Cavs spoil O'Neal's surprise return

Posted: Monday, October 20, 2003

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Shaquille O'Neal made a surprise return to the lineup and was his usual erratic self at the free throw line as the Los Angeles Lakers lost 102-87 to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night.

After missing three games because of a bruised left heel, O'Neal told coach Phil Jackson he was ready to play just a few minutes before tipoff.

"I said it would be nice if I had someone to go with, and he suited up," Lakers teammate Karl Malone said. "Even though it's a preseason game, that meant a lot to me.

"Now, we're looking forward to getting Kobe in the mix next."

O'Neal went 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the first quarter, then missed eight of 12 attempts in the third quarter.

Ricky Davis led Cleveland with 27 points on 11-for-16 shooting, including a spectacular follow dunk off a missed free throw at the third quarter buzzer.

LeBron James grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds but again had trouble with his outside shot - though not to the degree that he struggled in Cleveland's first five games. The 18-year-old rookie had 14 points, three assists, five turnovers and five fouls before leaving with 7:22 remaining and the Cavaliers ahead by 18.

Kevin Ollie added 15 points for the Cavs, making his first six shots.

Former Juneau-Douglas High School star Carlos Boozer scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds for Cleveland, his first single-digit rebound performance of the preseason.

Davis improved his scoring average by 8.9 points last season, the largest improvement by any player in the NBA. But his shot selection was often terrible on a team with few other offensive options.

And his field goal percentage was just 41 percent.

"I'd like to get it up above 50 percent this season," Davis said.

That was not a problem in this game as Davis shot 8-for-9 in the first half to help Cleveland take a 57-33 lead. O'Neal scored 14 of his 20 points in the third quarter, but the Lakers did not gain any ground and never threatened in the fourth.

Kobe Bryant was not with the Lakers. He could learn as early as today whether he will stand trial on a sexual assault charge in Eagle, Colo.

Lakers forward Slava Medvedenko left the game in the first half with a bruised left heel and did not return.

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