Friday, December 24, 2004

Sonics Soar Over Nuggets

Despite playing with the flu, Ray Allen helped the Seattle SuperSonics snap out of their slump.

Allen scored 20 points and Rashard Lewis added 21 as the SuperSonics handed the Denver Nuggets their fourth straight loss without Carmelo Anthony, 98-83.

After opening the season with an NBA-best record of 17-3, Seattle had struggled recently, losing two of three at home.

"This one had all the signs of a letdown," Allen said of the Sonics, who had not played since losing to Phoenix last Friday. "This was a tough game. We needed to redevelop that rhythm we have been playing with."

Playing with the virus, Allen shook off a poor first quarter to temporarily take over in the second period. After a jumper by Andre Miller drew the Nuggets within 28-25 with just under 10 minutes left in the half, Allen scored the Sonics' next five points to ignite an 18-3 run that made it 46-28 with 3 1/2 minutes to play.

"I was just trying to work through the headache that I had," Allen said. "There never was a time that I thought I would not play."

Seattle never trailed and held a 53-38 lead at the break. Kenyon Martin tried to bring Denver back, scoring 16 of his 18 points in the third period to draw the Nuggets within 79-71 entering the fourth quarter.

Allen started a spurt once again with a jumper at the start of the final period. He added a runner as Seattle outscored Denver, 13-5, in a six-minute stretch to make it 92-76.

The Sonics looked rusty after a four-day layoff, shooting just 35 percent (8-of-23) from the field in the first quarter. The Nuggets failed to take advantage, however, turning the ball over eight times and falling behind, 24-15.

Lewis was the one player who did not appear sluggish at the start. He scored seven points while playing all 12 minutes.

"We really didn't know how the guys would come out after being off for four days," Sonics coach Nate McMillan said. "I thought these guys came out and played. Ray looked weak, but Rashard had it going."

Allen was not the only Sonic under the weather. Reserve Antonio Daniels, who had been averaging 12.2 points, missed the game with severe tonsillitis. Ronald Murray made up for Daniels' absence with 15 points, as the Sonics' bench outscored the Nuggets' reserves, 43-34.

"It felt good to go out there and get a chance to play a little bit," said Murray, who had missed 19 games with a quadriceps strain. "The best thing about us is that we have more than one unit."

Andre Miller had 20 points and seven assists for Denver, which has lost six of seven. Anthony has not played since spraining his left ankle in the third quarter of Denver's loss to Miami on Friday.

Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik refused to use Anthony's injury as an excuse for the Nuggets' poor play.

"Excuses are for losers and we are not offering any excuses, plain and simple," he said. "To yield 17 offensive boards and then give them 18 points off 19 bad turnovers, you are simply not going to win games when that happens."

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Lewis Powers Red-Hot Sonics

With most eyes trained on the supposed friction between Kobe Bryant and Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis stole the show to get the Seattle SuperSonics back into the win column at home.

Lewis scored 17 of his season-high 37 points in the first quarter when the Sonics opened a big lead, helping his club cruise to a 108-93 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

It was the first meeting between the teams since a preseason matchup in Los Angeles, after which Sonics All-Star guard Allen questioned Bryant's ability to lead the revamped Lakers.

The two stars showed no sign of continuing the controversy prior to the game, greeting each other before the tip. Shortly thereafter, Lewis began to shine.

"This whole day, I was thinking about it," Lewis said of the much-hyped feud between Bryant and Allen. "I felt like Kobe was talking to us as a team. We were going to back Ray up. We're a team. We're going to fight for each other. It's not going to be a one-on-one fight."

Lewis kicked off an impressive personal run with a jumper that gave Seattle the lead for good, 22-20, with 5:16 left. That basket was the start of Lewis' 12 straight points to finish the first, the last six on back-to-back 3-pointers in the closing seconds to give the Sonics a 32-23 lead.

"I felt comfortable coming to the game," Lewis said. "I felt like the ball was going to go in every time I shot the ball. I didn't want to hesitate."

Seattle pushed the lead to 19 in the second quarter and Los Angeles never got closer than eight thereafter. Lewis made the first and last of the Sonics' four straight 3-pointers late in the fourth that put away the game.

Sonics coach Nate McMillan sees the maturity in his young forward.

"He's slowing down and making good decisions when he has the ball," McMillan said. "When he has a small (guarding him), he's taking his time getting the good shot. He's moving the ball. When he has a big, he's taking him out and being aggressive and his stroke is going."

Allen scored 26 points for Seattle, which improved to 10-1 at home by rebounding from its first loss this season at KeyArena - a 98-84 setback to Boston on Saturday.

"There was a point where I think he (Bryant) was going at me a little bit at the top of the key and there wasn't much I could do about it," Allen said. "He was making a lot of tough shots tonight. I like Kobe as a person and I respect how he plays."

Lewis and Allen spearheaded a 12-of-27 team effort from the arc.

"They shot the ball so well," Lakers coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "We tried three different methods of trying to play them and they had answers for everything. They shot the heck out of the ball. You have got to give them a lot of credit."

Bryant nearly matched Lewis in the first half, scoring 21 of his 35 points before the break. He got little support from his teammates, however, as only two other Lakers scored as many as 12 points and Los Angeles shot just under 40 percent (32-of-81) from the floor.

"It was tough to keep up with them defensively because they have so much firepower," Bryant said. "When we got an easy two, they got an easy three."