast because Gill played only 27 minutes after starting at small forward, finishing with six points on three-for-nine shooting.

"They were just the better team tonight," he said later. "I didn't see any payback. Nobody said anything to me.

"I really didn't care. We gave them an embarrassing loss when we won the game out at their place. They paid us back. Guess we're even.

"Tell 'em we didn't think words could hurt their feelings. They looked so big and tough."

It was a sarcastic message even in retreat. In retreat, of course, mostly from the Laker who proved plenty big and tough.


50-Point Club

Lakers who have scored at least 50 points in a game. Shaquille O'Neal topped 50 one other time (53), on April 20, 1994, as a member of the Orlando Magic against the Minnesota Timberwolves:

Player: Times

Elgin Baylor: 17

Jerry West: 5

George Mikan: 4

Wilt Chamberlain: 2

Gail Goodrich: 1

Rudy LaRusso: 1

Cedric Ceballos: 1

Shaquille O'Neal: 1

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