Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Yeah, it's yet another loss. Yeah, the magic number is still stuck at one, and they've been stuck there for a week. There are some positives, though. For this game itself, the Sonics suited up only nine players yet again, but were able to hang with a Western playoff team for much of the game, a team that has Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. Off the floor, Rashard Lewis and Antonio Daniels may be close to coming back, and oh, how the Sonics have missed both of them dearly.
Twenty-seven points were scored in the first quarter. That's by both teams combined. Luke Ridnour sank a three-ball with 5:48 left in the quarter to stake the Sonics out to a 13-6 lead. The Sonics didn't score for the rest of the quarter. Of course, with 5:48 remaining in the quarter, the run-on-the-mill team would be able to rattle off 12 points on the Sonics or something. However, the Rockets used the remaining time to reel off a mere 8-0 run to end the quarter at 14-13. The Sonics missed their final eight shots of the quarter and surrendered three offensive rebounds in the stretch of futility.
The second quarter featured a more usual level of offensive prowess by both teams. Both sides were within a basket of each other for most of the first part of the quarter, though the Rockets were ahead or the score was usually tied. The Sonics used an 8-1 run fueled by Allen and Murray to jump out to a 29-25 lead with 5:33 left in the half, and the Sonics led for much of the latter part of the second quarter. Houston tied it at 29-29, then Vitaly Potapenko sank a couple of free throws before Ridnour canned a three with just over three minutes left in the half to get the Sonics a five-point lead (34-29). Then the Sonics missed six shots and the Rockets reeled off an 8-0 run. Ron Murray sank a three before the half ended, though, to tie the score ata a pathetic 37-37.
Then the third quarter came, or Tracy McGrady went nuts. He scored 17 in the quarter, with his last three shots being three-pointers. He shot 6-for-8 from the field, and hit a couple of free throws. Sadly, the percentage of Houston's points in the quarter that he accounted for was only half. The rest of the Rockets were going off too, and the team hung a 34 on the Sonics for the third quarter. There were also the first signs of the game slipping out of reach for the Sonics, when they had been within reach for much of the first half. The Rockets opened the quarter on a 10-3 run to get a seven-point lead. The Sonics scored baskets on three straight possessions (Allen three, Vitaly layup, and Vitaly three-point play), but were answered twice on the other end by threes (Bobby Sura, David Wesley). From there, the Sonics tried to cut the deficit, but Tracy McGrady was answering on the other end most of the time with a three-ball. The Rockets led by 11 for some stretches of the latter half of the third quarter, which ended with the Rockets up 71-63.
The good news about the start of the fourth quarter was that the Sonics held the Rockets scoreless for about the first five minutes. The bad news was that they could only get seven points over that span, though it cut the score to 71-70 and the Sonics were down by one with 7:24 to go. The Sonics turned the ball over twice during their run and missed four shots, including Nick Collison getting pushed twice off of the slopes of Mount Mutombo (dammit). The Rockets missed seven straight shots and turned the ball over twice in their dry spell. Houston then capped off a 7-2 run with a Jon Barry three (his second stab at a three on that possession) with 5:01 left to pretty much seal the game as Houston led 78-72. Then it just got worse as the Rockets opened up a double-digit lead, and it was all over but the shouting.
PEEK AT THE BOXSCORE
Ray Allen 18 pts/5 reb/3 ast (7-22 FG, 1-9 3pt, 3-3 free throws, 41 min), Luke Ridnour 12 pts/2 reb/2 ast (4-9 FG, 2-4 3pt, 2-2 free throws, 43 min), Reggie Evans 7 pts/7 reb (3-6 FG, 24 min), Damien Wilkins 3 pts/3 reb/4 ast (1-9 FG, 0-4 3pt, 1-2 free throws, 41 min)
Ron Murray 15 pts/6 reb/4 ast (4-10 FG, 2-3 3pt, 5-6 free throws, 28 min), Vitaly Potapenko 13 pts/7 reb/2 blk (5-12 FG, 3-3 free throws, 33 min), Nick Collison 8 pts/8 reb (3-7 FG, 2-3 free throws, 17 min)
Jerome James Watch
2 pts/2 reb/1 stl/1 blk (1-7 FG, 1 turnover, 5 fouls, 13 min)
shot 28-for-82 (34.1%) from the field, shot 5-for-20 (25%) from downtown, shot 17-for-20 (85%) from the line, were outrebounded 45-40, turned the ball over six times, had seven shots blocked, beat Houston 38-22 in the paint (8-4 on the break)
The Sonics are undermanned, and there's only so much they can do. Rashard Lewis was huge in the Sonics' win in Houston, which was one of the most gritty games I've seen in my life. He also held the job of defending Tracy McGrady in that game, which he didn't do a bad job of doing. Tonight, Damien Wilkins had the job of defending McGrady. I won't rag on Wilkins' defense, and for all we know it might not have mattered because McGrady might have hit all these shots anyway. He finished with 38 and 11.
The Sonics only played eight of their nine suit-ups tonight, and I think the ninth was Mateen Cleaves. The trend in the last two games or so has been foul trouble, and that played a big reason for why Jerome James had very limited minutes. His horrible field goal percentage is also due to some hook shots in the post which were well-earned, but all of them probably went in during that home game against Detroit. Back to the foul trouble, though, the Sonics have one less body (Fortson) and six less fouls to throw at a guy like Yao, who hit 4-for-8 from the field and scored 20 points. That's right, 8 points came from the floor, and the other 12 came from the free-throw line. Granted, some of the fouls are dumb, and some of the fouls are a result of letting him get too deep in the post, but the Sonics are undermanned and can't spread the fouls around, and you don't want to foul out, so maybe you let off a bit; it's bad all around. Also, Fortson could bother some people down there, and this team misses that. They also miss the spark that Antonio Daniels gives them off the bench, but hopefully we don't have to think about that for too much longer.
How about that bench? Murray didn't shoot too horribly, so that's good. Collison got less minutes than I'm used to seeing, though he was quite productive with the minutes. The bench of Vitaly/Murray/Collison accounted for more than half of the Sonics' rebounds. I was surprised at their rebounding numbers for the night, pleasantly.
I think the weirdest stat of the night, though, has to be that the Sonics whacked the Rockets in the paint 38-22. The Sonics never beat anyone in the paint, and they really shouldn't be doing it against a Houston team that has Yao in the paint. That is, unless the Houston team is kicking out to McGrady, who is nailing all the shots he sees on the perimeter.
I'm just hoping and praying that the Sonics can just get ONE more freakin' win. It'll be a weight off my mind, because no team of Nuggets, let alone a team of Nuggets coached by George Karl, should be able to take a division title away from my Sonics, especially with it so close.
I would have asked Jinkies if he can breakdance by spinning on his tail, and whether he can achieve terminal centripetal velocity while doing so.