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Lakers 109, Hornets 100

December 21, 1997

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Nick Van Exel scored 11 points in the final 3:06 as the Los Angeles Lakers gained their league-leading 11th road win with a 109-100 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night.

Van Exel finished with a team-high 24 points to lead seven Lakers in double figures. Eddie Jones contributed 19 points and Rick Fox had 17. Los Angeles connected on 10 of 20 shots from 3-point range.

The Lakers, now 11-5 on the road this year, kept pace with first-place Seattle in the Pacific Division. The Lakers and Sonics have the two best records in the NBA.

Glen Rice led Charlotte with 32 points in a game billed as a matchup between former Laker Vlade Divac and Kobe Bryant, who refused to play for Charlotte and was traded for Divac in 1996.

Divac won the individual battle with 17 points and 18 rebounds. Bryant had 13 points.

Los Angeles led 56-54 at the half, thanks to Jones’ 3-pointer from the left wing with 38.5 seconds left.

The Hornets had led by as many as 10 points during a first period that saw Divac grab nine rebounds in the first eight minutes. Divac had 12 boards before halftime, one fewer than the Lakers’ team total.

Rice scored 19 points in the first half, and Anthony Mason added 14, but Charlotte got only four points from its bench _ all from reserve center Matt Geiger. Jones led Los Angeles with 12 points at the break.

Notes: Though Shaquille O’Neal’s strained abdominal muscle has shown improvement recently, the 7-foot-1 center hasn’t been cleared to play. O’Neal has been pain-free for five days, but no target date for his return to practice has been established... Van Exel needs 19 3-pointers to reach 700 in his fifth year as a pro.

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