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Knicks Top Shaq-Less Lakers

Shaquille O'Neal never left the locker room, and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers never really showed up, either.

With O'Neal a last-minute scratch because of a foot injury, the Los Angeles fell behind early and never fought back as they dropped a 91-81 decision to the New York Knicks for their 15th loss of the season matching last season's total.

"This is a tough situation for us because we've never really had to play without Shaq for a long period of time. We're not used to playing without him, and it's tough to go out there and try to wing it," Kobe Bryant said.

Allan Houston scored 33 points and Latrell Sprewell added 28 for the Knicks, who snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 11-5 against teams from the Western Conference.

The Knicks took the lead for good midway through the first, closed the quarter with a 15-2 run to open a 33-19 lead and stayed comfortably ahead the rest of the way despite playing short-handed themselves as Marcus Camby (suspension) and Kurt Thomas (sprained ankle) also sat out.

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  • O'Neal was sidelined with a plantar fasciitis of his right foot, an inflammation that flared up Friday. He stayed in the locker room throughout the entire game and watched on television. His status is day to day.

    "Why didn't I go to the bench?" O'Neal said, repeating a question. "I was told to stay in here.

    Bryant did what he could to carry the Lakers, scoring 33 points, but also found himself getting yelled at by coach Phil Jackson on more than one occasion once for talking out of turn in the huddle; another time for failing to pass to a wide-open Ron Harper.

    "Just one time tonight," Bryant said, "but for the most part Phil and I have mutual respect and I go out there and do my thing. (Assistant coach) Tex (Winter) is the one that's constantly in all of our ears. You can hear him from the other end of the floor."

    The loss was the third in four games for the Lakers, who were held to their second-lowest point total of the season.

    Larry Johnson grabbed 16 rebounds and ex-Laker Glen Rice added 10 rebounds and seven points. Luc Longley started at center for New York and had zero points and seven rebounds.

    Houston hit one of his three 3-pointers with 1:37 left in the first quarter to give New York its first double-digit lead, 29-19, and the Knicks totaled nine fast-break points in the first quarter - more fast-break points than they had accumulated in 27 of their first 41 games.

    Rice missed his first four shots before connecting on a corner jumper for a 41-31 lead midway through the second quarter, and Houston drove around Isaiah Rider for a layup that made it 47-33 late in the half.

    Jackson turned to Bryant and yelled "Don't argue" when Bryant tried to say something during a timeout late in the first half, and Jackson and Winter yelled "Pass the ball to the open man! Do it!" after Bryant abandoned the triangle offense and took an ill-advised jumper during the third.

    The Knicks took a 13-point lead into the fourth quarter behind 24 points from Houston and 21 from Sprewell before Robert Horry made it a nine-point game by hitting a 3-pointer with 6:33 left.

    Houston then hit a pull-up jumper, Rice came up with a steal and Houston hit a 3 to make it 80-66. The Lakers never threatened thereafter.

    "If they can learn anything from our team, we try to play unselfishly and we have great team confidence," Sprewell said. "We like each other on our team. We all get along and I think that goes a long way toward having team success."

    Notes

  • During the third quarter, Jackson complained to the referees about the thick wristbands worn by Houston and Charlie Ward, calling them "hospital wristbands." Ward's retort: "It's my tattoo."
  • Rider missed the team flight from Los Angeles to New York on Saturday morning and had to buy a ticket on a commercial flight. He was fined by the team.
  • Jackson and Rice, who had a strained relationship last season in Los Angeles, exchanged greetings in a hallway outside the locker rooms before the game.
  • The Lakers are 1-2 without O'Neal.
  • Los Angeles is 0-3 on the road in January.

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