At no point did Ray Allen believe he wouldn't play last night.
At no point did Ray Allen believe he wouldn’t play last night. That type of thinking never entered his mind as he stretched out on the training room table minutes before tip-off with a towel over his head.
He pumped fluids into his body and consumed various medications to counter the effects of an upper respiratory infection, but still he felt congested. He struggled to breathe deeply, moved slower than normal and felt a throbbing in his skull.
“Just two steps slower than everybody else,” said the Sonics guard who labored through a 98-83 victory last night against Denver in front of sold-out crowd of 17,072 fans at KeyArena. “I didn’t feel like me.’
The Sonics feared a malaise following their four-day layoff and believed that Denver, despite losing the previous three games, was in a more consistent rhythm.
“To have four days off, you really don’t know what to expect,” coach Nate McMillan said. “Ray, he looked weak. But Rashard (Lewis) had it going.
“I was a little nervous about not knowing how we could come out. It’s a different type of challenge. We haven’t had this. We haven’t been in that position. You worry about losing that edge.”
For the Nuggets, that infusion came from Kenyon Martin, whom the Sonics were unable to keep off the offensive glass. He provided the game’s spectacular plays, including a rim-rattling putback dunk late in the third quarter and another thunderous slam in the fourth off of a missed jumper.
“We knew they were strong on the inside, and our plan was to make them score from the outside,” McMillan said. “Martin, he was brute.”
The Nuggets forward managed 18 points, and Andre Miller finished with a team-high 20 points and seven assists.
Even with reserve Rodney White adding 17 points, the trio was not enough, however, to replace Carmelo Anthony, Denver’s leading scorer, who stayed at home to nurse a sprained left ankle.
The Nuggets fell to 13-13.
The Sonics (19-5) drew strength from Lewis and reserve Vladimir Radmanovic.
Lewis, who led all scorers with 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting, did his damage on midrange jumpers, while Radmanovic (19 points) sank 3 of 6 three-pointers to lead a Sonics attack that was missing reserve Antonio Daniels, who is suffering acute tonsillitis.
Reserve Ronald Murray filled in admirably for Daniels and finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists in 27 minutes. It was the longest time on the court this season for the Sonics guard, who has played in just four games this season because of injury.
“It’s all about minutes,” said Murray who had averaged 12 minutes in the previous two games. “The more you play, the longer you have to affect the outcome.”
Reggie Evans needed just 24 minutes to snag a game-high 12 rebounds and Danny Fortson was able to commit six fouls and alienate the officiating crew as well as the Nuggets in 10 minutes before being ejected.
“These last two games here, the officials haven’t allowed me to play my game,” he said.
Forward Nick Collison and center Jerome James picked up where Fortson left off and did enough to neutralize Denver’s talented front line of Marcus Camby, Martin and White and lead the Sonics to a 48-35 rebounding advantage.
But when the Sonics needed a basket, they drew plays for Allen, Lewis and Radmanovic.
Despite his illness, Allen played 41 minutes, second only to Lewis’ 42 and finished with 20 points. He needed 20 shots to reach that total and said he never felt comfortable on the floor.
“When you’re sick, it saps so much energy,” he said. “I had no electricity running through my body.”
Even with Allen at less than 100 percent, Seattle never trailed and raced out to a 10-2 lead with 7:55 remaining in the first quarter. The Sonics never allowed Denver closer than eight points in the second half.
For much of the game, the Nuggets struggled to find points, while the Sonics consistently managed to get the ball in the baskets. They scored 24 in the first quarter, 29 in the second, 26 in the third and 19 in the fourth.
McMillan said the team never spoke about a preseason goal of avoiding consecutive defeats, but admitted that he thought about it before the game.
“That’s something we talked about before, and I don’t think I’ll mention it again to them,” he said. “We know that’s a goal. Good teams bounce back and win games like this, when you’re not at your best but still manage to pull it out.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com