Saturday, March 26, 2005
The Sonics didn't know until pretty close to game time about whether Rashard Lewis would play after having sat out the final three quarters of the game the night before. Luckily they had him for all of this one, because they needed him and Ray Allen to get this win.
To put the game in a nutshell, the Sonics just stayed afloat through the first three quarters, but never were clicking until the fourth quarter.
In the first quarter, both teams stayed close to one another until a Luke Ridnour midrange pop, Rashard Lewis three, and an Evans layup opened up a six-point Sonic lead at 17-11 with under five minutes to go in the quarter. Rashard Lewis answered a couple of Tim Thomas free throws with a jumper of his own to put the lead back to six (19-13). Two Ray Allen baskets put the Sonics up by nine at 23-14 with about three minutes left before the Knicks closed the quarter on a 5-0 run. The Sonics led 23-19 after one quarter.
In the second quarter, the Knicks hit their first four baskets and carried their run over from the first quarter, which became a 13-0 run. The Sonics called timeout at that point after having missed nine straight shots. Stephon Marbury tacked on a couple baskets to make it a 17-4 run before a Vitaly Potapenko jumphook and some Lewis free throws tied the game at 27 with seven minutes left in the half. The Sonics should keep some momentum and hang close in this game, right? The Knicks then went on a 7-0 run. The Sonics missed four shots in that stretch to go along with two turnovers. New York opened their lead to 11, their largest lead of the game, at 42-31 with 2:51 to go with some Stephon Marbury free throws. Fortunately for the Sonics, a combination of Ray Allen, Antonio Daniels, and Rashard Lewis were able to key a 7-0 Sonic run to take to the locker room. The Sonics trailed 42-38 at the half.
If I tallied the numbers right, the Sonics actually had more turnovers (6) than field goals (5-for-19) in the second quarter. Even with their poor shooting, the Sonics were technically playing pretty good defense against the Knicks in the first half as they'd only allowed 42 points, which is pretty good. As mentioned, though, the Sonics weren't hitting shots. Also, New York was living at the free-throw line, hitting 14 of 17 in the first half. It's a surprise to me that the Sonics didn't get tripped up in any foul trouble with all the free throws the Knicks got in this one.
As an added subplot, Danny Fortson apparently did not come out with the team for the second half, though he was on the bench later. He never stepped onto the floor though. Kevin Calabro thought Fortson might have entered the doghouse again.
In the third quarter, some dirty work from Reggie Evans down low (offensive board, putback, and foul) right after halftime got the Sonics their first lead since early in the second quarter (43-42). That set off a stretch of about 5:30 where both teams traded baskets and short-lived leads. Then the Knicks reeled off a 9-2 run capped by a Jamal Crawford three to pull out to a 65-59 lead, which they carried into the final two minutes of the quarter. The Sonics were able to chip the Knicks' lead down to three at 69-66 to end the quarter, helped by five straight Sonic points by Allen, including a three-ball. Michael Sweetney was huge for the Knicks, scoring 8 points in the quarter, thanks largely in part to the fact that he was consistently beating Jerome James down the floor. In the draft two years ago, some media types thought the Sonics would take Sweetney, the Georgetown product, in the first round. The Sonics did take a big body in the first round that year, but it was Nick Collison (more on him later). Sweetney did end up with 12 points and 10 boards in 22 minutes of this game, though.
Ray Allen missed a three and Nick Collison missed a jumpshot on the first possession of the fourth quarter. Both players scored on the next two Sonic possessions, with Allen hitting a three and Collison being found down low for a layup on a nice pass by Daniels. Collison's bucket gave the Sonics a one-point lead at 71-70 with 10:26 to go, and they started piling onto the lead. On the next Sonic possession, Collison battled for a rebound down low, passed the ball out to the perimeter, and was eventually rewarded for his work, finishing it off with a layup. Collison stuffed Maurice Taylor on the other end, and Antonio Daniels broke to the basket for a layup and one off that block. Vitaly then nailed two free throws after beating the defense down the floor to give the Sonics a lead of eight (78-70) with 8:23 to go as the Sonics had gone on a 12-1 run. The Sonics were able to keep a two-possession lead until Sweetney cleaned up a miss for a layup with 6:09 to go. Shortly after New York went over the limit in team fouls, Ray Allen bounced the lead back out to two possessions with a three-ball with 5:16 to go (Sonics 83-79). The Knicks scored the next five points to take the lead at 84-83 with 3:49 left. Malik Rose hit the go-ahead free throws, but was whistled for illegal defense on the other end, where Ray Allen tied the game with the free throw on a technical. The teams traded free throws. The Sonics were inbounding the ball with four seconds left on the shot clock and Nick Collison (not the first guy to touch the ball) found Ray Allen for a clutch three to put the Sonics up 89-86 with 2:25 to go. Ray Allen tried sucking up the shot clock on the next possession as well (he might have been the only one to touch the ball in the Sonics' end), but he bricked his shot this time. Both sides then combined to miss the next five shots taken in the game before a Kurt Thomas tip-in cut the Sonic lead to 89-88 with under a minute to go. Ridnour missed a midrange shot, then Collison swatted Stephon Marbury on a drive to the basket.
