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Other ex-Laker propels Miami
Published December 26, 2005
MIAMI - Gary Payton distances himself from what he calls "the Shaq-Kobe nonsense," saying he stays neutral because he's friendly with both.
Choosing sides on the court, well, that's another matter. Shaquille O'Neal is clearly Payton's favorite.
Payton tied a season high with 21 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer off O'Neal's assist with 1:05 left, as Miami beat the Los Angeles Lakers 97-92 on Sunday, the Heat's second straight Christmas triumph over Kobe Bryant's team.
"I've been in the league too long for me to be proud of anything right now," Payton, in his 16th season, said. "I've had great games. I've had marvelous games. So this is really not (anything) to me. We've still got a lot of games. We're still trying to build."
Bryant, who missed a 3-pointer at the end of the Lakers' 104-102 loss to Miami last Christmas, missed a potential tiebreaker from behind the arc in the final seconds, sealing the Lakers' fourth straight Christmas loss.
With Payton hounding him for much of the second half, Bryant finished with 37 points on 12-of-30 shooting, including 0-for-8 on 3-pointers.
"Gary's been a hell of a defender his entire career," Bryant said. "He taught me how to play defense."
O'Neal had 18 points and 17 rebounds, and Dwyane Wade added 18 points for the Heat. Brian Cook had 15 points and Lamar Odom 14 points and 16 rebounds for the Lakers, who lost for the third time in 12 games.
Payton spent 2003-04 with the Lakers, the season they lost to Detroit in the NBA Finals and the last season O'Neal and Bryant were teammates. The 37-year-old guard went there because he thought O'Neal could help him win an elusive first title and signed a one-year deal with Miami to continue that pursuit.
"We didn't bring him here on a gurney," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "This is not a quick trip to South Beach. He still has the ability to make some big plays, and at the same time he did a great job defending Kobe."
Most of the sellout crowd wore red shirts, some donned Santa hats and banged candy-cane-striped noisemakers. There was some holiday cheer, of course: Lakers coach Phil Jackson strode to the Heat bench a few minutes before tipoff, shook hands with Riley, his longtime rival, then shared a quick hug with O'Neal, who teamed with Jackson to win three championships with the Lakers.
But the O'Neal-Bryant relationship seemed frostier than ever.
They wouldn't acknowledge or look at each other before the game, not shaking hands like last year before the Christmas tipoff in Los Angeles. Their first contact was 23 seconds in, when O'Neal fouled Bryant while setting a pick for Wade and drew big cheers when Bryant tumbled.
PISTONS 85, SPURS 70: This was not just another game for Antonio McDyess. He was still stung by Detroit's loss in the NBA Finals six months ago.
The reserve forward came through with a season-high 13 rebounds and 10 points for the host Pistons in a rematch of the title series, which featured the teams with the league's best records.
"I was a little more motivated for the win," McDyess said after his first double double of the season. "It was my first finals. To lose like we did, I'm going to remember it for the rest of my life."
McDyess seemed to take the setback the hardest because he wasn't on the team when it won the title two seasons ago.
"He was so close and it sort of slipped away," teammate Ben Wallace said.
Detroit dominated this gritty defensive struggle. The Pistons held the Spurs to eight first-quarter points, their fewest ever, as they missed 13 of their last 14 shots.