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NEW MATH: 61=16 SHAQ CELEBRATES BIRTHDAY WITH CAREER POINTS HIGH; LAKERS STREAK ON LAKERS 123, CLIPPERS 103.

Byline: Randy Hill Staff Writer

To fulfill the entertainment requirement for Shaquille O'Neal's 28th birthday party, there was only one call to make:

Send in the Clippers. They haven't been able to hold a candle to anybody.

OK, so the NBA's worst team wasn't clowning around this time, but when Monday night's final numbers were tallied, the Lakers had their 16th consecutive victory, a relative cakewalk 123-103 win in front of 20,385 at Staples Center. According to the custodians of L.A. hoop history, it was the largest crowd ever to witness a game in this city.

To celebrate, O'Neal used many happy returns to the low post, finishing with a career-high 61 points and 21 rebounds. He made 24 of his 35 rim-roasting field-goal attempts and 13 of 22 free throws.

``It's tough going against Goliath,'' said interim Clippers coach Jim Todd, who smiled for this next line. ``I think he could have stopped at 50.''

Said O'Neal, ``My teammates kept saying, `We're gonna getcha 50, we're gonna getcha 50.' When I got 50, they said, `We're gonna getcha 60.' My teammates took care of me.''

And O'Neal demonstrated his gratitude by taking care of the Clippers. During his postmortem mumble, O'Neal was asked if he was able to muster of crumb of pity for the vanquished neighbors.

``Nope.''

With this triumph, the league's best team equaled the sweet 16 in a row it won between mid-December and mid-January.

``I want a 16-game streak in the playoffs,'' said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, whose crew now has a three-game Pacific Division lead on the Portland Trail Blazers, who were whipped Monday by the Toronto Raptors. ``That's the only streak I care about.''

The Clippers (12-48) said ``Uncle!'' for the 30th time in their last 33 games. And they did it by following the tired Clippers format.

In the usual preamble to their second-half annihilation, the Clips really went to town in the first quarter. They achieved their biggest lead at 27-18 when Maurice Taylor (a team-high 25 points) nailed a 15-foot jumper from the left baseline with 3:16 left in the quarter.

Michael Olowokandi, whose duels with O'Neal often resemble a surfboard in the path of a tsunami, followed the script by picking up his third foul with only 4:17 elapsed.

``With Olowokandi in foul trouble,'' said Jackson, illuminating the obvious, ``they (Clippers) couldn't put a big body out there.''

A night's work for Olowokandi spanned 14 minutes, producing two points - on free throws - and four rebounds. Taylor and Lamar Odom also failed to escape the first quarter before picking up two picky fouls apiece.

``We always get touch fouls,'' Taylor said.

Behind 10 points and six rebounds from Odom, the Clips led 29-24 entering the second quarter.

O'Neal spent the second quarter matched against Clipper subs Anthony Avent and Pete Chilcutt, who represent as much resistance as barnacles on the belly of a cruise ship. O'Neal went for 16 points in the quarter, which ended on a Kobe Bryant runner that gave the Lakers their first lead, 56-55. Bryant's final line included 22 points and five of the Lakers' 31 assists.

Odom, by the way, earned his third foul midway through the period in a less-than-cerebral bid to strip the ball from O'Neal during the prologue to another slam.

The party favors continued after intermission, as O'Neal pounded the Clippers for 16 points in the third quarter. Glen Rice added 11 and Bryant contributed nine. Clipper Derek Anderson (21 points) had nine for the Clippers, who trailed 92-80 heading into the final stanza.

O'Neal continued mugging the Clippers defense, flipping home points 60 and 61 with just over three minutes to play. Jackson called off the league's alpha dog with 2:33 remaining before the mercy of the final horn.

SCORING MACHINE

Shaquille O'Neal scored a career-high 61 points in Monday's victory over the Clippers. A look at the all-time individual single-game highs in Lakers history:

YEAR..PLAYER...........OPPONENT.....POINTS

1960..Elgin Baylor.....New York.....71

1969..Wilt Chamberlain Phoenix......66

1959..Elgin Baylor.....Boston.......64

1961..Elgin Baylor.....Philadelphia 63

1962..Jerry West.......New York.....63

1952..George Mikan.....Rochester....61

2000..Shaquille O'Neal Clippers.....61

FINALS BOUND?

Since the 1980-81 season, 18 teams - including this year's Lakers - have had two double-digit winning streaks. Twelve of those teams reached the NBA Finals. Only four teams in NBA history have had two streaks of at least 15 consecutive wins:

YEAR....TEAM................STREAKS

1946-47 Washington Capitols 17 and 15 wins

Result: Reached NBA semifinals

1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks.....16 and 20 wins

Result: Won NBA championship

1996-97 Utah Jazz...........15 and 15 wins

Result: Lost to Bulls in NBA Finals

1999-00 Lakers..............16 and 15 wins

Result: Best record as of March 7

CAPTION(S):

photo, 2 boxes, chart

Photo: (color) Clippers defender Anthony Avent is defenseless as Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal pumps in two of his 61 points.

Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer

Box:

(1) SCORING MACHINE (see text)

(2) FINALS BOUND? (see text)

Chart: GAME RECAP
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 7, 2000
Words:839
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