Glen Rice knows he's getting closer to 100 percent efficiency every day. He believes the Los Angeles Lakers are really going to be dangerous once he gets there.
Rice scored 12 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, and had six of his team's season-high 31 assists Monday night as the Lakers used a strong finish to pull away from the Vancouver Grizzlies 116-98.
"I'm slowly creeping up to about 90 percent of where I should be," said the 31-year-old Rice, who has played in 11 games since the Lakers acquired him from the Charlotte Hornets in a blockbuster trade March 10.
The Lakers are 6-5 in the 11 games.
Known as one of the NBA's finest outside shooters, Rice hadn't played at all before the trade this season after undergoing surgery on his right (shooting) elbow in late January.
"It's coming," Rice said. "It's going to open up a lot of things for this team once I get there. We're going to be dangerous."
Shaquille O'Neal led the Lakers with 26 points. Kobe Bryant added 20, reserve Rick Fox scored 11 of his 17 in the first 6½ minutes of the fourth quarter, and Dennis Rodman had 17 rebounds for Los Angeles, which outscored the Grizzlies in the final period 41-31.
The Lakers won decisively despite the fact that O'Neal got only one rebound while playing 34 minutes, and they lost the battle of the boards 45-31.
O'Neal's previous career-low was three rebounds, except for a game in which he got none when he was injured in the first four minutes and didn't return.
"That's all I had? They ought to fire that statistician. I had about three, man," O'Neal said with a broad smile. "It was one of those games where I felt two steps slow. We pulled it out, we sucked it up, everybody else played well."
The Lakers, who have played an NBA-high 32 games, are off until Friday night when hey play at Phoenix.
"We just have to rest," O'Neal said. "My legs are kind of tired. I'm not going to do a thing tomorrow, I promise you."
Shareef Abdur-Rahim led the Grizzlies with 21 points and seven assists. Felipe Lopez added 18 points, and Tony Massenburg had 16 points and 12 rebounds for Vancouver.
"They just had too much for us in the second half," Grizzlies coach Brian Hill said. "We lost track of Glen Rice there for a little stretch, and Rick Fox came in and hurt us, did a very good job offensively."
The victory represented a payback of sorts for the Lakers, who lost to the Grizzlies at Vancouver 93-83 on Feb. 23 for their third loss in as many days.
Del Harris was fired as their coach the following day, and succeeded by Kurt Rambis.
The Grizzlies have lost five straight games and 18 of 19 since their victory over the Lakers the only time they've ever beaten them.
"I figured they'd come out ready to play, figuring they owed us something," Abdur-Rahim said, referring to last month's game between the teams. "Down the stretch, they were just a little too much."
O'Neal was 6-of-7 from the foul line one day after making only 5-of-15 in a 99-91 victory over the New York Knicks. The Lakers were 32-of-37 from the foul line against the Grizzlies.
The Lakers led 75-67 entering the fourth quarter, and extended their lead to 13 points by outscoring the Grizzlies 13-8 to begin the period. The Grizzlies were unable to pose a serious threat after that.
The Lakers held a 46-42 halftime lead thanks mainly to 16 Vancouver turnovers. Vancouver finished with 25 turnovers to just 10 for Los Angeles.
The Lakers went ahead for good by scoring nine straight points, giving them a 25-18 lead late in the first quarter. O'Neal had 11 points by that time.
The Lakers led by as many as seven points in the second period before settling for their four-point halftime lead.
Notes: Lakers reserve Travis Knight, who played at Connecticut from 1993-97, clapped his hands, raised his arms and smiled broadly after the final seconds of the NCAA championship game were shown on the scoreboard during a timeout. Connecticut beat Duke 77-74. ... The game was played before a crowd of 17,312, only the third non-sellout in 16 Lakers' home games this season. Capacity at the Forum is 17,505. ... The Lakers are 15-5 since Harris was fired 1-0 under assistant Bill Bertka and 14-5 under Rambis. ... The Lakers are 13-1 against the Grizzlies, who were formed as an expansion franchise before the 1995-96 season. ... Lakers forward Robert Horry left the game for good in the second quarter due to a strained left hip flexor and is listed day-to-day.
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