Celtics 98, SuperSonics 84

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SEATTLE (AP)—Gary Payton is way too much for second-year pro Luke Ridnour to handle. That’s why the Boston Celtics have notched two of Seattle’s four losses this season.

Paul Pierce scored 22 points and Payton had 21 against his former team as the Celtics snapped a three-game losing streak, beating the streaking SuperSonics 98-84 on Saturday night.

It was all about matchups, with Boston coach Doc Rivers using his small lineup to make it a 94-foot game. The Celtics became the first team to sweep the Sonics and the first visitors to win in 10 games in Seattle this season.

“We went small with their men,” Payton said. “Usually, teams are big with them and they give open looks. We went small. We put hands in their faces. We made them take tough shots and they missed them.”

They sure did.

Payton set the tempo against the club he led for 13 seasons, outdueling Ridnour with post-ups that favored the veteran. It’s a tough assignment for Ridnour, but to be fair it’s not easy for many players against Payton.

“He’s a great player,” said Ridnour, who shot 1-for-11. “They ran a lot of post-ups for him. I let him spin on me a couple of times when I knew I shouldn’t, and their team just played well. “

The result was mayhem for Seattle’s perimeter offense. The Celtics held the Sonics to a season-low 32.6 percent from the floor and kept them scoreless over the final 3 minutes.

Rashard Lewis scored 19 points to lead Seattle and Ray Allen had 16. The Celtics held Allen—traded from Milwaukee for Payton in February 2003—to a 5-for-23 shooting night and only four points in the second half.

“Boston earned this win,” Seattle coach Nate McMillan said. “They were aggressive and attacked our paint. We talked about keys—rebounding, scoring, assists. The things we needed to do, we didn’t do.”

Danny Fortson had 16 points and 11 rebounds for Seattle, and his muscular inside game represented the only offense the Sonics could generate down the stretch. It was all but over when he fouled out with 1:58 to play.

“They played us good,” Fortson said. “They beat us in Boston and once you’ve got a win over a team, that makes you more confident for next time. They haven’t made those types of shots all year long. All of a sudden, they’re making everything.”

The Sonics had won eight of nine after losing in Boston on Nov. 21.

It was tied at 65 late in the third when the Celtics took off. Jiri Welsch and Mark Blount hit jumpers to spark Boston’s 10-4 burst to close the period, and Tony Allen had the play of the night when he soared for a spectacular rebound dunk.

“I don’t know of a lot of humans who can do that,” Rivers said.

The Sonics rallied, going on a 10-2 run to cut it to 83-80 midway through the fourth quarter, but they then went dry from the perimeter.

Fortson’s putbacks and tough inside play helped Seattle get back in it. He scored two straight baskets for Seattle after misses by Allen, cutting it to 87-84 with 3:09 to go, but the Sonics couldn’t score again.

“That was a great win for us,” Rivers said. “I don’t know that we’ve played any better all year.”


Payton received a lengthy ovation when the starters were introduced. “That’s the fans,” he said. “I think they’re still great. I hope they still think I’m great.” He is Seattle’s career leader in scoring (18,207), assists (7,384), steals (2,107), games (999), minutes (36,858) and personal fouls (2,577). … Mariners RF Ichiro Suzuki sat next to Sonics chairman Howard Schultz. … The Sonics activated G Ronald “Flip” Murray and C Vitaly Potapenko from the injured list.

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