Seattle lost its sixth straight game Wednesday, 95-90 to Dallas at KeyArena. That loss, coupled with Denver’s 116-102 win over New Orleans on Wednesday, moved the Nuggets within three games of the first-place Sonics in the division with four games remaining for each team.
Seattle needs one win or a loss by Denver for its first division title since 1998. The Nuggets, who have won nine in a row and 23 of 25, host Memphis and visit Houston and Phoenix before finishing the season at home against Portland.
Following Friday’s home finale, Seattle closes the season with games at Minnesota, Dallas and Houston.
The banged-up Sonics welcomed back All-Star Rashard Lewis and key reserves Antonio Daniels and Danny Fortson from injuries Wednesday, hoping to wrap up the division and perhaps give players an opportunity to rest heading into the playoffs.
Instead, leading scorer Ray Allen was held to just three points in the fourth quarter and Daniels missed a jumper with 39 seconds left.
Seattle has not won since beating Portland on April 1.
“We were right there,” Sonics coach Nate McMillan said. “We just didn’t do a good job of executing.”
Lewis missed eight games with a deep bone bruise on his right foot. He showed early signs of rust, missing his first four shots, but finished with 12 points in 36 minutes. He had not played since March 27.
“I was told right before the game I could play him 30 (minutes) as opposed to 20 to 25,” McMillan said. “He looked like he was winded and I thought at the end he was moving a little slow … but that’s to be expected coming back after being off for so long.”
New Orleans played its fourth straight game Wednesday without Chris Andersen (ankle) and Jamaal Magloire (back), and didn’t have point guard Dan Dickau because of a sore shoulder. J.R. Smith tried to pick up the slack with 25 points, but he didn’t score after the third quarter.
The Hornets have lost five straight.
“It was a tough situation,” New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. “We didn’t have any guys, we have so many injuries, and when you are playing the hottest team in the league the odds are stacked against you.”