With Shaquille O'Neal taking charge of the middle and Glen Rice chipping in from the outside, the Los Angeles Lakers seem to finally have the Utah Jazz' number.
O'Neal scored 39 points and had 18 rebounds, and Rice scored all his 21 points in the second half Wednesday night as the Lakers beat Utah for the second time this season, 90-82.
"Shaq played a wonderful game," said Lakers' first-year coach Phil Jackson. "I think it is one of the best games I have seen him play overall."
"I thought our screen-and-roll defense was very adequate," Jackson said. "We had a couple of lapses in the fourth quarter. There was a point in the game where it looked like they were going to overwhelm us, but Glen stepped up and hit a few shots. And Shaq kept controlling things."
The Lakers led all the way and were up 68-56 heading into the fourth quarter, but Utah closed to 71-70 with six minutes remaining. Then O'Neal and Rice helped Los Angeles pull away again.
"We were sitting back too much and the game was getting a little too close. I sort of took it on myself to give us a lift. The ball wasn't going in for me for a while," said Rice, who was 5-of-7 from the field, including a pair of 3-point baskets, after missing all four of his shots in the opening half.
O'Neal, who played all but three minutes, made 14 of 24 shots from the field and 11 of 20 from the line.
"I was getting the ball real deep," said O'Neal, who had numerous dunks.
Utah coach Jerry Sloan was unhappy with his team's effort.
"If we would have had 12 guys come to play, it would have been a lot different," he said
Asked why his players didn't "come to play," Sloan said: "You ask those guys, see what excuse they give you this time. I'm sure they've got a list of them. It's not the first time this year. We haven't even competed and it's the most frustrating thing that I've seen with this team since I've been with it."
After Utah narrowed the gap to one point late in the game, Rice hit a jumper, then a 3-pointer to give the Lakers breathing room.
After a basket by O'Neal, Rice added another jumper with 3:06 left to give Los Angeles an 80-72 pad, and the Lakers remained comfortably in front the rest of the way.
Karl Malone led Utah with 22 points and 12 rebounds, but was just 9-of-23 from the field. Jeff Hornacek added 14 points for the Jazz.
O'Neal went down briefly late in the third quarter when Utah's Greg Ostertag tried to block a shot by the Lakers center and slapped him in the face. After lying on the floor for about a minute, O'Neal was OK. The next time he got the ball, he made a thunderous dunk over Ostertag.
Asked if he thought Ostertag hit him on purpose, O'Neal said, "It doesn't matter."
The Lakers beat the Jazz 91-84 at Salt Lake City on Nov. 2 in their first meeting this season. Rice led Los Angeles with 28 points that time.
O'Neal had 17 points in the first half of the rematch, helping Los Angeles take a 38-29 lead over the Jazz, who shot 31 percent from the field.
Utah got off to a miserable start, going 6-of-23 in the first quarter as the Lakers moved in front 21-12.
Utah shot 38 percent for the game.
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