The San Antonio Spurs may be defending champions, but it's the Los Angeles Lakers who rule the NBA these days.
Shaquille O'Neal had 32 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocked shots last night as the Lakers pulled away to beat the visiting Spurs, 99-93.
The victory was the eighth straight and 15th in 16 games for the Lakers, whose 23-5 record is the NBA's best. The Spurs lost for the seventh time in 12 games after starting 14-3.
Glen Rice scored 25 points and Kobe Bryant added 18 despite making only 7 of 19 shots for the Lakers.
Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 28 points and nine rebounds, but made only one of his first 12 shots and finished 8 of 23 before fouling out with two minutes left. San Antonio's David Robinson was held to nine points, but had 19 rebounds.
The game was the first between the teams since the Spurs swept in the Lakers in a second-round playoff series last May en route to their first NBA championship.
The Spurs, who trailed most of the way, scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to take a 73-71 lead.
However, with O'Neal scoring seven points, Los Angeles responded with a 14-4 spurt that made it 85-77 with 5:11 left.
PACERS 101, KNICKS 90: Reggie Miller did it to visiting New York again, and this time the Indiana veteran did it on both ends of the court.
Miller scored 26 points to lead the Pacers in the first meeting of the season between the Eastern Conference rivals, who battled through a six-game conference final last season, when the Knicks upset the Central Division champions.
"This was a huge, huge win for us and could be a great statement game," said Miller, who also made significant defensive contributions against Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell.
New York's Kurt Thomas and Indiana's Jalen Rose were ejected after swinging at each other following a collision. Thomas initiated the contact and hit Rose with a forearm to the face.
Sprewell led the Knicks with 23 points, and Larry Johnson and Patrick Ewing added 16 each. Dale Davis and reserve Sam Perkins scored 14 apiece for Indiana. Reserve forward Austin Croshere contributed 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Pacers.