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."

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