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Lakers Hold Off Pacers 96-89

Although Nick Van Exel didn't play, the Los Angeles Lakers still got an All-Star performance from their point guard Wednesday night.

Starting his fifth straight game in place of the ailing Van Exel, Derek Fisher scored a season-high 20 points, including a key 21-footer in the final minute, to help the Lakers hold off the Indiana Pacers 96-89.

"The star of the game was Derek," Los Angeles coach Del Harris said. "He did a tremendous job. He did everything - mentally, physically on offense and defense."

Making only his eighth start of the season, Fisher played 44 minutes. He was 7-of-10 from the field with six assists, two steals and only two turnovers.

"My jump shot is something I've been working on," said Fisher, a 41 percent shooter this season. "I'm not going to worry about scoring. We can win as many games (with me) scoring six or eight points as we can if I score 20."

Harris said "it's great to see a guy like him have a quality game like this. If he could, he'd frame this one like a picture and hang it on the wall. It was that beautiful."

Shaquille O'Neal scored 24 points and Eddie Jones had 20 for the Lakers.

The Pacers, who trailed nearly the entire game, cut an 11-point deficit to four with 2:27 left. But Indiana couldn't get any closer, and Fisher's jumper with 59 seconds remaining clinched the victory.

"We kept fighting back, getting close and couldn't make the shot," Indiana coach Larry Bird said. "I didn't see it as a close game. We made a couple of runs, then they scored the next 6-7 points."

Rik Smits led Indiana with 19 points. Mark Jackson added 18, and Dale Davis had 14 points and 16 rebounds.

"We made too many errors at crucial times," Davis said.

Fisher's basket with 6:53 gave Los Angeles an 86-75 lead with 6:53 remaining in the game. Jackson then had seven points, a steal and an assist as Indiana pulled within 90-86.

The Pacers scored the first four points of the game, but then missed nine straight shots and trailed 26-17 after the first quarter. Indiana had the same number of turnovers as field goals (five) in the first period, including a pair of 24-second violations.

The Pacers shot only 24 percent from the field in the opening period, then missed its first seven shots of the second quarter.
A 3-pointer by Rick Fox gave the Lakers their biggest lead of the night, 36-18, with 8:57 remaining in the half.

Indiana got back into the game with a 18-2 run, capped by consecutive 3-pointers by Chris Mullin and Reggie Miller.

Miller's 3-pointer cut the Lakers' lead to 38-36, but Los Angeles extended the margin to 51-45 at halftime.

Notes: The Lakers announced that Van Exel will undergo surgery on his right knee Thursday. It was uncertain how long he'll be out after having the diagnostic arthroscopic procedure. ... The Lakers are 6-2 with Fisher starting at point guard. His point total was one below his careehigh and his previous high this season was 13. ... The Lakers snapped a four-game losing streak at Market Square Arena. ... The Pacers shot only 36 percent from the field, with Miller going 4-for-17. ... The victory gave the Lakers a sweep in back-to-back games for the first time since Jan. 6-7.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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