It appeared the game would end in a foulfest with the Sonics winning. Ray Allen was going to the line with the Sonics up 89-88 with 23 ticks left on the clock. Allen hit both, and Ridnour fouled Marbury before he could drive to the basket. David Locke was on the air saying that the stat-privy people in the Sonic organization crunched numbers to find that it's a lot more optimal to actually foul if you have a three-point lead with that much time left on the clock. Marbury cashed in his free throws to cut the lead back to one. Ridnour was immediately fouled on the inbound. He calmly hit his free throws, which were answered by a Marbury layup. Ridnour was immediately fouled and hit both free throws a second time to give the Sonics a 95-92 lead with 11 ticks left. Then Tim Thomas busted a three in Luke Ridnour's face to tie the game at 95. Props to Thomas, because Ridnour had him defended pretty well. The Sonics had the ball with 9.5 seconds left, and Rashard Lewis had his shot blocked. He grabbed his own rebound and stepped back along the baseline for another shot, but it rimmed too short.
Then the Sonics scored the first seven points of overtime. Ray Allen scored the first five on free throws and a three-ball, then Rashard Lewis nailed a hopper as well to stake the sonics to a 102-95 lead with 1:22 to go. Of course, you probably need the other team to miss shots if you go on a 7-0 overtime run, and that's what happened, as the Knicks missed their first seven shots. Tim Thomas had just cut the Sonic lead to five with just over a minute left when Malik Rose was called for his 6th foul after reaching in on Rashard Lewis' offensive board. Rose kicked the scorers' table and was tech'd by Steve Javie. Ray Allen cashed in the free throw, and Rose's antics pushed a five-point Sonic lead out to a six-point Sonic lead at 103-97 with 38.5 seconds left. From this point, it was a foulfest with a couple of meaningless Marbury layups thrown in there.
PEEK AT THE BOXSCORE
Ray Allen 40 pts/9 reb/2 ast (13-23 FG, 6-11 3pt, 8-8 free throws, 47 min), Rashard Lewis 30 pts/7 reb/4 ast (8-22 FG, 2-8 3pt, 12-12 free throws, 46 min), Luke Ridnour 15 pts/2 reb/3 ast (5-11 FG, 1-2 3pt, 4-4 free throws, 39 min), Reggie Evans 4 pts/10 reb/2 stl (2-2 FG, 0-3 free throws, 24 min)
Nick Collison 8 pts/9 reb/3 blk (4-6 FG, 30 min), Vitaly Potapenko 6 pts/5 reb (2-3 FG, 2-2 free throws, 28 min), Antonio Daniels 4 pts/2 reb/7 ast (1-7 FG, 0-3 3pt, 2-5 free throws), Ron Murray 0 pts/0 reb (0-2 FG, 7 min), Damien Wilkins 0 pts/0 reb (0-2 FG, 6 min)
Jerome James Watch
2 pts/3 reb/1 stl (1 turnover, 4 fouls, 14 min)
shot 36-for-81 (44.4%) from the field, shot 9-for-25 (36%) from downtown, shot 28-for-34 (82.4%) from the line, outrebounded New York 47-41, turned the ball over 16 times, were beaten 46-36 in the paint, bench was outscored 21-18 (but outrebounded them 16-12)
In the last minute of free-throw madness, Ray Allen got to 40 points and Rashard Lewis got to 30. Insanely great night for those two, as they more than stepped up when the team needed them. The Ron Murrays, Vitaly Potapenkos, and Damien Wilkinses of the world can step up off the bench to have their big nights every once in a while, but it's great to know that the two key cogs in the wheel are still functioning quite well, and boy, did they ever do that tonight. Another ironic thing -- though the Knicks stayed close through much of the early part of the game by getting to the free-throw line, the Sonics hit their last 18 free-throw attempts to seal the game.
Nick Collison had 6 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks in his fourth quarter and overtime. I REALLY like what Nick Collison is bringing to this team. All that time when Danny Fortson was out has allowed Collison to get more minutes, have his nose broken, but really get stuff done. As much as I like Fortson, he's definitely not a long-term proposition down low for the Sonics, but Collison is. The future looks bright. I also love that move where he pivots about four times on the mid-block and then nails his jumpshot. Now if he'd just brush up on his free throws (he didn't take any tonight), he'd be great. The Sonic broadcast crew noted that the Sonics were switching out Collison on Stephon Marbury all night, which seemed to work. The Sonics' scouting reports also dug up something saying that Marbury is way better scoring right than left. Collison forced Marbury left on that key play in the fourth quarter before he swatted his shot.
Since Reggie Evans didn't get more than 24 minutes (though he had a quiet 10 boards), and Jerome James was getting lit up by Michael Sweetney, it was possible to think the Sonics might have a different look down low. Coach McMillan was trotting out Collison and Vitaly at times in this game, and it appeared to be working, though James sort of forced McMillan's hand.
Antonio Daniels only shot 1-for-7, though he did have the 7 assists. Another note by Calabro/Ehlo was that Daniels is really feeling the pinch of Vladimir Radmanovic's absence. Needless to say, a defender (possibly a big defender) doesn't have to come out high to defend the lethal-shooting Radmanovic, who might be wandering out on the perimeter and/or setting picks of sometimes questionable quality. Still, it's hard to replace that type of option, and therefore that frees up one guy to take on another Sonic. So, it's probably not too much of a surprise that Daniels might be a bit down.
The starting lineup minus Evans (who's horrible at free-throw shooting) was a perfect 24-for-24 from the line. That's just plain outstanding.
Was it the greatest win? Definitely not. Is it great to see the Sonics pick it back up even after they really had no grip on the game for the first three quarters? Yes. Is it surprising to know that the Sonics are 5-0 without Vladimir Radmanovic? Very much so. Would I ice the crap out of my knee tonight if I were Rashard Lewis? Absolutely.
I would have asked Jinkies if Peja ever makes him wear cat-knickers, or if there is indeed such a thing.