Sunday, April 24, 2005
[actually posted ~10:06a]
You know, if all of the Sonics' playoff games are like this one, I seriously don't know if I'll survive even this series.
The tone was set early. After the Kings won the opening tip and missed two shots on their end, the Sonics got four offensive rebounds on their first possession. Jerome James got the final two of those and tipped in the first basket of the game with his second shot. It was one of those scrappy possessions that gets the offense some energy and really gives the home crowd something to cheer about. A couple trips later on the defensive end, James would get called for illegal defense, but the tone was already set. Rashard Lewis sank a couple of jumpers and Ray Allen nailed a three to get the crowd roaring early with a three-ball to make it a 9-1 Sonic lead to start the game. The Sonics were hovering around an 8-point lead in the latter stages of the quarter until Antonio Daniels hit a couple free throws to stretch the lead to 10. The Sonics led 30-22 at the end of the first quarter. Allen had 11 and 3 boards in the quarter. James had 6 points, 6 boards, and 3 blocks. Lewis had 6 points. Evans had a point and 5 boards. Collison had a basket, and Daniels had 4 points.
Ray Allen hit a basket right out of the gate in the second quarter, sending the Kings down 32-22 and sending them to a double-digit deficit for at least a few minutes of play. That's when Antonio Daniels stole a ball and was clotheslined at halfcourt by Darius Songaila. A clear path foul was called, and the Sonics got two free throws and the ball. Daniels sunk the free throws to make in 41-30 with 7:31 in the first half. Less than two minutes later, James and Allen both dunked, the Sonics had put together an 8-1 run, and Seattle had a 45-30 lead with the crowd on its feet and the Kings calling a timeout with 5:39 to try to get the Kings back on track. It half-worked. The Kings scored the next three points, but the Sonics scored the next six after that to get themselves an 18-point lead at 51-33 with under four minutes to go before half. That's when Cuttino Mobley hit a couple of shots and Peja Stojakovic hit a three. It was a quick 7-0 run, the score was 51-40, and now it was Seattle's turn to be forced to call a timeout, with 1:49 left in the half. Sacramento was called for four fouls in that span before halftime. They missed two shots as well and turned the ball over once, allowing Seattle to nail four free throws in the waning minutes and go up 55-40 at halftime.
The Sonics started the second half picking up where they left off in the first. Capped by an Allen jumper, the Sonics had their largest lead of the game at 63-42 with 8:48 to go in the third quarter.
Then things went haywire. The Sonics missed their next eight shots from the field and saw the Kings string together an 8-0 run ending with two Mobley baskets, pulling to within 15 at 65-50 with 5:18 to go in the quarter. The Kings weren't done. Suddenly, the Sonics had trouble with Greg Ostertag coming off the bench; Rashard Lewis' short bucket with 4:11 to go was the final Sonic basket from the field in the quarter. The Kings put together a 14-5 run from the moment Greg Ostertag stepped on the floor in the third quarter. That 21-point lead the Sonics had? Yeah, it was now a six-pointer (70-64) after three quarters. After scoring 55 points in the first half, the Sonics scored only 15 points in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, every basket was big. The Sonics had to hold off the ferocious purple monsters for the win. Danny Fortson made the first basket of the quarter, making a power move from the baseline and getting off one of those weird shots where you know his feet don't get off the ground, but he gets the right roll off the board and it goes in. That happened with 10:52 to go in the game, and the Sonics' lead was eight at 72-64. Ostertag (dunk) and Stojakovic (layup) got all the way to the basket not long after to cut the lead to four, but Ray Allen (1-for-7 in the field for the second half to that point) hit a clutch three to get the Sonics a seven-point lead at 75-68 with 8:30 left. With 5:31 to go, Rashard Lewis sunk another jumper to stretch the lead to nine (79-70). A couple of Allen free throws put the Sonics nine points up again with 3:30 to go. Then an 8-0 Sacramento run put my heart in my throat. Cuttino Mobley scored the final six points of the run, and his three from the right side just inside the final minute scared the crap out of Sonic fans everywhere.
Cuttino Mobley could have had his baskets interrupted by a couple of Antonio Daniels free throws, but Daniels missed them both. The Sonics would have been up by eight, 85-77 with 1:21 to go. Thank goodness at the final outcome of this game, or else everyone would only be talking about the two free throws that didn't go in rather than the six that did.
The Sonics had the one-point lead with the ball in the final minute and desperately needed a bucket so that the Kings couldn't get the ball and hold for a final shot. With the shot clock into single digits, Antonio Daniels threw down low to Jerome James, who bobbled the ball as everyone in the post threw down a sea of arms trying to get the ball. James came up with it and flipped it into the basket, the biggest basket of the game.
