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  Tuesday, Dec. 7 10:30pm ET
Lakers claim seventh consecutive win

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Defense, not exactly "Showtime" material, has been serving the new-look Los Angeles Lakers well.

For the sixth time in seven games, the Lakers held their opponent under 85 points, beating the Washington Wizards 91-80 Tuesday night and running their winning streak to seven.

The victory moved Los Angeles into first place in the Pacific Division, a half-game ahead of Portland, which lost to Miami. The Lakers' 15-4 record is the best in the NBA.

Shaquille O'Neal, thriving under new coach Phil Jackson's system, played all but two minutes of the game and had 30 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks.

Robert Horry blocked five shots and Los Angeles had a total of 15.

Kobe Bryant, who scored 21 points, said people are probably surprised to see the Lakers playing such tough defense.

"`You never thought the `Lake Show,' would do it, huh?" Bryant said, alluding to one of the names Magic Johnson stuck on the Lakers' style of play.

"I think the addition of veteran players has helped," Bryant said. "Guys like me, Derek Fisher and Shaq have obviously been around the block and we know that defense is going to win games, and most importantly, championships.

"And mixing us with the veteran guys, who have obviously been there before, we have a good combination."

Jackson, asked about the improving defense, said: "We knew these guys had potential. Tonight they had to dig down a little bit."

Although the Lakers led almost all the way, the Wizards stayed close before Los Angeles opened an 11-point lead five minutes into the fourth quarter.

The Wizards got no closer than six points the rest of the way and lost their fifth straight.

Bryant, still coming off the bench after returning from a broken right hand four games ago, scored 10 points in the final four minutes.

Mitch Richmond led the Wizards with 23 points, and Rod Strickland had 15.

Washington coach Gar Heard was not happy with the officiating.

"I thought a lot of calls went the other way," he said. "They shoot 38 free throws and we shoot 20, and most of those were shot in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter.

"Something's got to happen. Either I'm seeing a different game than the official, or maybe I need glasses."

The Lakers pulled away from a 51-50 lead in the final 3+ minutes of the third period and were up 58-53 heading into the fourth. A pair of free throws by Bryant with 7:01 left in the game gave them a 70-59 lead.

O'Neal had 10 points and 11 rebounds in the first half, and Rick Fox chipped in with 10 points off the bench as Los Angeles led 41-40 at halftime.

Richmond's 13 points helped the Wizards stay close despite their 35 percent shooting in the first half.

Although Los Angeles was in front most of the first half, Washington was never more than six points back.

Game notes
Fox will wear a splint on the ring finger of his left, non-shooting hand for the next six weeks. He tore a tendon at the tip of his finger two days earlier against Orlando. ... Washington and Los Angeles didn't play during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. The Lakers won the last meeting, 116-89, on March 28, 1998.


NBA Scoreboard

Washington Clubhouse

LA Lakers Clubhouse

Toronto 101
Cleveland 98

New York 89
Golden State 83

Indiana 83
San Antonio 77

Detroit 116
Milwaukee 112

Vancouver 104
Dallas 95

Phoenix 110
Orlando 107

Miami 86
Portland 76

LA Lakers 91
Washington 80