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NBA MINNESOTA 65 LA LAKERS 78 8:44 LEFT, 4TH QTR 12:38AM ET
(ADDING INFORMATION, QUOTES)
LA LAKERS 96, MINNESOTA 83 --------------------------
LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- As the Los Angeles Lakers paid tribute to their past, they reminded everyone they are just as good now as they were then.
Wearing throwback uniforms to honor their dynastic days in Minneapolis, the Lakers cruised to a 96-83 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves as superstars Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant combined for 60 points.
The two-time defending NBA champions traded in their traditional home colors of gold and forum blue for powder blue with gold trim. Across the front, the uniforms read "MPLS." -- an abbreviation for the city they occupied until moving west in 1960.
"I thought they felt a little goofy in their uniforms at first because it wasn't their normal, natural color," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "But they settled in all right."
"It was fun," guard Derek Fisher said. "You're so used to seeing the purple and gold, the same thing night in and night out. It was a great thing for our organization to recognize, the history from where all things started."
Led by towering center George Mikan, Minneapolis was the NBA's first dynasty, winning five titles in six years from 1949-54. Mikan formed an overpowering frontcourt with Vern Mikkelsen and Jim Pollard and was on hand for a banner-raising ceremony at halftime.
Joining them were forward Clyde Lovellette, guard Slater "Dugie" Martin and coach John Kundla. They were congratulated by former LA Lakers Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Mitch Kupchak, James Worthy, Bill Sharman and Elgin Baylor, the only one of the group to play in both cities.
Powder blue banners honoring the players, coach and titles were hoisted to the rafters of the Staples Center. The current Lakers came out early for the halftime warmups to meet the stars of the team's past.
"They were curious about the Lakers of old," Jackson said. "They met them cordially and shook hands with the guys and talked to them individually."
"It gives you a little history lesson," guard Lindsey Hunter said. "You get to see guys that set the foundation for what we're doing now. It was nice to see some of the forefathers of the league and some of the greatest players ever out there."
O'Neal and Bryant looked odd in the retro uniforms until they started playing. O'Neal scored 32 points on 13-of-19 shooting as he overpowered Minnesota's big men. Bryant added 28 points, making 9-of-20 shots and 10-of-10 free throws.
"I'm from the old school. I like them nice and big," said Bryant, who added a gold headband. "It takes me back to my AAU days in high school. It felt good and I was joking around with the guys and said I'd throw in the headband. I liked it, actually."
The Lakers (55-23) won their 13th straight home game and stayed in the hunt for the Pacific Division title and best record in the Western Conference. Another loss or a win by Sacramento relegates Los Angeles to no better than the third seed.
Kevin Garnett scored 18 points for the Timberwolves (48-31), whose futility in LA against the Lakers continued. They have lost 16 straight visits since March 5, 1993. Minnesota remained two games ahead of sixth-place Portland in the West.
"When you have to play the Lakers, you have to change everything you do so much because of Kobe and Shaq and that makes it extremely difficult," Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. "As I told everyone, until someone can prove that they can beat LA in either a five- or seven-game series, they're going to be the team that you have to go through to beat."
Minnesota hung around for a quarter, forging a 20-20 tie. A 3-pointer by Robert Horry gave LA the lead for good at 26-24 with 9:37 left in the second period.
In the quarter, Bryant scored 10 points as the Lakers shot 53 percent (9-of-17), held the Wolves to 33 percent (6-of-18), forced seven turnovers while committing one and opened a 46-34 halftime lead.
Jumpers by Bryant and O'Neal capped an 11-1 run and widened the advantage to 71-52 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter. Minnesota got no closer than seven points thereafter.
Fisher scored 14 points and Samaki Walker swept 10 boards for the Lakers, who shot 45.5 percent (35-of-77) and committed just 10 turnovers.
Wally Szczerbiak and former Laker Anthony Peeler scored 16 points each for the Wolves, who shot just 33 percent (27-of-81) and missed 12-of-36 free throws. 3:20AM ET
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