Nothing has come easy for the Sonics in a season in which they needed seven attempts before capturing the Northwest Division title. So perhaps fittingly, Seattle...
Nothing has come easy for the Sonics in a season in which they needed seven attempts to capture the Northwest Division title.
So perhaps fittingly, Seattle overcame a double-digit, second-half deficit for the second time in as many games to finally subdue Sacramento and claim a 122-118 victory, which eliminated the Kings 4-1 in their Western Conference playoff series last night at KeyArena.
Rashard Lewis collected the final rebound, an errant three-pointer from Mike Bibby that fell short and held the ball in his right hand as time expired.
As the Sonic with the longest tenure, he especially enjoyed the Sonics’ first playoff series victory since 1998 when they defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round.
“This has been a long time coming,” Lewis said. “I’m the only person that they kept back from that ’99 team, and I feel like it’s been mission accomplished. Being a captain on this team and go-to guy, it’s special.
“The last time, we weren’t really expected to win and didn’t really think we would. This time is different. This team is different. We won a series, but we think we can do more than this. Why stop now?”
Seattle fell behind by 10 points in the third quarter and trailed 93-90 at the start of the fourth quarter before reserves Antonio Daniels and Nick Collison sparked the comeback.
Kings forward Peja Stojakovic, who finished with a game-high 38 points, missed a long jumper. Streaking downcourt, Collison received a pass from Daniels, sank a layup while being fouled and drained the free throw.
On Seattle’s next possession, Daniels and Collison connected for another layup that gave the Sonics a 97-95 lead with 9:07 left, which was their first lead in the fourth.
Sacramento drew as close as two, 106-104, with about five minutes remaining.
However, Lewis, who had his best game of the series and finished with 24 points, ended Sacramento’s hopes when he splashed a three-pointer at the top of the key with 3:26 left that gave the Sonics a 113-104 lead.
End of game. End of series.
Except, it’s not the end of the story. Not for the Sonics who must now wait before discovering the identity of their next opponent. They’ll play the winner of the San Antonio- Denver series. The Spurs, who lead 3-1, can close out the Nuggets tonight.
“Whoever we play, then that’s who we play,” Daniels said. “We have to prepare a little tougher because the second is tougher. But for right now we have some time off, and I’m going to enjoy this.”
Early in last night’s game, it appeared that Seattle would easily dispatch Sacramento.
Cuttino Mobley suffered a sprained left ankle midway through the second quarter, but his injury may have been a blessing in disguise for the Kings, who were forced to turn to Maurice Evans.
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The Sacramento reserve didn’t play in Games 1 and 4. But he held Allen, who scored 45 points in the previous game, to 11 by halftime last night. Evans buried his head in Allen’s chest and shadowed him every where on the court, which took the Sonics out of their offense and force Luke Ridnour to take open shots.
Ridnour sank 5 of 10 field goals and finished with 10 points.
Evans eventually tired in the later stages and Allen scored nine of his team-high 30 in the final period. Seven Sonics scored in double figures, including Collison (15), Daniels (14), Ridnour (10) and Jerome James (11).
“Not just Rashard, but Ray just let the game come to them,” coach Nate McMillan said. “Those guys were huge tonight, and they had to be. They didn’t force anything, which allowed the other guys to have big games.
“With those guys leading the way and playing like that, we were much better for it. I can’t say enough about them. Rashard had his best game, and Ray just looked like he was on a mission. He was not going to let us lose.”
|Ray Allen continues to shine in the playoffs:|