More than two years later, the big man is making Allen look like a genius.
Allen scored 26 points and James added 19 points and nine rebounds, leading the Seattle SuperSonics to a 105-93 win over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night for a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference playoff series.
“We’ve come out these first two games and played solid,” Sonics coach Nate McMillan said. “It starts at the defensive end of the floor. You’ve got to get stops. It allowed us to get out into transition for some easy baskets.”
Rashard Lewis scored 12 points and Vladimir Radmanovic added 10 for Seattle, which took control with a decisive third quarter then held off a fourth-quarter charge with the Sacramento starters on the bench.
“We’re playing how we only know how to play,” Allen said. “We’ve got guys who are stepping up and playing bigger.”
Mike Bibby had 16 points and eight assists, a respectable follow-up after his 1-for-16 shooting effort in Game 1. Bobby Jackson scored 17 points after going 0-for-7 in the opener, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Game 3 is Friday in Sacramento.
The Sonics ran away in the third, outscoring Sacramento 33-20. Seattle’s offense was fueled by the tight team defense that McMillan loves to see, and the Sonics forced six turnovers in the period.
“We should have learned. It didn’t look like we learned anything,” said Sacramento’s Peja Stojakovic, who scored nine points on 3-of-10 shooting. “I don’t know what happened to us. No offense, no defense.”
James keeps playing beyond expectations, shooting 9-for-11 from the field with two big baskets in a 15-6 burst to open the third.
“Maybe the rest of the world would say I’m playing above expectations,” James said. “But for the guys in our locker room, our coaching staff and this organization, I’m finally coming into my own.”
In Game 1, Seattle’s 7-foot-1 center had 17 points, 15 rebounds and five blocked shots. His continued production was a welcome surprise for the Sonics. The big man has a reputation for struggling after having a big game.
“It’s a little unexpected,” James said. “It’s just nice to finally be able to get it done.”
Allen quickly told reporters: “You guys need to show on the record that I’ve always thought he could be the player he’s shown in the last two games.”
Bibby, Peja Stojakovic, Kenny Thomas, Cuttino Mobley and Brad Miller—all of Sacramento’s starters—spent the fourth quarter on the bench, trying to ignore taunts from nearby fans as they rested for Game 3.
“They weren’t going back in,” Kings coach Rick Adelman said. “I mean, why should I? That other group was doing all the work.”
The Kings weren’t finished after their rough third period. The reserves started the final quarter and outscored Seattle 17-2 over the first 3:47, forcing McMillan to take a timeout to reorganize.
“We just wanted to push the ball and take what they give us,” Jackson said. “We did that. Our second unit did a great job of changing the game. We just got a little tired in the fourth quarter.”
Sacramento got as close as 100-92 after Jackson’s 3-pointer with 2:33 remaining, but Allen found James for an easy basket with 1:07 to play, and Lewis came away with a big rebound after Eddie House missed a jumper.
The Kings trailed 55-44 at the break, but they’d nearly survived a similar situation in Game 1. Sacramento was down 55-40 at halftime on Saturday, then charged back within 83-82 with under a minute to play before losing.
This time, the Kings were off-balance to open the second half and the Sonics sure made them pay.
Seattle opened the third period with a 15-6 run over the first five minutes to lead 70-51 after Luke Ridnour’s 3-pointer from the left corner.
James had two baskets in that burst and also reached the free throw line after making contact and drawing a foul on Miller, who was so frustrated he was assessed a technical foul for arguing with referee Sean Corbin.
“I am extremely disappointed,” Adelman said. “We have a group out there that should be better than that.”
North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who recruited Seattle’s Nick Collison and Sacramento’s Greg Ostertag to play college ball at Kansas, had a second-row seat. … Knicks G Jamal Crawford, a Seattle native, sat near the Kings bench with former University of Washington G Will Conroy. … Seattle G Antonio Daniels brought the NBA championship ring he earned with San Antonio in 1999 to motivate teammates. “Anytime you have something visual, it always helps,” he said.