Sunday, January 30, 2005

Last minute game, comes out in our favor.

With their Seattle teammates breathing heavily and shooting poorly, Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen decided they would take care of this win themselves.

Lewis scored 24 points and hit a key jumper with 46 seconds left, and Allen had 26 points in the SuperSonics' 88-85 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Friday night.

The Sonics' top two scorers did most of the work in another uneven effort by a club struggling for consistency after its tremendous start. With their third win in four games, the Sonics improved to 8-6 in January after losing just six games in the first two months of the season.

This one could have been trouble as well, because Golden State had several chances to tie or go ahead in the final minutes. But Allen and Lewis both hit big shots down the stretch to help Seattle snap a three-game losing streak at Golden State.

``In the last couple of possessions, we did what it took to win,'' said Allen, who hit four 3-pointers. ``Knowing how to win those games down the stretch is going to help us in the end. This team is slowly starting to round itself out and go to the next level.''

Luke Ridnour scored 14 points and Reggie Evans had a career-high 17 rebounds for the Sonics, who got the best and the worst from their quick-strike offense.

Seattle scored the first 16 points of the game, but lost the lead in the third quarter in a flurry of bad passes and missed shots. The Sonics' vaunted bench players struggled, going 4-for-23 with just 18 points, and Seattle managed just 11 assists.

``We just have to remember what got us to this point: scrapping, defense, unselfish play and ball movement,'' coach Nate McMillan said. ``We have to get back to that point. I know we have some guys that are tired, and bodies are aching, but the (All-Star) break is a few weeks away, and we have to finish this thing out strong.''

Calbert Cheaney scored 14 of his season-high 21 points in the second quarter for the Warriors, who lost for the 13th time in 14 games despite several chances to steal one from the first-place Sonics.

Jason Richardson scored 20 points but couldn't get open for a 3-pointer on the Warriors' final possession, and Derek Fisher badly missed the potential tying shot to complete his 2-of-11 shooting performance.

``We can live with this kind of effort,'' Golden State coach Mike Montgomery said. ``I thought everybody was really working hard to make plays, and that's a huge step. We played with heart ... (but) it just came down to a couple of shots.''

After Allen hit a 3-pointer with 4:20 left to give Seattle a 10-point lead, Golden State made an 11-2 run. Cheaney missed a potential tying free throw before Lewis hit his baseline jumper with 46 seconds to go.

The Sonics might think they slumped in January until they compare themselves to the Warriors, who lost nine straight after New Year's Day. Still, Montgomery's cautious optimism was echoed by his players just two days after Richardson ripped his teammates for a lack of passion in a blowout loss to New Jersey.

``A loss is a loss, don't get me wrong, but I thought we showed a lot of competitive spirit,'' Cheaney said. ``We showed a lot of character coming back and getting right back at it. Seattle scores a lot of points in bunches, but at the same time, they also miss a lot of shots in bunches.''

The Warriors appeared headed for another flop in the opening minutes, missing their first 12 shots while Seattle went up 16-0 with 5:42 left in the first quarter. But they made seven of their next eight shots, and Cheaney's second-quarter burst kept them in it.

Golden State starters Speedy Claxton (bruised thigh) and Cliff Robinson (back) sat out for the fourth straight game. Robinson has missed four straight games only three times in his 16 NBA seasons.
Allen and Lewis really stood out this game. They brought everything they had to the table, and we eventually came out with the W. Although it was definatley not the prettiest game, we did beat them where it counted. Lets stay at the top you guys, and not have any more games like the Jazz game. GO SUPERSONICS!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

We can't get the early wins, get to our head.

From the Seattle Times:

Of course they peeked.

Wouldn't you if you had just defeated Miami and Cleveland and redeemed a 30-point loss to the lowly Los Angeles Clippers?

So the Sonics, everybody's underdog when the season started, tore a small corner off the wrapping for their postseason surprise, restlessly wondering what could be inside. After some allowed themselves to dream of home-court advantages, top seeds and maybe an in-your-face slam for all those doubters out there, they sort of bopped into Tuesday's game against Denver.

And got smacked themselves.

"It kind of slowed us down a little," forward Danny Fortson said of the 116-110 overtime loss.

Fortson said the early thoughts about the playoffs could have played a part.

"It's one of the first things I said when we were in the locker room," he said. "Our mental focus of the game was more relaxed. We were bitten in the butt for doing that." Still, the facts are there. If the Sonics can defeat the slumping Minnesota Timberwolves at KeyArena tonight, they'll have a 9½-game lead in the Northwest Division. Under the NBA's new playoff system, the top team from each of the three divisions in both conferences receives an automatic berth. Those top three teams are then ranked by record and given home-court advantage in the first round. The best record receives home-court advantage in the remaining rounds.

If the season ended today, Philadelphia (18-20) would be a No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs while Detroit (23-15, tied for the Central Division lead but losing out to Cleveland on a tiebreaker) would be slotted fourth. And if the season were to end today, the Sonics (27-10) would be the No. 3 seed in the West and host the No. 6 Lakers (21-16) in the first round.

Crazy, isn't it?

"We haven't been here in a long time," Sonics coach Nate McMillan said.

The last time the Sonics were a contender, dot-coms were booming, flannel was acceptable, and McMillan was in uniform. The Sonics have missed the playoffs in four of the past six seasons. But Seattle joins Phoenix, Orlando and Cleveland as leading newcomers to the postseason party after spending last season below .500. Orlando brought up the NBA's rear with a 21-61 record.

Now, the Suns (31-9) lead their division, the Cavaliers are tied with the Pistons on top of theirs and the Magic (21-17) would be a six seed in the East.

