Thursday, March 24, 2005
The Sonics didn't shoot well in the first quarter. They never led in the quarter, either, though they tied it three times later in the quarter. The Sonics went on a 6-0 run to tie the game up at 14 with 3:04 left in the frame. The Sonics hung close only to have Portland pull ahead with a 5-0 run to end the quarter. It was Portland 23-18 after 12 minutes.
Ron Murray came in for Rashard Lewis with 1:52 left in the quarter. Lewis never returned because his knee tendinitis apparently flared up on him. Coming off the heels of a lackluster second quarter, the Sonics would definitely have to find someone to produce in place of Rashard Lewis, who the Sonics have leaned on many times this season.
The Blazers were up by seven early in the second quarter, but the Sonics went on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 25, thanks to a jumper and layup by Antonio Daniels and a three-point play by Nick Collison. Daniels' layup in the run came right after a Collison swat. The run was quickly erased by a 6-0 Portland run (two dunks included). The Sonics countered the counter, this time pulling off an 8-0 run where all eight points were scored by Damien Wilkins. No, I'm not lying. I saw this with my eyes glued to the television set. It's true. He nailed a three, nailed a short jumper, and hit three of four free throws. That run got the Sonics into the lead at 33-31 about halfway through the quarter. The Sonics quickly lost that lead and didn't get it back for the rest of the half, as Portland went on an 8-2 run to end the quarter, assisted greatly by the Sonics missing five straight shots from the field. The Blazers led 48-40 at half. Portland was getting into the paint at will (56% shooting indicated as such), and the Sonics were also shooting like crap (33%). Not exactly a recipe for winning.
Then the third quarter came, and the Sonics got on a roll. Jerome James scored 10 points in the third quarter alone. A teardrop runner by Luke Ridnour gave the Sonics a 58-53 lead with 5:07 to go in the quarter, capping an 18-3 Sonic run, which became a 20-4 run after James scored his 9th and 10th points of the quarter on a layup. Shortly after, Derek Anderson cut a six-point Sonic lead in half with a three, but was answered on the other end by Ray Allen, who notched a three of his own. Ridnour scored five straight Sonic points toward the end of the quarter to keep the Sonics' lead fairly comfortable, and the lead was at its most comfortable (11 points) when Damien Wilkins was fed on a nice pass from Reggie Evans for a massive dunk, coming after Wilkins had drawn a charge on Darius Miles on the defensive end. Wilkins also swatted Ruben Patterson on the final shot of the quarter. With that outburst from Jerome James and the punctuation from Wilkins, the Sonics outscored the Blazers 33-16 in the third quarter of play, a drastic turnaround from where the Sonics were at halftime.
This is where the ol' rivalry kicked in. Surely it couldn't be that easy for the Sonics, right? It wasn't. Damon Stoudamire and Derek Anderson nailed threes to start the quarter and cut the Sonic lead to two points. The Blazers' first five baskets of the quarter were three-pointers, and Stoudamire hit four of those threes. After Stoudamire's fourth three-ball, the Blazers retook the lead at 79-77 with 8:21 to go. From that point, it was a seesaw battle until the end. With 4:50 to go, Ray Allen hit a three to break an 83-83 tie. The teams traded punches again, with three lead changes on three possessions until Derek Anderson nailed a three with 2:43 left to put the Blazers up two at 90-88. The Sonics were down 91-89 with the ball and 1:28 remaining. Nick Collison made some moves in the post but bricked his jumpshot. He scrapped for the rebound and dished it out to the perimeter where the ball found Antonio Daniels, who passed to Damien Wilkins...who NAILED A THREE. Damien freakin' Wilkins hit the game-winning shot despite barely having shown his face in Sonic boxscores all year. Absolutely nuts. Getting the lead wasn't enough for him, though. He got the rebound on that last key Portland possession and hit both his free throws. Then he intercepted a pass and threw down a dunk. Crazy. Wilkins scored the last seven points of the game.
PEEK AT THE BOXSCORE
Ray Allen 19 pts/8 reb (7-19 FG, 3-10 3pt, 2-3 free throws, 30 min), Luke Ridnour 13 pts/3 reb/3 ast/3 stl (5-11 FG, 3-3 free throws, 37 min), Reggie Evans 3 pts/9 reb/4 ast (1-2 FG, 1-4 free throws, 22 min), Rashard Lewis 2 pts/2 reb (1-6 FG, 10 min)
Damien Wilkins 21 pts/2 reb/2 stl (7-10 FG, 2-3 3pt, 5-6 free throws, 28 min), Nick Collison 11 pts/9 reb (4-7 FG, 3-5 free throws), Antonio Daniels 6 pts/2 reb/2 ast (3-6 FG, 21 min), Danny Fortson 4 pts/5 reb (0-3 FG, 4-4 free throws), Ron Murray 3 pts (1-4 FG, 10 min), Vitaly Potapenko 0 pts/1 reb (0-2 FG, 4 min)
Jerome James Watch
14 pts/7 reb/3 blk (7-13 FG, 2 turnovers, 4 fouls, 26 min)
shot 36-for-83 (43.4%) from the field, shot 6-for-16 (37.5%) from downtown, shot 18-for-26 (69.2%) from the line, outscored Portland 52-34 in the paint, outrebounded Portland 49-32 (21 OFFENSIVE BOARDS), turned ball over 18 times, bench outscored Portland bench 34-31 (outrebounded them 20-7)
It's one thing for Ron Murray to come off the bench and score a ton of points when Ray Allen is out. It's one thing for Jerome James to discover that he really does have some low-post moves and has a decent jumphook. It's one thing for Vitaly Potapenko to grab some boards off the bench, muscle the ball down low, and hit a midrange jumper or two.
It's an entirely different thing for Damien Wilkins, who's barely showed up in the boxscores this year, to step out and lead the team with 21 points. He scored all eight points in that run in the second quarter, and scored the last seven points of the game, including that winning three-ball. Incredible. What a night for Damien Wilkins. If he gets off the bench on Friday night against the Knicks, he should get a standing ovation.
Of course there's more props to throw around. Luke Ridnour had a decent shooting night and had a couple of those awesome teardrop runners. Ray Allen didn't have a brutal night either, and seeing that he was coming off an injury of the magic ankle, he did pretty well. I don't usually expect Ray Allen to grab eight boards every night. I really like the way Nick Collison is developing. He's really scrappy down low, and he's finding ways to get open near the basket. If he could only shore up his free throws, he'd be great. Even Danny Fortson chimed in to nail all four of his free throws and get five boards. He looked more like the Danny Fortson we've been accustomed to seeing.
The cliffhanger here, of course, is Rashard Lewis' knee tendinitis. As much as I've loved seeing different guys step in and deliver when a big cog of the wheel is gone, I just have to wonder how long it can keep going. Surely someday this team has to have one of those games where Vladimir Radmanovic nailing threes on the perimeter would have been the difference. Right now, however, the Sonics are 4-0 without Radmanovic, but have fought off way more injuries than just his.
I would have asked Jinkies how many times he's blazed trails into the carpet at Casa de Drobnjak.