The Sonics still had to make their biggest stop of the game, though. The Kings still had the ball and a shot to tie it. Cuttino Mobley had the ball beyond the arc on the right side with Ray Allen on him. He tried to lose Allen with a screen, though Allen moved past it and was able to come at Mobley in time as he released a three-point attempt. It rimmed off. Unfortunately, the Sonics didn't get the rebound as they'd had trouble getting any sort of position once Ostertag was inserted into the game. Sacramento got hold of that rebound, and Mike Bibby was way beyond the three-point line with 9 seconds to go, but he launched one from way out there anyway. The Sonics eventually came down with it, the Kings were reduced to fouling, and Ray Allen calmly sank two free throws to account for the final score.
I can count off a billion scenarios in my mind (lots of them self-generated) where one of the teams I follow has a big lead, blows it, then loses. I am soooooo glad the Sonics didn't manage to do it. To hold off the Kings, the Sonics had to crank up the clutch-o-meter a bit.
PEEK AT THE BOXSCORE
Ray Allen 28 pts/10 reb/3 ast/3 stl (8-23 FG, 3-7 3pt, 9-10 free throws, 43 min), Rashard Lewis 18 pts/2 ast (8-13 FG, 1-2 3pt, 1-2 free throws, 30 min), Reggie Evans 5 pts/15 reb (8 offensive boards, 2-7 FG, 1-2 free throws, 29 min), Luke Ridnour 0 pts/4 ast (0-6 FG, 27 min)
Antonio Daniels 12 pts/4 reb/4 ast/2 stl (3-8 FG, 0-2 3pt, 6-8 free throws, 28 min), Nick Collison 4 pts/1 reb/1 ast (2-3 FG, 19 min), Danny Fortson 3 pts/1 reb (1-2 FG, 1-2 free throws, 8 min), Damien Wilkins 0 pts/1 reb (0-2 FG, 0-2 3pt, 9 min), Vladimir Radmanovic 0 pts/2 reb/2 stl (0-1 FG, 0-1 3pt, 13 min)
Jerome James Watch
17 pts/15 reb/1 ast/1 stl/5 blk (7-20 FG, 3-4 free throws, 1 turnover, 2 fouls, 34 min)
shot 31-for-85 (36.5%) from the floor, shot 4-for-15 (26.7%) from downtown, shot 21-for-28 (75%) from the line, outrebounded Sacto 51-44 (grabbed 22 offensive boards and surrendered 21), turned ball over 11 times (forced 14), benches tied 19-19 in scoring (Sacto bench badly outrebounded Seattle bench 19-9)
Well, it's certainly a proud moment for the Jerome James Watch, I can tell you that much. The last time I'd seen him do something like this was in that home game against the Pistons, a game which had a playoff atmosphere, and boy, did he come through in that game. Seriously, though, 17, 15, and 5 is a monster line. I can probably count the number of times this year that Jerome James has played 34 minutes on one hand. I also seriously doubt he's ever put up 20 shots in a game either during the regular season.
Reggie Evans and Jerome James had their way on the boards, which was very instrumental in the Sonics jumping out to their big lead. The duo combined fot 30 rebounds, 16 on the offensive end. They also paired up for 22 points.
Hooray for Antonio Daniels scoring and getting to the line from the point guard position, because Luke Ridnour was busy putting together a scoreless game. Welcome to the NBA Playoffs, Luke. I hope Ridnour bounces back soon enough. Though my visual memory can't seem to confirm it, he at least gets some credit because Mike Bibby went 1-for-16 from the field in the game, and that's definitely not supposed to happen.
Greg f$*#ing Ostertag. I'm dead serious. Hopefully Nate McMillan can draw up a quick little solution to that little (okay, big) conundrum.
Vladimir Radmanovic didn't score, and he pulled down two boards, but he had two very good steals. I also forgot how good of a passer he is. He only took one shot from three and missed it, and there was another play where he drove through the lane and then dumped it off to Collison, who was just trying to rebound and suddenly was forced to put up a shot with three guys on him. Needless to say, Radman should have just taken that ball to the rack.
But oh, it's a win. The Sonics could do a lot for themselves if they were to go to Sacramento up 2-0 in the series. Though we may forget this, and it may be negated in the playoffs, the Sonics a lot of times during the season played better on the road than at home. We'll see how they do in Sacto soon enough. Until then, Game 2 is Tuesday night in Seattle.
I would have asked Jinkies if he keeps the litterbox nearby while watching Sonic playoff games. I know I would.