- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2003

LOS ANGELES — Another game without Shaquille O’Neal, another blowout victory for the Los Angeles Lakers.

It’s obviously nothing more than coincidence.

“We want him back in the worst way,” Karl Malone said after the Lakers took command early in beating the Washington Wizards 120-99 on Wednesday night.

“It is impressive, but hey, we realize who he is and what he means to us. Guys have just found their stroke a little bit. Let’s not put the buggy ahead of the horse. We know what he means to us.”

Kobe Bryant scored 22 points and Devean George had a season-high 18 points for the Lakers, who shot 61.4 percent (43-for-70).

Eight Los Angeles players scored in double figures, something that hadn’t happened for the Lakers since Feb.19, 1998.

“They spanked us pretty good,” Washington’s Kwame Brown said. “If Shaq was in the game, who knows?”

The Wizards lost for the seventh time in 10 games. They played their second game without leading scorer Gilbert Arenas, who went on the injured list Tuesday with a severe abdominal strain.

Derek Fisher and Kareem Rush added 14 points each and Malone had 13 for the Lakers. None of the Los Angeles starters played in the fourth quarter.

Rookie Jarvis Hayes led Washington with 22 points to equal his career high. Juan Dixon added a season-high 20 points for the Wizards, who had six players in double figures.

“Those are the type of ones you forget about — throw away the tape,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “They are playing for a championship. They showed it. We’re just not good enough now to compete at their highest level.”

The Lakers shot 59.2 percent without O’Neal in a 121-89 victory over Memphis on Sunday night.

The game was essentially over by halftime, when the Lakers held a 61-36 lead. The Wizards (6-9) were playing their fourth road game in six nights.

O’Neal, who has a strained muscle in his right calf, said he hopes to return Friday night against the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.

“Right now, I’m about 70 percent,” he said before the game. “If I can get it up to 80, I’ll be ready to go.”

The win was the fourth straight and seventh in eight games for the Lakers (12-3). It also extended their regular-season home winning streak to 23, including eight this season.

A three-point play by George with 7:33 remaining in the third quarter gave the Lakers a 73-44 lead. It was 92-69 entering the final period.

Hayes scored eight points and Dixon added five as the Wizards outscored the Lakers 15-8 to start the fourth quarter, making it 100-84.

But Bryon Russell and Fisher made back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Lakers ahead by 22.

Medvedenko and Fisher scored seven points each during a 22-7 run that extended the Lakers’ lead to 57-32 late in the second quarter.

The Lakers scored 10 straight points — five by Bryant — for a 14-6 lead in the opening 4:15 of play.

They led the rest of the way.

Notes — The win was the 11th straight for the Lakers over the Wizards in Los Angeles. … The game was the fourth in six nights for the Wizards — all on the road. They entertain Detroit tomorrow before beginning another four-game road trip Tuesday at Dallas.

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