Los Angeles rout Suns

Basketball

Shaquille O'Neal and his Laker team-mates have given their coach a share of first place in the Pacific Division for Christmas. O'Neal scored 26 points and grabbed 16 rebounds and Eddie Jones added 24 points to lead Los Angeles to a gift-wrapped 108-87 rout of the Phoenix Suns.

"This was the Christmas present I was hoping for, to be back in first place," Lakers' coach, Del Harris, said. "Our guys played a very nice defensive game and Phoenix is not an easy team to defend."

The Lakers raised their record against divisional opponents to a perfect 8-0 and their overall mark to 20-9 to move into a tie with Seattle atop the Pacific Division.

"We hit our shots well, played good defence and pressured them," said O'Neal, who was the dominant force on the court.

Los Angeles were in control most of the way, although the Suns cut the deficit to eight at 87-79 on Danny Manning's dunk with 6:30 to play.

But the Lakers responded with a 12-0 run as Jones scored five and O'Neal four, increasing the lead to a comfortable 20 points with 2:51 remaining.

Sam Cassell scored 17 to pace the Suns, who have lost three in a row and five of their last seven games and are 0-3 against the Lakers this season.

In Chicago, the defending NBA champion Bulls reminded the Pistons who rules the East, beating Detroit for the 18th consecutive time. Scottie Pippen scored 27 points and Michael Jordan added 23.

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