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LAKER REPORT

Stackhouse Is Central Focus

January 08, 2002

DETROIT — Another gray, icy day, another scoring swingman to defend.

Must be the NBA's Central Division.

A moment removed from Vince Carter, the Lakers get Jerry Stackhouse tonight. Same scary offensive potential, same defensive matchup.

The Lakers will run Kobe Bryant, Devean George and/or Rick Fox at Stackhouse, who finished second to Allen Iverson in scoring last season, just ahead of Shaquille O'Neal and Bryant.

Stackhouse's numbers are down, but Detroit's are up, despite playing miserably the last three weeks.

Carter scored 24 points Sunday in Toronto. He missed 12 of 22 shots, got into foul trouble and was trampled by Bryant's seamless 31 points. Stackhouse's game is unlike Carter's, Bryant said, though Stackhouse scored 76 points in two games against the Lakers last season.

"It's different guarding those guys," he said. "Stackhouse is more physical. He likes to go to the basket more, and he gets to the free-throw line more often."

In part because of their steadier defense on players such as Carter and Stackhouse, the Lakers have won four in a row, the last two with O'Neal on the floor. He had missed the previous five because of an arthritic toe.

"There's more to it," Bryant said of the modest winning streak with O'Neal. "We started hitting some shots and guys got a little more in rhythm. Then again, just his presence on the floor changes the dynamic of the game."

Coach Phil Jackson was more succinct.

"We were playing poorly and now we're playing better," he said. "It's what we call the holiday blues. It's a tough time to play in the NBA."

George threw a perfect alley-oop pass to O'Neal late in the Lakers' 109-89 win at Toronto. O'Neal got the dunk, and George got the laugh.

"I got one," he said, laughing, on his way up the floor.

A third-year player still trying to match his physical gifts with the intellectual side of the game, George isn't known as an eager passer. That puts him in the NBA majority, but it doesn't stop the needling.

"That's the joke," he said. "That I don't pass. I think shot first. When I do pass, they always comment about it."

Fox practiced Monday with two stitches in his upper lip, cut during Sunday's game.... O'Neal, dealing with two sore feet, did not practice. Instead, he ran on a treadmill for 40 minutes.

*

TONIGHT

at Detroit, 5 PST

Channel 9, TBS

Site--The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Radio--KLAC (570).

Records--Lakers 24-6, Pistons 16-16.

Record vs. Pistons (2000-01)--2-0.

Update--After their 14-6 start, the Pistons have lost 10 of 12 games, including Monday's 109-93 loss at Minnesota. Detroit went 0-5 on a Western trip, launching a seven-game losing streak.

Tim Brown

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