Whatever their relationship off the court, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal were in full sync Saturday on it.
Bryant scored his first triple-double of the season, and O'Neal had 29 points for the Los Angeles Lakers in their 122-110 victory over Washington in Washington.
Bryant finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, and came up big for the Lakers in several key moments. He hit a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer to help stop a Wizards' run, and his alley-oop pass to O'Neal with 6:30 left in the fourth started an 18-4 run that put the game out of reach.
Bryant "connected a lot with Shaquille and he made some of the better passes to Shaquille for easy shots for him today," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
O'Neal added he and Bryant "always try to click a little bit better during the second half of the season, right after the All-Star Game. As long as he keeps playing like that and as long as I keep playing like that, then we should be fine."
The Wizards kept it close until the final six minutes, thanks largely to Gilbert Arenas, who scored 35 and tied a Wizards record with eight 3-pointers.
But all the Wizards got for their effort was a loss and some bad news — Jerry Stackhouse said after the game he plans to sit out the remainder of the season to rest his ailing left knee. Stackhouse has missed most of the season with a bad right knee and said he returned too early, forcing his left knee to overcompensate.
Stackhouse's loss means the Wizards are without their leading scorer from last year (Stackhouse) and this year, with Larry Hughes (18.7 ppg this year) on the injured list.
Jackson said he had not wanted to play Bryant as much as he did, but felt he needed all of the 38 minutes he got from Bryant to pull out the victory.
Bryant, who took some extra shooting practice before the game, said he's finally feeling healthy after a series of injuries that has forced him to miss 14 games this season.
"You have to understand that I had two surgeries this summer and didn't work out until the first day of training camp," he said. "Now I've built myself back. . . . My strength is good, so I'm able to play."
O'Neal made 13 of 17 shots, many of his baskets coming on dunks the Wizards frontcourt of Brendan Haywood, Kwame Brown and Etan Thomas were unable to defend.
"I'm not big enough to stop Shaq. There's not too many people in the league besides Yao (Ming) who can," said Brown, who score his second straight double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
The Wizards trailed by 15 early in the second half but closed within 85-83 late in the third, with Arenas hitting four 3-pointers in the period. He finished 8-of-11 from behind the arc, tying a Wizards record set by Rex Chapman in 1994. Arenas scored 15 of his 35 in the third, and Stackhouse scored 11 of his 20 points in the period.
"Gilbert was terrific," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said. "It's just hard to match up with Shaq. We threw all of our bigs at him pretty much, and you just can't do a whole lot with him."
Bryant's 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Lakers an 88-83 lead heading into the fourth.
For much of the fourth, the Wizards stayed close, getting within 94-93 on two free throws by Jared Jeffries with 7:29 left.
The Lakers were ahead 98-95 with 6:13 left when they took control of the game. Bryant hit a free throw following a technical foul and later found Luke Walton open for a 3-pointer to make it 102-95. Kareem Rush hit another 3-pointer, and O'Neal converted a three-point play to make it 108-95.
NETS 92, HEAT 86: At East Rutherford, N.J., Kenyon Martin had 18 points, 15 rebounds and an incredible late block as New Jersey got back on track after losing for the first time under Lawrence Frank with a win over Miami.
Richard Jefferson added 25 points and Jason Kidd had four free throws in the final 21.2 seconds to cap a 20-point effort.
MAGIC 104, HAWKS 99: At Atlanta, Tracy McGrady scored 26 of his 30 points before injuring his right ankle, and Orlando snapped a two-game losing skid by beating Atlanta.
McGrady, the leading scorer in the NBA at 27.6 points per game, landed awkwardly on the foot of defender Stephen Jackson after missing a jumper late in the third quarter and immediately began favoring his foot.
PACERS 81, 76ERS 74: At Indianapolis, Jermaine O'Neal and Al Harrington were simply too strong for the banged-up 76ers.
O'Neal had 23 points and eight rebounds, while Harrington finished with 21 points and nine rebounds to lead the Indiana Pacers past the 76ers 81-74 on Saturday night.
GRIZZLIES 97, HORNETS 92: At Memphis, Tenn., James Posey went from being listed as questionable for the game with a leg injury to scoring 24 points and leading Memphis over New Orleans.
MAVERICKS 111, TRAIL BLAZERS 91: At Dallas, Antoine Walker had 25 points and eight rebounds, Steve Nash added 22 points and 11 assists and Dallas extended its winning streak to five games with a victory over Portland.