In many ways, the Atlanta Hawks helped bring about the good fortune that has befallen the Sonics. After being embarrassed in a 30-point season-opening defeat to the Los Angeles...
ATLANTA — In many ways, the Atlanta Hawks helped bring about the good fortune that has befallen the Sonics.
After being embarrassed in a 30-point season-opening defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Sonics corrected themselves two days later against Atlanta for a home-opening victory, which also started a nine-game winning streak.
Simply put, good things happen to teams who play the hapless Hawks, and the Sonics were gracious benefactors again yesterday afternoon at Philips Arena.
During a lopsided victory that wasn’t as close as the 94-79 score, Seattle got a glimpse of its future as Luke Ridnour and Nick Collison starred as a duo for the first time and the Sonics returned to an old formula for success.
In the previous two games, coach Nate McMillan tinkered with the rotation, partly because reserve Antonio Daniels was absent because of illness and partly because he felt inclined to reward former starters Ronald Murray and Vitaly Potapenko for their patience.
The result was an 11-man rotational mess. The analogy that “too many chefs spoil the broth” was appropriate. The Sonics were out of sync and outclassed during a 114-107 defeat to Philadelphia on Tuesday at KeyArena.
Yesterday, McMillan pared Murray and Potapenko from the rotation and the analogy of “addition by subtraction” better described the team’s output.
Seattle connected on 9 of 17 three-pointers for a season-best 52.9 percent and shot 46.7 percent overall.
“I think guys are comfortable with the rotation because of the success that we had with it initially,” said Daniels, who finished with 11 points. “Regardless as to who you are playing with and the minutes that you receive, you give it your all. … What we had going before was working. Everyone in here knows that, so I don’t think there’s any hard feelings about going back to that.”
Despite several distractions, the Sonics improved to 21-6 overall and 10-3 on the road.
“We didn’t get caught up into what they were doing or anything that was going on,” said Rashard Lewis, who scored 10 of his 17 points in the second quarter. “More than anything, we were efficient. We ran our sets and did our thing as if nothing else was happening.”
The Sonics rose above the lethargy that was created by the 2 p.m. EST start and a half-empty arena.
And when center Jerome James and forward Danny Fortson were ejected in the second half by official Bob Delaney, the Sonics momentarily lost focus. That allowed Atlanta to cut the deficit to 13 in the third quarter before Allen responded with a three-pointer from the wing that began a 15-5 run.
“This was one of those set-up games,” Allen said. “It was set up so we would not play as well as we know we can. … I’m sure those guys were hoping they could stick close until the fourth quarter, and then anything can happen. But we took care of business early.”
The Sonics took the lead from Atlanta, which fell to 5-23, after James drained a short hook shot with 6:30 remaining in the first quarter.
Seattle never trailed again.
The Sonics built their first double-digit lead (33-23) early in the second quarter and led 61-44 at intermission. They were up by as many as 23 in the second half and never allowed Atlanta closer than 13 after halftime.
The Hawks received a team-high 19 points and 11 rebounds from Antoine Walker. But their undoing was defense.
“I kind of came out and got things started, then Ray carried us in the second half,” Lewis said. “And our bench did their thing, so that shows it was a complete team effort.”
Along with Lewis, Collison was instrumental during the second-quarter surge, scoring eight points and collecting six rebounds in the period.
“I’m feeling more and more comfortable out there, and a couple of times Luke found me on some dishes and I was able to finish,” said Collison, who finished with career highs of 10 points and 11 rebounds. “The more I play with him, the more he knows what he’s going to do and he knows how to get me the ball.”
Ridnour dished out five assists, but his biggest contribution came from his usually erratic jump shot, which has been extremely accurate the past two games. He connected on 6 of 9 shots against Philadelphia and made 6 of 10 yesterday for 13 points.
“What we’ve seen the last year or so is those guys are going to be pretty good,” McMillan said. “Nick is going to be a good player down the road. The more time he gets, (the more he) figures out the game and how the game should be played.
“Luke is the same way. I think Robert (Swift) is the same way. You just see little things in players — a good feel for the game, a good understanding for the game — and you know they work hard with having that gift.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org