SuperSonics 108, Lakers 93
Nobody told Rashard Lewis he wasn’t invited to the show.
Lewis made 13 of 22 shots, including seven 3-pointers.
“We know what kind of threat Rashard is. He is extremely versatile,” Bryant said. “He just hurt us tonight from all over the court.”
When guarded by a smaller player, Lewis went inside and used his height advantage. When a bigger player tried to slow down Seattle’s small forward, Lewis stepped out and drained 3-pointers.
“Too much focus was on Ray Allen tonight and I got a lot of open shots and I took advantage,” Lewis said. “Even though it was Ray and Kobe … I felt like Kobe was talking to us as a team. We’re a team and we’re going to back each other up.”
It’s Seattle’s best start since beginning the 1993-94 season 20-2 on the way to 63 wins. The SuperSonics have the second-best record in the NBA and will host league-leading Phoenix on Friday night.
Bryant led the Lakers with 35 points and Allen scored 26 points for Seattle, in a matchup anticipated since the preseason.
On Oct. 13, the day after the Lakers and SuperSonics met to open the preseason, Allen questioned Bryant’s ability to lead the Lakers, wondering if the superstar’s attitude would allow him to take a backseat some nights and let his teammates develop their games.
Bryant responded, telling a reporter not to put Allen’s name in the same breath with his. During a later preseason game which Allen sat out, Bryant told Allen he would see him again.
Before Tuesday’s game, Bryant said he took Allen’s words as an attack on his team and he hoped they would respond.
Bryant’s supporting cast did little to back him up.
Caron Butler added 16 points for Los Angeles, but aside from Bryant’s 12-for-23 shooting performance, the Lakers made just 20-of-58 shots.
“We ran into a team that has been playing great basketball,” Lakers coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. “They shot the ball so well. We tried three different methods of trying to play them and they had answers for everything.”
Lewis scored 17 points in the first quarter and had 22 in the first half as Seattle built a 10-point lead at the break.
Seattle was also unselfish with the ball, with 28 assists on 42 field goals. Luke Ridnour tied a season-high with 11 assists.
“Rashard was the guy at the other end of the floor for us that kept us in the game and allowed us to take control,” Allen said. “I don’t know if teams have respected him yet to where they have to take him out of the offense.”
Seattle took control in the second quarter as the Lakers struggled to make a shot. The SuperSonics went on a 17-5 run, highlighted by fast break dunks from Lewis and Jerome James, to take a 51-33 lead.
Los Angeles missed 13 of 14 shots during the nearly seven-minute span as they struggled against a zone defense by Seattle. The Lakers’ only points were a long jumper from Bryant and free throws from Bryant and Chris Mihm.
The Lakers got no closer than eight in the second half.
“I thought our zone did a good job of getting them out of their comfort zone and forcing them to play against a defense that you don’t see a lot of in the NBA,” Seattle coach Nate McMillan said. “I thought that slowed them down just enough for us to get some stops and create some offense for ourselves.”
Los Angeles fell to 8-9 on the season when Bryant leads the Lakers in scoring.
Bryant said before the game he was done commenting on the feud that has developed with Karl Malone. “I’ve said what I have to say on that matter,” Bryant said. … Seattle activated guard Ibrahim Kutluay before Tuesday’s game and placed guard Mateen Cleaves on the injured list with a strained left shoulder. … Seattle guard Ronald “Flip” Murray and center Vitaly Potapenko both made their regular-season debuts. Murray had been out with a left quadriceps strain and Potapenko had a broken finger in his right hand.