Thursday, April 14, 2005
Okay, the team still has their magic number stuck on one to clinch the division. Against Houston they played a lot better than in the four games before that. For this game, they got Antonio Daniels, Rashard Lewis, and Danny Fortson back, and their additions seemed mostly seamless apart from Rashard's first-quarter shooting (Ray Allen's shooting in the beginning was off as well). Another different thing about the game was that the Sonics were down multiple times by sizable leads (say around eight or more) and managed to tie or take the lead, which definitely wasn't happening for most of the last couple weeks. The standard fare lately has been along the lines of the following: hang close early, have the shooting go cold, have the other team pull ahead by double digits, never really get back into the game, get within 8 or 9 at the closest, and try to not have anyone else get hurt.
The Sonics opened up in a nice fashion with a 7-2 run off of a couple of Ray Allen baskets and a three from Luke Ridnour. Then the Sonics had another one of those spells, missing nine of ten shots and turning the ball over three times, resulting in a 14-2 Dallas run (nine points by Dirk Nowitzki). The only Sonic basket in the stretch came when Nick Collison put back a Ray Allen miss from beyond the arc. The Sonics made two baskets the rest of the quarter, though Danny Fortson did nail three free throws. The Sonics were down 25-17 at the end of the first quarter.
It got worse, though. Keith Van Horn nailed a three with nine minutes left in the first half to get Dallas out to a 12-point lead at 35-23. The Sonics reeled off an 11-2 run, keyed by seven points from Rashard Lewis, who scored nine points in the second quarter. The Sonics had gotten to within three at 37-34 with just over five minutes left before halftime. The teams started trading baskets a bit before Ray Allen was able to get the Sonics the first lead since early in the first quarter with a three to make it 45-44 Sonics before he fouled Nowitzki on the other end. The Sonics trailed only 46-45 at half, though during the quarter it seemed it would be a lot worse.
How would the Sonics come out of the locker room? They had a nice run going into halftime, taking the lead and everything. To open the second half, Dallas scored the first 10 points. They had a 12-0 run carrying over from the first half and led 56-45 with 9:22 to go in the quarter. That run was broken by a basket from Jerome James, the first two of his ten points that he scored in the third quarter (actially, the ten points were all the points he scored in the game). An FSNNW scoop from Cara Capuano said that in a team huddle earlier in the game, Nate McMillan got on Jerome James a bit for calling for the ball on the block and then "chickening out." It seemed to spark Jerome a bit, because he turned it up, with and without the ball in the third quarter of play. Dallas had a decent lead of eight with 4:31 left in the quarter (65-57) before the Sonics warmed up a bit. This included a loose-ball situation after a missed Reggie Evans free throw where the ball was tipped about a billion times (James was in on the play and actually tried to put it back) and the ball eventually went back to Evans, who went back up and was fouled again. Eventually, Damien Wilkins tied the game at 70-70 (13-5 run) with a three-pointer on the Sonics second-to-last possession of the quarter. Dallas led 72-70 after three.
The Sonics didn't fall behind by double digits or anything in the fourth quarter, but it seemed they could never pull ahead and away. Damien Wilkins chimed in with another game-tying three early in the quarter. Rashard Lewis hit a running banker with 8:11 left to give the Sonics their first lead since right before halftime. It would be their final lead of the game. From there, Dallas was able to answer every clutch shot from Seattle. They tied it at 87 with 1:30 left on a Daniels basket, probably the one where he got up real slowly afterward. Of course, one big gaffe was when Ray Allen went to the line with the Sonics down 89-87 inside the final minute and bricked the first free throw. Ray Allen's usually dead-on from the line, but this is how it's been going lately. He didn't have too nice of a shooting night either, even with Rashard returning to the floor.
I guess if there's one fact that sums it up, it's this: outside of the first three minutes or so of the first quarter, the Sonics never had the lead with the ball.
PEEK AT THE BOXSCORE
Ray Allen 19 pts/6 reb/3 ast (7-20 FG, 2-6 3pt, 3-4 free throws, 39 min), Rashard Lewis 12 pts/4 reb/2 ast (5-13 FG, 1-7 3pt, 1-2 free throws, 36 min), Reggie Evans 6 pts/13 reb/2 ast (1-3 FG, 4-6 free throws, 23 min), Luke Ridnour 5 pts/5 reb/4 ast (2-9 FG, 1-5 3pt, 31 min)
Antonio Daniels 17 pts/4 ast (5-13 FG, 1-4 3pt, 6-6 free throws, 26 min), Damien Wilkins 10 pts (4-6 FG, 2-2 3pt, 20 min), Danny Fortson 5 pts/7 reb (1-2 FG, 3-4 free throws, 20 min), Nick Collison 4 pts/2 reb (2-4 FG, 17 min), Vitaly Potapenko 2 pts (1-1 FG, 3 min), Ron Murray 0 pts/2 ast (0-1 FG, 9 min)
Jerome James Watch
10 pts/6 reb/1 blk (5-9 FG, 2 turnovers, 20 min)
shot 33-for-81 (40.7%) from the floor, shot 7-for-25 (28%) from downtown, shot 17-for-22 (77.3%) from the line, outrebounded Dallas 45-30, teams deadlocked 38-38 in the paint, were beat on the break 17-9, beat Dallas 24-9 on second-chance points, turned the ball over 11 times, bench outscored Dallas bench 38-34 (outrebounded them 11-5)
Well, I think McMillan played Lewis a lot more minutes than he was leading me to believe. I didn't think he was going to play more than about 25, but McMillan went ahead and played him for 36, second only to Ray Allen's 39. I'm glad Ray Allen wasn't up into the 40s, however. That's nice to see for the first time in a while.
As for Daniels, it didn't look like he'd lost a step at all. The Sonics have been missing his spark for what seems like an eternity now, and it was nice to see it come off the bench and start driving to the basket again. It was also nice to see him spell Luke Ridnour a bit, who's been playing some massive minutes as of late. That was good in this game because Ridnour was shooting horribly again.
In frontcourt news, it was a good night for Evans and a solid night from Jerome James after the light bulb went off in his head apparently. For bench frontcourters, Danny Fortson played limited minutes, but 5 and 7 in those minutes are definitely Fortson-like numbers. Nick Collison had an off night, though. I think the double-figure games from Collison come with a little less certainty than they were when Fortson was out tending to his mother's health and then having run-ins with McMillan.
Well, the Sonics have four more tries to finally wrap up this Northwest Division, and the next game is the softball; it's a home game against New Orleans on Friday. They'd better square it out of the way then, because closing with three on the road at Minnesota, Dallas, and Houston is not going to be easy in the least.
I would have asked Jinkies if he'd ever dressed as the Cadbury bunny in those Cadbury Creme Egg commercials so he could get free Cadbury Creme Eggs.