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Lakers Pass Another Bump at Speed, Win Fifth in a Row

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Is this any way to run a hospital ward?

No doubt thankful to get another break in the schedule just as they seemed on the verge of breaking down, the Lakers limped on Sunday, coasting over the latest Eastern Conference speed bump put in their way.

After needing to rally from double-digit deficits to beat Detroit and Milwaukee earlier in the week, they handled the Miami Heat with ease, 122-105, with Vlade Divac recording the third triple-double of his career and Anthony Peeler scoring more points than he has in a year and a day.

Once again, with Cedric Ceballos and Sedale Threatt sidelined, the Lakers began the night with 10 players, kept the aspirin handy and hoped things wouldn’t get worse. They didn’t, and the Lakers won their fifth in a row.

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Eddie Jones, playing in pain because of a bruised left hip suffered Friday against Milwaukee, made seven of 10 shots, including four of seven three-point tries, and scored 20 points.

Sam Bowie, tired because of a case of flu, had six points, six rebounds and a couple of nice passes inside.

George Lynch, taking advantage of Ceballos’ missing his second game in a row because of back spasms, started at small forward and played 30 minutes, finishing with 18 points and seven rebounds.

Peeler played a season-high 31 minutes, his most since Jan. 11, 1994, and responded with 23 points, his biggest output since Jan. 7, 1994. He also had five rebounds, four assists and two steals.

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“You would think that all the injuries would be a reason for us to open the floodgates for all the excuses,” Bowie said. “But as you can see, this is a lot different than last year.”

Or as Divac, speaking for the starters, said after collecting 21 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists: “We could just go on the bench and relax. We knew the bench people were going to have a good game.”

They could relax early. The Lakers, who tied their longest winning streak of the season, led by 12 points at the end of the first quarter and 21 late in the second before settling for an 18-point cushion at halftime, shooting 57.8% in the process.

Come the third quarter, the lead reached 27 points, 85-58. Going for respectability from there, the Heat (10-21) got as close as 15 points midway through the final period, but never enough to threaten.

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The only question was who loved it more, the starters or the reserves.

“For this team, it’s a great sign to have the guys come off the bench like that,” Lynch said. “No one has complained about their playing time. That has a lot to do with our success.

“I’m a competitive player. It’s very tough to watch the team win and lose and not be a part of it. Coach (Dean) Smith (his coach at North Carolina) has called about every other day and says keep your head up and enjoy the paycheck. After a while, the paycheck gets old when you see guys on the court playing the game you used to play.”

Said Peeler, who came in averaging only 9.1 minutes a game: “You try to wait for it (an opportunity), but you also stay focused at the same time. We’re playing good as a team, so there’s not much I can say about my playing time. Whenever I get it, I just try to take advantage of it.”

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Like Sunday.

“We’ve been waiting for Anthony to break out sometime and have the kind of game we know he can have,” Coach Del Harris said after the Lakers improved to 20-9. “It was just a matter of him getting started. He’d had trouble getting a good start before, but this is something for him to build on.”

Laker Notes

James Worthy attended his first game at the Forum since retiring Nov. 10. When the video scoreboard showed him during a second-quarter timeout sitting along the baseline near the Laker bench, fans applauded and Worthy smiled. He raised both arms to acknowledge the crowd as the ovation built. The Lakers still plan to retire his jersey No. 42, probably sometime this season. . . . Glen Rice had a game-high 26 points to lead Miami.

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