The oddity will be magnified tonight if the Timberwolves continue their funk. Last season they were two games from reaching the NBA Finals, finishing with a franchise-best 58-24 record during the regular season. Now, they're 19-19 and out of the playoff picture — if it ended today.

It's a scenario none of the Sonics expected when the league changed to a six-division lineup.

"It looked tough," guard Ray Allen said. "With Utah getting (Carlos) Boozer, Denver and Kenyon Martin, Minnesota coming back and who knew about Portland, we were sitting at the bottom. But that's just on paper."

Instead of the Northwest Division being one of the toughest, it's actually the weakest, aside from the Atlantic Division. The Sonics would be the division's only representative in the playoffs.

"I'm excited the table is reversed a little," Allen said. "(But) we're still learning what it means to be at the top. We've been on teams separately that have been at the top, but we're still learning what it means collectively."

And it's still January. The All-Star break hasn't hit, so things can change.

The Denver loss was one of the worst games the Sonics played this season, turning the ball over 16 times while forcing only six turnovers, and it could be the turning point to the season.

Meanwhile, Minnesota, which is 3-7 in its past 10 games, remains loaded with talent and is one trade from turning its season around.

"In my opinion, nothing has really changed," McMillan said. "I told the team we're still not in the position to be talking. We gotta play ball. You got two months to go. Try to get to the break; don't start that break too early."

I have to admit, it has been a great season so far, but in our last couple of games, we have been slacking quite a bit. Lets flare our season back up Sonics!

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Living through the Heat wave without a scratch.

For one week at least, Shaquille O'Neal and the Miami Heat met their match in Danny Fortson and the revitalized Seattle SuperSonics.

Vladimir Radmanovic scored a season-high 27 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, and the Sonics beat the Heat for the second time in six days, 108-98 on Sunday night.

The Sonics ended the Heat's franchise-record 14-game winning streak on Monday night in Miami.

``It was a physical matchup,'' Dwyane Wade said of the inside duel between O'Neal and Fortson. ``Shaq got the best of that matchup, but the Sonics got the best of the Heat.''

Radmanovic hit three of his five 3-pointers in the final period and the Sonics ended a two-game losing streak by outscoring the Heat 13-1 in the final 4:40.

Radmanovic came within two points of his career high and shot 11-for-17, including 5-for-9 from 3-point range, after being limited to a total of 12 points in losses at Washington and Orlando.

``Two games don't mean much during the season,'' said Radmanovic, a four-year veteran from Bosnia-Hercegovina. ``You don't lose your confidence because of just two games. You have to come back and not even think about it.''

O'Neal had 28 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots for the Heat, who had an eight-game road winning streak broken, but Radmanovic, who had 21 points in the second half, and the Sonics' reserves outscored their Miami counterparts 66-17.

``That's been a big part of our success when we've had the second unit playing well,'' Sonics coach Nate McMillan said.

Fortson had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Sonics, who got only 15 points from Ray Allen. Allen had 35 points in Monday night's game.

``You know that doesn't happen a lot,'' McMillan said of Allen's offnight.

Eddie Jones scored 19 points and Wade 16 for the Heat.

Acquired in a July trade with Dallas for center Calvin Booth, Fortson's rebounding and inside toughness have been a major part of the Sonics' success. They won only 37 games last season.

The 6-foot-8 Fortson said he gets extra motivation to play against the 7-1, 325-pound O'Neal.

``You've got to kind of lean a little bit on him, too,'' Fortson said. ``He leans people so you've got to give him a little bit of the same thing he does. I think at the end of the night, we both were just out there sucking wind.''

O'Neal didn't score a point after getting a dunk and a free throw with 7:38 left. He acknowledged Fortson wore him out.

``They get it going on the pick and roll and he just bulldozes his way in there,'' O'Neal said.

Miami coach Stan Van Gundy agreed with his new starting center.

``It was the same deal for us as it was in Miami,'' he said. ``They just took us apart with pick and rolls in the second half. They were great on pick and rolls.''

Leading 97-95 after a driving layup by Eddie Jones with 5:07 to go, the Heat had only a free throw by Wade with 43.9 seconds left.

The Heat were limited to 41 points in the second half.

``I felt like our defense really picked up in the third quarter,'' Seattle's Antonio Daniels said. ``When we play well defensively, it kind of carries over.''

Luke Ridnour tied the score at 97-all for the Sonics with two free throws with 4:40 to go and Fortson put Seattle ahead to stay with a free throw with 4:10 left. Radmanovic followed with a fastbreak dunk on a pass by Ridnour with 3:40 on the clock.

The Sonics led by 10 points at 93-83 with 7:56 left after Radmanovic hit a 3-pointer. But O'Neal had a three-point play and Damon Jones made consecutive 3-pointers to cut the Heat's deficit to 93-92 before Wade converted a three-point play to put Miami in front 95-93 with 5:55 on the clock.

The Sonics grabbed their first lead since 2-0 when Radmanovic sank a 3-pointer with 23.6 seconds left in the third quarter. That put them ahead 79-78 and Ridnour added two free throws with 3.7 seconds on the clock for an 81-78 advantage after three periods.

The Heat led 57-49 at halftime and had their biggest lead at 61-49 in the first minute of the third period.
I think finally ending the streak of the Heat really brings light to all the fans in Seattle and to all the other teams' fans in the NBA. We really showed them that the Heat are by no means indestructible because of Shaq. On another note, Vladimir played a great game, beating his career high and leading us to another win over the Heat. Although we have been studdering lately, I think if we play like we did against the Heat, we will really pull ahead of the pack, so to speak. Lets keep the cheers alive for the SuperSonics!