O'Neal powers Lakers to win

Boozer scores 25 points as Cavs falter in overtime

Posted: Thursday, February 05, 2004

CLEVELAND - Shaquille O'Neal had nothing to complain or curse about.

O'Neal returned from a one-game suspension and scored a season-high 37 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 111-106 overtime victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.

Gary Payton added a season-high 30 points as the Lakers improved to 2-1 on a seven-game road trip - the club's longest since 1992.

O'Neal was back after serving a one-game NBA suspension for profanely criticizing officials during a live TV interview following a win at Toronto on Sunday.

But he said he isn't sorry for his R-rated comments. And he had no qualms with these officials as he was able to foul out both of Cleveland's 7-foot centers, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and DeSagana Diop, and attempted 20 free throws.

"I said what I felt," said O'Neal, who wanted to score 50. "You can never control me. I'm a 31-year-old juvenile delinquent. No one can control me."

O'Neal finished 9-of-20 from the line, and the rest of the Lakers weren't much better, making just 26-of-40 (62 percent).

But when it counted most, O'Neal and his teammates, who attempted 38 free throws after halftime, stepped up and drilled their foul shots.

Los Angeles scored its final 10 points on free throws, sinking its final eight tries while outscoring the Cavs 19-14 in overtime.

LeBron James scored 32 points - including three 3-pointers in OT - but shot an airball from 21 feet with a chance to win it at the end of regulation.

"It was right on line," Cleveland's rookie star said. "It just fell short."

Carlos Boozer had 25 points and 16 rebounds and Eric Williams scored all 20 of his points after halftime for the Cavs, who despite the loss are 7-3 since Jan. 17.

Leading by two, the Cavs decided to employ the "Hack a Shaq" strategy and fouled O'Neal with 32.9 seconds remaining in regulation. But L.A's big man dropped in two knuckleballs to tie it 92-92.

Jeff McInnis missed a runner in the lane with 14 seconds left, but Boozer tipped the ball back out to give the Cavs a final chance.

James ran the clock down to about three seconds, but instead of driving to the basket on Payton, he chose to try an off-balance fadeaway jumper that barely grazed the net.

"I took a swipe at it but didn't get it, and he shot an airball," Payton said. "I knew what was going down and I played him hard. I figured I'd make him take the fadeaway but make him think I might get a piece of it."

Cavs coach Paul Silas didn't second-guess his young star's decision to try an outside shot.

"You've got the ball in your best player's hands," Silas said. "I couldn't ask for more."

O'Neal scored underneath to open overtime, and after the Cavs missed their first three shots - all from the perimeter - Payton's jumper put the Lakers up by six. James tried to rally the Cavs with his 3s, but the Lakers closed it out at the line.

O'Neal said he had no regrets about the suspension, and his only complaint was his foul shooting.

"If I would have hit my shots, I would have had 50," he said.

Rookie Maurice Carter, playing in just his second game since being signed as a free agent by the Lakers last week, made five free throws in the final 53 seconds to ice it.



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