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LAKERS' TRADE PAYS OFF; EX-HORNET RICE STINGS HIS OLD TEAM LAKERS 87, CHARLOTTE 83.

Byline: Howard Beck Staff Writer

Eddie Jones could only play spectator. Glen Rice's play, first a spectacle, became spectacular.

And when the principals in the The Trade finally shared the floor Friday night, Rice did his best to justify the Lakers' March 1999 decision to bring him to L.A., and send fan favorite Jones to Charlotte.

With the Lakers' winning streak in severe jeopardy, with an injured Jones watching from the bench, with the Staples Center throng still chanting ``Ed-die'' at odd moments, Rice stepped forward and maybe at last earned his own following.

He scored 10 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, including a momentum-turning 3-pointer with 2:36 remaining, leading the Lakers to a narrow 87-83 victory over the Hornets.

Rice was 1 for 6 entering the final quarter and had virtually disappeared. Then, suddenly, he was everywhere. He gathered six rebounds, snatched three steals and didn't miss a shot in the final 12 minutes.

It wasn't enough to start a ``Glen Rice'' chant, but it was enough to extend the Lakers' winning streak to 13. Not that Rice is seeking redemption for the controversial trade that made him a Laker, or vengeance on his former team.

``Every game is special when we can go out there and get a `W,' '' he said. ``Just because it was against the Charlotte Hornets, it really doesn't mean anything to me.'' But, he would admit, ``It was fun, it was a lot of fun. It was a very competitive game. . . . We didn't play our best game.

It's going to be scary when we really get on top of our game.'' The way they're playing now is scary enough. And the Lakers never needed Rice's scoring more than they did against his old team.

Shaquille O'Neal struggled to navigate the Hornets' sea of big bodies,including ex-Laker Elden Campbell, and finished with a below-average 23points. Kobe Bryant, Jones' close friend and replacement, seemed out of sorts and missed 14 of 19 shots. He finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and five turnovers, playing the fourth quarter with five fouls.

``We shouldn't be proud of this win at all,'' O'Neal said.

Shooting in the 30-percent zone for the first three quarters, the Lakers trailed continuously from tipoff until deep into the fourth quarter. And they were down by 13 early in the final period before Bryant, Rice and O'Neal came alive, mounting a 20-5 run that got them their first lead, 80-78.

The go-ahead shot was Rice's dramatic 3-pointer. He followed that with a steal of Anthony Mason's lazy pass toward the paint. The Hornets - sans Jones, and with Campbell on the bench after fouling out - fell behind by six, but pulled within two, 85-83, with 13.4 seconds left.

Bobby Phills, one of three Hornets with 17 points, had the chance to hit the potential game-winner. But with 3.5 seconds left, he stepped out of bounds in the left corner as he attempted a 3-pointer.

Rice then nailed two game-clinching free throws with three seconds remaining, and sending the Hornets to their fourth straight loss. They're 2-6 since Jones injured his left elbow in late December.

``I think this game was a product of what has been going on with this team over the last couple of games - the meltdown over the New Year that we had as a team,'' coach Phil Jackson said.

Bryant acquitted himself with a late surge, but he dribbled into a turnover in the closing minutes.

``He almost cost us the game,'' Jackson said. ``That's where Kobe has to learn to let the team do the work sometimes, and not his own spectacular ability.''

But the streak lives, thanks in large part to Rice.

``I think Glen is a fabulous player,'' O'Neal said. ``Of course, you hate to see a guy like Eddie go, but we traded a (star) and we got a (star) back. . . . Yeah, I miss Eddie, but I don't miss anybody else. I'm glad Glen's here. Glen is one of the greatest shooters in the game, and every dominant big man needs a great shooter.''

CAPTION(S):

photo, box

Photo: (color) Lakers' Kobe Bryant, right, and Glen Rice go up for rebound during Lakers' win over Charlotte.

David R. Crane/Staff Photographer

BOX: GAME RECAP
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 8, 2000
Words:715
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