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  Wednesday, Nov. 10 8:00pm ET
Rockets big losers, dropping to 0-5

HOUSTON (AP) -- Even with Shaquille O'Neal ejected from the game, the Los Angles Lakers still had enough in reserve to beat the stumbling Houston Rockets.

O'Neal and Charles Barkley were ejected for a second-quarter scuffle, and Glen Rice scored 24 points as the Lakers beat the winless Rockets 89-88 Wednesday night.

Rick Fox, Glen Rice, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal
The Lakers' Rick Fox, left, and Glen Rice, top, try to pull Charles Barkley off as he punches Shaquille O'Neal.

The Lakers won for the fifth time in six games but had to do it the hard way.

"He (Barkley) did one of his Charles-like things; he just didn't want to play tonight," O'Neal said. "Obviously he is frustrated the way his team is playing. He wasn't doing much and his team is 0-5."

O'Neal and Barkley were ejected after a scuffle under the Rockets basket with 9:03 left in the second quarter.

Barkley went up for a layup, but was blocked by O'Neal and the ball went out of bounds. Barkley retrieved the ball and got a small shove from O'Neal.

Barkley then threw the ball at O'Neal and the two grappled each other to the floor as players and coaches from both teams rushed to stop the scuffle.

"At first, I didn't think Shaq did anything," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "But in looking at it from a different angle, it look like he (Shaq) might have tried to shove him with an open hand to the shoulder or something.

"For whatever reason, Charles was upset and instigated it. It sure changed the complexity of the game. It was an exciting game after that."

Barkley defended his actions.

"I can't let him hit me and get away with it," Barkley said. "My grandma would be mad at me if I let him get away with it. I had to defend myself."

The Lakers led 50-49 at the half and the Rockets got only one brief lead in the second half, 78-77 after a three-point play by Hakeem Olajuwon with 7:22 left in the third period.

The Lakers led 89-84 with 1:38 left, but the Rockets pulled within one point on a basket by Carlos Rogers with 57 seconds remaining and two free throws by Steve Francis with 38 seconds left.

Francis, who led Houston with 26 points, took the final shot for Houston but time already had expired. Olajuwon finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. A.C. Green had 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers.

"I guess I waited too long to get the shot off," Francis said. "By the time I got to the free-throw line, I thought I had enough time to get the shot off, but I guess I didn't."

Los Angeles made only three of its first 13 shots, but rallied to a 30-26 lead before O'Neal and Barkley were ejected.

After play resumed, Houston broke a 37-37 tie on a driving layup by Francis and led 47-39 with 1:43 left in the half. The Lakers took a 50-49 halftime lead on Green's 37-foot shot at the buzzer.

Ron Harper, scoreless in the first half, had eight points in the third quarter and Devean George hit a 3-pointer with one second left, keeping the Lakers in the lead 68-66 at the end of the third quarter.

It was O'Neal's second ejection in five days. He also was tossed from Saturday's game at Portland when he retaliated for what he thought was overly aggressive fouling by the Trail Blazers.

O'Neal, who is shooting only 35 percent from the line this season, didn't shoot any free throws before getting ejected. He finished with seven points and six rebounds, while Barkley had five points and four rebounds.

Game notes
The Rockets and Lakers met for the first time since Los Angeles eliminated Houston 3-1 in the first round of last season's playoffs. ... The Rockets are 9-10 against Phil Jackson-coached teams. ... After drawing 148 consecutive home sellouts, the Rockets have failed to sell out two games this season.

NBA Scoreboard

LA Lakers Clubhouse

Houston Clubhouse

Shaq, Barkley ejected after throwing blows

Detroit 110
Boston 92

Seattle 109
Washington 95

Charlotte 117
Milwaukee 111

Phoenix 104
New Jersey 89

Orlando 110
Philadelphia 105

LA Lakers 89
Houston 88

Vancouver 102
Atlanta 97

San Antonio 99
LA Clippers 94

 Shaquille O'Neal says Charles Barkley was lucky.
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