SuperSonics 102, Lakers 100

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LOS ANGELES (AP)—Ronald “Flip” Murray’s playing time is usually limited since he plays behind Seattle All-Star Ray Allen.

Murray got an opportunity Sunday night when Allen sprained his right ankle, and there was no discernible drop-off.

Murray scored a season-high 25 points in 35 minutes, Rashard Lewis had 27 points and 11 rebounds, and the short-handed SuperSonics held off the slumping Los Angeles Lakers 102-100.

“I just had to wait my turn. My time eventually comes,” Murray said. “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. That’s the thing about the NBA—you have to be patient.

“There wasn’t anything spectacular I was trying to do. It feels good go get in there and play, but whenever you get a chance to go out there, even for 5 minutes a game, it’s always special.”

Murray entered averaging 5.6 points and 14.7 minutes per game.

“Everybody knows Flip can play,” Lewis said. “We’ve got Ray Allen as a 2 guard. That’s what’s holding him back.”

Allen, averaging 23.9 points, had six points, three assists and one rebound when he came out for good with 2:12 remaining in the opening period. There was no immediate word as to the severity of his injury, and Allen wasn’t available after the game. X-rays were negative.

“When we came into the locker room, he was here to greet us,” teammate Antonio Daniels said. “I asked him how he was doing. He said, ‘All right.”’

Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 30 points, scoring 16 in the final 8 1/2 minutes. Caron Butler added 29 points and Chucky Atkins had 12.

The loss was the fifth straight for the Lakers—their longest losing streak since they finished the 1993-94 season with 10 straight losses.

That was the last time the Lakers (32-34) failed to qualify for the playoffs, and they’re in danger of falling short this season, trailing the Denver Nuggets by 3 1/2 games in the battle for the eighth and final Western Conference berth.

“If it’s mathematically possible, then it’s possible,” Bryant said. “You never know. We can get hot. But it all starts on the defensive end. We’ve got to focus on locking people down.”

The win was the fourth in five games for the Northwest Division-leading Sonics (45-20). Seattle also played without starting center Jerome James (bruised right quad) and inside reserve Danny Fortson (sprained left ankle).

“The strength of this team all year has been the depth,” Daniels said. “Everybody can play.”

Lamar Odom, the Lakers’ second-leading scorer, didn’t play because of a strained left shoulder. Team spokesman John Black said results of an MRI taken before the game were inconclusive, and Odom would see a specialist Monday.

Daniels added 13 points, Vitaly Potapenko scored a season-high 11, and Luke Ridnour had 11 points and seven assists for the Sonics.

Potapenko’s three-point play with 8:45 remaining gave the Sonics a 79-68 lead. That’s when Bryant went to work, outscoring the Sonics 9-3 by himself with three 3-pointers to move the Lakers within five points.

A basket by Daniels and Ridnour’s 3-pointer extended Seattle’s lead to 89-79 with 4 1/2 minutes to play, but the Lakers battled back again, drawing within two points on a layup by Atkins with 43.6 seconds left.

Nick Collison made a three-point play with 28.2 seconds remaining, but Butler’s layup drew the Lakers within three points. Butler was fouled on the play and missed the free throw, but Bryant got the rebound and missed a 3-pointer that could have tied the game.

Two free throws each by Ridnour and Lewis clinched the victory. Butler made a meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“We couldn’t get stops when we needed to,” Bryant said. “We didn’t do a good job of keeping them out of the paint. We let them penetrate and pitch, and get whatever shots they wanted. We had a couple of situations tonight where we just needed to get that one big stop, and we weren’t able to do it.”

Notes

Sonics coach Nate McMillan said he hopes James and Fortson will be able to play Tuesday night against Milwaukee. Neither traveled to Los Angeles. … Black said Odom won’t travel with the Lakers for Tuesday night’s game at Utah. Odom said he hoped to play Thursday night at Denver. … The Lakers are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for just the second time since 1976. … With 16 games remaining, the Lakers have already lost more games this season than in any season since 1994-95, when they went 48-34. … The Lakers are 6-30 when allowing their opponents to score 100 or more points.

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