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Rodman Returns, Lakers Win

Dennis Rodman returned to the Los Angeles Lakers, but not even the carnival atmosphere that accompanied him could overshadow Kobe Bryant or Shaquille O'Neal.

Bryant scored 33 of his career-high 38 points in the second half and O'Neal had 31 points and 13 rebounds as the Lakers overcame a 24-point deficit Sunday to beat the Orlando Magic 115-104.

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  • Rodman returned to the Lakers for the nationally televised game after being away from the team for eight days for unspecified personal reasons.

    But it was Bryant, O'Neal and Derek Harper who keyed the big comeback.

    Los Angeles shot a season-best 60 percent, including 15 of 18 ( 83 percent) in the fourth quarter, and with Rodman's help, held Orlando to 41 points in the second half to stop a two-game losing streak.

    "People forget we went on a 10-game winning streak. We just dropped the last two," Bryant said. "We have been doing the right things for quite some time."

    "They are what they are, a traveling All-Star team," Magic coach Chuck Daly said. "Shaquille O'Neal is an all-star of all-stars. Kobe Bryant, we probably saw his coming out party. We all know how good he is going to be."

    Bryant made 13 of 16 shots after halftime, O'Neal made all six of his attempts from the field to finish 14 of 19 and Harper made five 3-pointers en route to a season-high 20 points.

    What impressed Lakers coach Kurt Rambis, though, was a dramatic change defensively after allowing 63 points in the opening half.

    "I just could not believe the turnaround ... all the adjustments we made, the intensity, the guys helping each other," the coach said. "It was beautiful to watch how they worked so well together."

    The Lakers, who had lost three of four on a six-game road trip that concludes Monday night at Dallas, improved to 10-0 in games in which Rodman has played.

    Daly, who coached Rodman in Detroit when the Pistons won two NBA titles, said the seven-time rebounding champion was a bigger factor in the game than the stat sheet would indicate.

    "He does some things defensively that help them great deal and is one of reasons that with him they would big a favorite (in the playoffs)," the Orlando coach said.

    Rookie reserve Michael Doleac scored a career-high 25 points for Orlando. Penny Hardaway had 22 points and 13 assists, and Darrell Armstrong contributed 17 points and 11 assists off the bench.

    Rodman entered the game for the first time late in the opening quarter and finished with four points and six rebounds in 23 minutes. He drew a technical early in the fourth period for throwing an elbow at Matt Harpring, even though it missed the Orlando rookie.

    "I'm back ... I'm here to stay," said Rodman, insisting his absence was unrelated to gambling, drinking or marital problems.

    "I had to get away. I didn't know if I wanted to play basketball. People have to understand that this is me. Just let me do what I've got to do and everything will be all right."

    Orlando weathered a fast start by O'Neal, who made seven of his first eight shots, to build its 24-point second-quarter lead that the Lakers would wipe out over the next 19 minutes.

    Held to five points on 2-for-8 shooting in the first half, Bryant brought the Lakers back with help from Harper, who made 3-pointers on three straight possessions during a stretch of the third quarter when Los Angeles hit eight consecutive shots to trim the deficit to 78-74.

    Bryant tied the score at 94 with a jumper over Hardaway, then gave the Lakers their first lead since the first quarter with a three-point play that made it 97-94.

    "Teams have been giving me the open shot lately," Bryant said. "I hope they keep thinking like that, because I'm going to shoot. It's something I worked on all summer, hitting the open shot."

    Notes: The Magic placed leading rebounder Bo Outlaw on the injured list with a left calf contusion. He was injured March 11 and is expected to miss 10 to 14 days ... Gerald Wilkins was activated to fill Outlaw's roster spot ... J.R. Reid, who has a swollen left knee, was the only Lakers player who did not play ... The 24-point deficit was the biggest the Lakers have overcome to win this season.

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

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