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Lakers' Run Ends Bulls'


The Los Angeles Lakers gave back exactly what they received from the Chicago Bulls six weeks earlier, turning Sunday's East-West showdown into a marquee mismatch.

The Lakers, blown out at Chicago in mid-December, broke the game open early in the third quarter and toyed with the defending champions the rest of the way as they defeated the Bulls 112-87.

It was the final game of the regular season between the teams, and the Lakers made up for their most lopsided loss of the season -- a 21-point defeat on Chicago's home court on Dec. 17.

Rick Fox played his second straight outstanding game and led Los Angeles with 25 points, Shaquille O'Neal added 24 and Eddie Jones 20.

Kobe Bryant, at 19 the youngest All-Star in NBA history, didn't get the better of his much-hyped matchup with Michael Jordan but still finished with 20 points to give the Lakers four 20-point scorers for the second consecutive game.

Jordan scored 31 points and burned Bryant on more than a move or two, but the youngster had the last laugh late in the game when he made a pair of fancy scoop layups and a corner jumper in Scottie Pippen's face that made it 107-80 with 3:24 left.

The only question thereafter was whether the Bulls would avoid their most lopsided defeat of the season -- 27 points at Miami on Jan. 7. Chicago ended up two points shy of tying that mark.

Los Angeles led 57-53 at halftime after Bryant and Pippen matched 3-pointers in the final minute.

Fans returning late from intermission then missed the game's crucial sequence. O'Neal scored on a layup, Derek Fisher scored on a fast break, Fox had a 3-pointer and a three-point play and Jones sank a 3-pointer to cap a quick 13-0 run that made it 72-53 with 9:39 left in the third.

The lead grew to 91-64 at the end of the quarter, and the Bulls never mounted a comeback in the fourth.

Scott Burrell scored a season-high 15 points for Chicago, and Scottie Pippen had 13. Dennis Rodman grabbed 15 rebounds, ending his streak of 20 or more at three games.

Chicago had its five-game road winning streak snapped.

Corie Blount, who started in place of Robert Horry (strained abdominal muscle), had a season-high 12 rebounds. Fisher, who replaced Nick Van Exel at point guard for the second consecutive game, had eight points, seven assists and three stitches -- the latter after being hit by Burrell's elbow late in the second quarter.

Notes:

  • Van Exel, bothered by a hip flexor and a nagging knee injury, said it's too early to tell if he'll play in the All-Star game next Sunday in New York. Coach Del Harris said Saturday that he thought it was doubtful Van Exel would play.
  • Rodman said the pattern of his hair coloring is meant to look like a leopard skin. Inquiring minds wanted to know if the "leopard spots" were actually the number "33" -- Pippen's uniform number.
  • Bulls coach Phil Jackson had a good belly laugh when he saw Rod Thorn being interviewed on television at halftime of the Heat-nicks game after P.J. Brown had run onto the court during an altercation.
  • Los Angeles is 26-2 when scoring 100 points or more. The Lakers were only the 10th team to reach 100 points against the Bulls this season.
  • Chicago dropped to 2-2 on Sundays.

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