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Worm Terrific In Lakers Win

Three games into his new life in Los Angeles, Dennis Rodman is injecting the old-fashioned concepts of rebounding, defense and unselfishness to Lakers showtime.

Maybe no one looks more flamboyant than Rodman, but when he's playing, it's hard-hat, basic, gritty basketball.

"It ain't about flash and glamour," he said. "It's all about winning basketball games."

Rodman pulled down 16 rebounds, scored seven second-half points and even offered some late-game advice to interim coach Kurt Rambis in the Lakers' 97-91 victory over the Phoenix Suns Monday night. Rambis listened.

Los Angeles is 3-0 since Rodman joined the team and 4-0 since coach Del Harris was fired.

"A lot of people in this league haven't given me the credit that I think I deserve as far as being a smart individual and a smart player on the basketball floor," Rodman said. "I think people are coming to grips with that now. They say, `He is a smart individual. He knows the game of basketball.' "

Late in the game, he went up to Rambis and suggested he be taken out of the game.

"What player would come up to a coach and say `Take me out and put a free throw shooter in?' " Rambis said.

Rodman would.

"I was just telling him that there are certain situations you put your defensive players in and certain situations where you put your offensive players in," Rodman said. "He's a young coach and I don't think he's thinking at that level yet."

The Lakers are loving Rodman.

"Without a doubt he's a huge shot in the arm," said Derek Harper, who was 4-for-5 from 3-point range and scored 18 points. "He's an effort and an energy player. He's a very intelligent basketball player. It's a lot of fun to just sit and watch Dennis play, because he knows how to play the game."

Harper's last 3-pointer gave Los Angeles the lead for good, 87-85, with 1:08 to play. The Lakers, down by 10 early in the final quarter, outscored the Suns 13-6 over the game's final 1:08.

Shaquille O'Neal scored 25 points, but was 1-for-5 at the foul line. He missed two free throws with 24.3 seconds left and the Lakers leading 90-85, then the Suns' Tom Gugliotta sank a 3-pointer with 13.9 seconds to go.

Kobe Bryant, who had a miserable 3-for-11 shooting night, sank two free throws with 12.4 seconds to play to help clinch the victory.

Gugliotta had 20 points and nine rebounds for Phoenix. Rodman's former Chicago teammate, Luc Longley, added 16 points, his most as a Sun, 14 in the first half.

Jason Kidd, who had 12 points and 11 assists, hit an 18-footer to give the Suns their last lead, 85-84, with 1:26 to play. But, with his team down 93-88, he missed two of three free throws after being fouled by Harper on a 3-point try with 9.5 seconds to play.

The Suns' Rex Chapman, who was 3-for-13 from the field, missed two shots in the last minute.

"Some losses ae harder to swallow than others," Phoenix coach Danny Ainge said. "I felt like we had a chance to win this game. We lost the game mainly because we could not make a shot down the stretch."

Phoenix led 71-61 1½ minutes into the fourth quarter, but Harper and Derek Fisher hit 3-pointers in a 15-6 outburst that put the Lakers ahead 78-77 on Fox's three-point play.

The lead changed hands seven times before Harper put Los Angeles up for good.

"I thought we kind of fell apart there at the end," Gugliotta said.

Gugliotta scored five in a 10-0 Suns run that put Phoenix ahead 65-57 on Chapman's running 13-footer with 2:34 left in the third quarter. The first eight points came before Rodman entered the game for the first time in the second half.

Phoenix led 46-45 at the half as O'Neal and Longley each scored 14, a standoff at center that the Suns could never have expected.

Notes: The teams meet again Wednesday at The Forum. ... Of the Suns' eight victories, none has come against a team that currently has a winning record. ... Both teams were playing their fourth game in five nights. ... Longley had a season-high 12 points with 10:24 still left in the first half. ... The Lakers survived despite 19 turnovers.

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