Saturday, April 09, 2005
The game in a nutshell was pretty simple. Denver shot 74% in the first quarter and put up 41 points. They had put up 68 at the half, the second-biggest first-half offensive output by an opponent this year since Memphis hung 71 points on the Sonics in a first half (the Sonics somehow won that game though). As you might imagine, the Sonics never led in this game. The Nuggets got the first possession, the Sonics got called for illegal defense (Karl's Sonic teams ALWAYS did that), Carmelo Anthony hit the free throw, and the Nuggets never lost the lead.
From that point, the best thing the Sonics could do to save face in the game was to get to a point where they were trading baskets with the Nuggets. The Sonics managed to outscore the Nuggets in the second and third quarters, and when they got the deficit to single digits in the second half, it was a big deal. Of course, they were once again forced to deal with the reality that Rashard Lewis, Vladimir Radmanovic, and Antonio Daniels were out of the lineup. Danny Fortson was out of the game as well, nursing his strained shoulder. The Sonics suited up nine players, and the bench of Collison/Murray/Potapenko/Cleaves (with Wilkins in the starting lineup) is a lot different from the amazing bench we saw early in the year of Daniels/Fortson/Collison/Radmanovic. Lewis out of the lineup is really hurting the Sonics too. At the very least, the offense with Allen and Lewis can at least have some flow if you can have someone setting screens. The sad thing is that other than Ray Allen, there is no other viable go-to scoring option. Ron Murray can try, but I'm about ready to just write him off as a terrible shooter. He was 8-for-23 tonight, and this trend has held up over the last handful of games or so (though not at quite that bad of a percentage as tonight).
Back to the game at hand, though. The Nuggets had their first double-digit lead with 7:48 left in the first quarter when Carmelo Anthony hit a layup to make it 16-5. There were three layups and two dunks (10 points of those varieties) for the Nuggets in the quarter, so they still had to get the other 31 points via free throws (10) and jumpers (21). What I'm trying to say is that the 74% shooting they pulled off in the first quarter wasn't necessarily a result of total Sonic defensive breakdowns and drives to the glass. The Nuggets were hitting their shots as well. The Sonics missed their final six shots of the quarter. There was another stretch earlier in the quarter where the Sonics missed four straight shots and turned the ball over twice, and that turned into a 10-0 Denver run. The Nuggets led 41-25 after one quarter. To rub it in, the Nuggets had zero turnovers in the quarter.
On the first Seattle possession of the quarter, Luke Ridnour lost the ball, and Earl Boykins ran the other way and finished with a layup. Not long after, the Sonics went on another drought, this time missing another five straight shots, and throwing in a token turnover. That set off a little 6-0 Denver run. It was during that stretch that Wesley Person stuck a jumper for the Nuggets' first 20-point lead of the night. The Sonics put together a small 7-0 run to get to within 16 about halfway through the quarter and later put together a 6-0 spurt to get to within 14 at 56-42. The first half ended with a 68-54 score.
At halftime, the Nuggets had cooled down a bit from the 74% shooting in the first quarter, but were still shooting 64% from the field (24-for-37). The Sonics were shooting a mere 42% (19-for-45) from the floor (They were also getting to the line, making good on 17 of 23 attempts. Ray Allen led the Sonics with 18, and Ron Murray had 11. The Sonics' rebounding leaders were Reggie Evans and Jerome James, each with only 3, which is more surprising for Evans.
Basically, it came down to the Sonics playing the final 24 minutes and making sure nobody else got hurt, though as mentioned earlier, the Sonics were at least able to trade baskets with Denver and cut the lead to single digits on occasion. With the Denver lead at 14 at the 9:44 mark of the third quarter, the Sonics put together another small 6-0 run, cutting the deficit to eight at 75-67. It took 42 seconds off the clock to get that back out to double digits though. Damien Wilkins hit a layup to get back to within 9 at 79-70 with 6:26 to go in the quarter, but the Sonics were behind double digits for the rest of the quarter. That is, until Ron Murray beat the buzzer with a three just inside the halfcourt line to end the quarter. The Sonics trailed 97-88 after three, ending the quarter on a 9-2 run.
The Sonics at least got it to a manageable lead to enter the fourth quarter, but who can expect them to win with this lineup? Ron Murray hit a jumper to get the deficit to nine with 10:44 to go (99-90), but the Nuggets assumed the double-digit lead for the remainder of the game. Even attempting to count runs and stuff after this point would be even more irrelevant than doing it for the first three quarters in the first place.
PEEK AT THE BOXSCORE
Ray Allen 32 pts/2 reb/5 ast/3 stl (10-20 FG, 5-10 3pt, 7-9 free throws, 40 min), Damien Wilkins 14 pts/3 reb/3 ast/2 blk (5-10 FG, 0-2 3pt, 4-5 free throws, 28 min), Luke Ridnour 10 pts/2 reb/7 ast (5-10 FG, 26 min), Reggie Evans 4 pts/10 reb (1-4 FG, 2-2 free throws, 35 min)
Ron Murray 20 pts/3 reb/4 ast/4 stl (8-23 FG, 1-4 3pt, 3-4 free throws, 38 min), Vitaly Potapenko 12 pts/6 reb/3 ast (5-8 FG, 2-2 free throws, 23 min), Nick Collison 6 pts/6 reb (3-7 FG, 25 min), Mateen Cleaves 3 pts/3 ast (1-3 FG, 1-2 free throws, 12 min)
Jerome James Watch
4 pts/3 reb/1 stl/2 blk (2-5 FG, 3 turnovers, 5 fouls, 13 min)
shot 40-for-90 (44.4%) from the field, shot 6-for-18 (33.3%) from downtown, shot 19-for-24 (79.2%) from the line, outrebounded Denver 36-35, were beaten 38-32 in the paint and 26-22 on the break, bench was outscored 46-41 (but outrebounded Denver's bench 16-11)
Really, it's at a point to where after the games, I don't even know what to say. Coach McMillan has said that they have to basically weather the storm with all the guys that are out, and I guess that's what we're seeing them do, though unfortunately the schedule has four games in the final six involving Houston or Dallas, which is just horrible in itself. A tough schedule plus a depleted roster is a horrible, horrible mixture. It's tough to watch right now, it really is.
Basically, Ray Allen scoring 32 and getting to the line; that's holding up his end of the bargain, and really, there's not much more he can do. Rashard's not there for the other scoring option. Luke Ridnour doesn't go nuts. Ron Murray can get his 20 points, sure, but he'll miss two out of every three shots he takes (well, maybe just that bad tonight). I mean, if you're trying to defend this team, I think it's pretty damn obvious who you're going to stack your guys against, and try to let one of the other Sonics beat you. It's not happening right now.
How about a nice game for Vitaly, though? I saw one Sonics All-Access show on the FSNNW, and they were in San Francisco messing around, and Vitaly did some Ukrainian rap and it was hilarious.
I would have asked Jinkies if he'd hang out with Vitaly's cat if it was Ukrainian and named Boris.