Coach Del Harris realized his Los Angeles Lakers beat Orlando wh
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) _ Coach Del Harris realized his Los Angeles Lakers beat Orlando when the Magic weren’t at full strength. He didn’t want to hear a word about it.
Cedric Ceballos scored 33 points and rookie Eddie Jones scored 11 of his 17 in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter Sunday night as the Lakers clinched a playoff berth by beating the Magic 119-112.
The Magic played without All-Star point guard Anfernee Hardaway, who was sidelined because of dehydration that caused him to be hospitalized for much of the day.
Rookie Brooks Thompson replaced Hardaway in Orlando’s starting lineup and scored a season-high 20 points. The Magic also played without reserve guard Brian Shaw, who has a strained left groin.
``I didn’t hear one word how they had beaten us by four points down there and we didn’t have three starters (Ceballos, Jones and Elden Campbell),″ Harris said of the Magic’s 114-110 homecourt victory over the Lakers on March 8. ``Brooks Thompson got 20 points for the guy who didn’t play, so how bad did they miss the guy?
``Even without Hardaway, I think we beat a good team.″
The Magic was a team good enough to bring the NBA’s best record into the game. But by losing, Orlando fell to 53-19, percentage points behind San Antonio for the league’s best record.
The Lakers (45-26) have made quite a turnaround from last season, when they failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 1976, finishing with a 33-49 record.
``You can’t win a championship until you get in the playoffs,″ said Harris, in his first season as the team’s coach. ``That’s the bottom line. You never know if you’re going to get in the playoffs until you get the invitation. Now, we’ve got it.″
Campbell was only sidelined temporarily last month, but Ceballos and Jones each missed several weeks because of injuries.
Hardaway was released from Centinela Hospital shortly after the game. Lori Hamamoto, the Magic’s assistant director of media relations, said Hardaway would be with the team when it flew home early today.
``He had a bad sore throat, so he was having a hard time swallowing,″ Hamamoto said shortly before the opening tipoff. ``He came to the shootaround this morning, he got light-headed, and the trainer took him to Centinela Hospital.
``He’s been diagnosed as having dehydration. He should be fine.″
Hamamoto didn’t know if Hardaway would be able to play in Orlando’s next game, at home Wednesday night against the Detroit Pistons.
After the Lakers scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 88, Jones outscored the Magic 9-2 during a span of less than two minutes to give them a 101-97 lead, and they stayed on top the rest of the way.
After Thompson’s 3-pointer, Nick Van Exel scored five straight points to give Los Angeles a 106-100 advantage with four minutes left. The Magic got within two points before the Lakers scored five straight to make it 111-104, and they weren’t threatened after that.
``We just had some critical turnovers and they made key shots,″ Magic coach Bob Hill said. ``We were in a position to win, we just didn’t pull it through.
``Brooks did an excellent job, I won’t hesitate to use him again. But to win on the road, especially in L.A. without Hardaway, is close to impossible.″
The Magic committed 18 turnovers to only eight for the Lakers in a game where neither team led by more than eight points.
Sedale Threatt finished with 19 points and Van Exel had 16 points and nine assists for the Lakers, who have won seven of their last eight games.
Lakers center Vlade Divac, averaging 16.3 points and 10.6 rebounds, had just two points and six rebounds.
Shaquille O’Neal led the Magic with 27 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Horace Grant added 18 points.
O’Neal thought the whole team played soft, including himself.
``I’m very disappointed with our effort,″ he said. ``If we expect to win the championship, then we need to play better than we did tonight.″