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Lakers Do 60 in Cruise Control

Pro basketball: All they need for an economical 108-99 victory over Grizzlies is a big game from Bryant and a dominant second quarter.

March 30, 2000|TIM KAWAKAMI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VANCOUVER, Canada — One good quarter.

That's all it takes these days for the Lakers, even if they're on the road, in another country, or very noticeably throttling it back into low gear during most of the contest.

Four rebounds and 10 field-goal tries.

That's all that was necessary from Shaquille O'Neal, who had twice as many assists (eight) as rebounds and missed only two of his shots in an efficient 37-minute effort.

It was only about getting their 60th victory without sweating the details, and the Lakers did exactly that, 108-99 over the Vancouver Grizzlies before 16,780 at GM Place on Wednesday, the Lakers' first road non-sellout in 28 games, but also their seventh consecutive victory and 26th in their last 27 games.

With Glen Rice out (stomach virus), the Lakers jumped on Vancouver in the second quarter, played it out calmly from there, and Kobe Bryant scored 28 points on 13-for-20 shooting and collected four steals.

No sweat, no harm done, no problem, and very economical on the fuel tank.

"I was chilling out tonight," O'Neal said. "I was looking to pass a lot and get everybody else involved. I didn't do too much on the boards or points- wise, but my teammates stepped up for me. . . .

"We knew if we come up here and do what we're supposed to do, or even halfway do what we're supposed to do, we can get a win. And we did that. . . .

"Kobe had a fabulous game and the reserves came in and did a good job."

The victory, which lifted the 60-12 Lakers to that plateau faster than any other team in franchise history except 1971-72 squad, cut the Lakers' magic number for clinching home-court advantage through the postseason to four.

All of which, Coach Phil Jackson said, leads to a natural and only temporary loss of passion.

"We're just kind of closing down the season," Jackson said. "And it's hard not to coast a little bit at this time of the year, when you feel like your magic number, what is it, two or three or four?

"So it's hard to keep pushing these guys to the limit. I think they have the confidence to win and they know how to do the job, and yet we don't feel like we're playing as well as we can."

The Lakers are 15-1 on the road since losing to the San Antonio Spurs on Feb. 1, but the point now is to maintain a bit of sharpness while resting weary bodies for the playoff run, Jackson and his players said.

"We've got a chance to maybe win 65 or maybe even win 70 [by sweeping the remaining 10 games]," said O'Neal, who made eight of 10 shots and scored 19 points. "But our main goals are much higher than that.

"We just want to do excellent in the playoffs--we're just preparing ourselves for it now."

Said Jackson, who before the season said his goal was to post 60 regular-season victories: "We're happy we got to 60 wins. There's no doubt that we're pleased that we were able to reach that number.

"But the concept now is to eliminate [second-place] Portland as quickly as possible, move into a space where we can moderate the time and effort by each player as he goes out and plays and maintain a kind of level here until the end of the season."

Vancouver started out the game shooting at an incredible pace, making 12 of 17 field-goal tries in the first quarter (70.6%).

Michael Dickerson, who finished with a game-high 32 points, made four of his five tries in the quarter and Othella Harrington made all three of his, as Vancouver put up 30 points.

But the Grizzly offensive machine could last only so long. With the Laker defense suddenly at a higher gear, Vancouver made only six of its 20 shots in the second quarter and was outscored, 29-16, as the Lakers pushed to a 14-point halftime lead.

Still, the Grizzlies made 54.1% (40 for 74) of their shots, only the fourth team this season to make half or more of their shots against the Lakers.

"We tried a few things on the defensive end, left Dickerson open in the corner for some threes and he got hot early and then everybody got infectious," Jackson said of the first quarter.

"We had to try to figure out a way to close it down."

And the Lakers continue on the long and breezy road, arriving in new territory, even for them.

"We're really happy to have 60 wins this fast," Derek Fisher said. 'We've won 60 games before, but it seemed that we had to throw in everything and the kitchen sink to get to that point.

"And this season, it really seems that even though we've really worked hard, it came relatively easy."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Lakers' Record by Month

The Lakers improved their record to 60-12 with Wednesday's victory over Vancouver. The breakdown:

November: 11-4

December: 14-1

January: 9-5

February: 12-1

March: 14-1

*

CLIPPERS ARE COOL

The tension between Nesby and Todd appears to be over after one day.

Page 7

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