Shaquille O'Neal, back after missing two games with a sore ankle, scored 41 points and had 16 rebounds Friday night as the Los Angeles Lakers beat Sacramento 121-114 in a possible first-round playoff preview.
Showing no ill effects from the tender left ankle that sidelined him for a week, O'Neal played 44 minutes and went 16-of-29 from the floor and 9-of-15 from the free throw line.
He scored 18 of his team's 27 points in the fourth quarter as the Lakers held off the Kings, who beat them once and played them close in their three other games this season.
After trailing by as many as 15 points in the second quarter, the Lakers outscored the Kings 31-11 during a run that ended with Los Angeles up 90-78 with three minutes remaining in the third.
Glen Rice led the third-quarter comeback, scoring 15 of his 24 points in the period on 6-of-7 shooting, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range. Kobe Bryant, who had 31 points, had 14 in the third quarter, missing just one of seven shots as the Lakers went 16-of-21 from the floor.
Chris Webber led the Kings with 36 points and 10 rebounds. Nick Anderson added 22 points, but Jason Williams was held to four points, well below his 12.4 average, on 2-of-8 shooting.
The Lakers went 1-1 while O'Neal was out, losing 98-80 to San Antonio their worst defeat of th season before coming back to beat Seattle 106-103 in overtime.
The Kings controlled the tempo early. Webber had 21 points by halftime, missing just three of his 12 shots, and Anderson added 14 as the Kings led 65-57 at halftime.
O'Neal had 19 points and Bryant 12 in the half to help the Lakers stay close.
The Kings got off to a blistering start, going 17-of-24 from the floor to shoot out to a 39-28 lead at the end of the opening quarter.
Anderson scored seven points during an 18-8 run by Sacramento over the final 4:20 of the first period.
The Kings went on to led by as many as 15, 52-37 with four minutes played in the second quarter, before Los Angeles slowly began to pull closer.
A slam dunk with 18 seconds left in the half by Lakers rookie John Celestand, activated earlier in the day, narrowed the gap to eight points.
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