Shaquille O'Neal scored 24 points and Kobe Bryant added 20, including four in the final 36 seconds, as the Los Angeles Lakers erased an 18-point deficit and beat the Bucks, 98-94, last night in Milwaukee.

The victory moved Los Angeles (37-28) into a tie with Utah for the sixth playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Michael Redd scored 21 points and Sam Cassell 20 for Milwaukee, which was held to 30 second-half points in its third straight loss. The Bucks (32-34) dropped into a tie with Washington for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Bryant hit a 20-foot jumper with Gary Payton guarding him tightly to give the Lakers a 96-91 lead with 36 seconds to go. Cassell made a three-pointer with six seconds left and Bryant hit two free throws with 4.9 seconds to go for the final score.

"Gary Payton is smaller than me and I was able to elevate and get the shot I needed," Bryant said.

Los Angeles gave up an average of 108 points during the first three games of its six-game road trip, and allowed Milwaukee to score 64 in the first half. The Lakers stepped up their defense after halftime, holding the Bucks to a season-low eight points in the third quarter.

* CELTICS 81, PISTONS 71: Paul Pierce scored 33 points as visiting Boston atoned for one of its most dubious losses.

It was the first meeting between the teams since Detroit won, 118-66, on Jan. 31 in Boston -- the most lopsided loss in the Celtics' long history. The 52-point margin also was the largest in the Pistons' history.

Antoine Walker added 17 points for the Celtics, who have won seven of 10.

Chauncey Billups scored 19 points and Ben Wallace had 21 rebounds to lead Detroit, which had won four straight.

* MAGIC 96, HORNETS 86: Tracy McGrady had 33 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists to hand visiting New Orleans just its third loss in the last 13 games.

Gordan Giricek had 13 points and seven rebounds, and Drew Gooden added nine points and 11 rebounds.

Orlando (34-33), which had lost three of its last four, avoided a drop below .500 for the first time in two weeks.

The Magic outrebounded New Orleans 48-42, leading to the Magic's 29-10 advantage in second-chance points. It was the first time in 21 games that the Hornets failed to top their opponent on the boards.

David Wesley scored 24 points, nine in the first quarter, to lead the Hornets. P.J. Brown had 18 while Jamaal Magloire added 15 points and nine rebounds.

* WARRIORS 94, SUPERSONICS 88: Antawn Jamison scored 26 points to lead five players in double figures as Golden State won in Seattle.

Magic's Drew Gooden gets his shot off despite defense of Hornets' Jamaal Magloire, left, and P.J. Brown.