SuperSonics 92, Spurs 91

SEATTLE (AP)—It was a great sign for Seattle. All-Stars Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis went scoreless in the fourth quarter, yet the SuperSonics were able to grind out a critical playoff victory.

Allen had an impact despite shooting 0-for-6 in the final period and Vitaly Potapenko forced Tim Duncan into a missed 4-footer at the horn, lifting the Sonics to a 92-91 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night.

“In the playoffs, a lot of times it comes down to one stop,” said Antonio Daniels, who had 18 points and eight rebounds. “Vitaly did a great job of defending with his body. He forced him into a tough shot.”

Daniels made four big free throws in the fourth period, Jerome James scored 15 points on 7-of-7 shooting and Lewis finished with 12 points as the Sonics pulled to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is Sunday in Seattle.

“I thought we played the game they played in Games 1 and 2,” Seattle coach Nate McMillan said. “They were the aggressors. They were the team that was physical in the first two games. They had us on our heels.

“Tonight, we came out with a sense of urgency and were aggressive on both ends of the floor,” he added.

Duncan scored 23 points with 11 rebounds, and his defense was as solid as ever—four blocked shots—on the day he was selected to the NBA’s All-Defensive Team for the sixth straight year.

It wasn’t enough to carry the Spurs, who saw their six-game playoff winning streak snapped. This win was huge for the Sonics, because no team has ever won a seven-game playoff series after trailing 3-0.

“It would have been tough,” Daniels said. “It would have been hard to have to win four straight against a very good team.”

Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili each scored 18 points, but Seattle did a much better job defensively by keeping San Antonio’s quick guards out of the paint. Parker had 29 points in Game 1 and Ginobili 28 in Game 2.

“You have to hustle, scrappy, solid play on both ends of the floor for 48 minutes to have a chance to beat San Antonio,” McMillan said. “We did a better job of taking away their transition baskets, their transition points. We forced it to a halfcourt game.”

Ginobili made a free throw with 29.3 seconds on the clock, pulling San Antonio to 92-91. After a timeout, the Sonics got the ball to Allen, whose attempt over Duncan from the left baseline bounced off the rim.

That left the Spurs with 2.9 seconds for a final chance. Ginobili inbounded to Duncan, who drove to his left on Potapenko. Duncan squared up to the basket, but his shot bounced off the rim at the horn.

“Got where I wanted to get, and I had a great look at it,” Duncan said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t drop for me.”

Said Potapenko: “I tried to keep my body on him, not be too aggressive because you know at the end of the game they could call an easy foul even if I extend my hand or he fakes ths shot.”

The Sonics held San Antonio without a field goal over the final 4:27. From there, the Spurs hit 4-for-10 from the foul line. They shot 55.9 percent (19-of-34) from the line, including 8-for-16 in the fourth period.

“Our performance at the free throw line was a single-handed great way to lose a game,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said.

The Sonics, outplayed decisively in double-digit losses to open the series in Texas, came out with the game they had to have. McMillan, sensing his team was tight, wanted the Sonics to have fun.

They cut down on the 31 turnovers they committed over two games in San Antonio, limiting themselves to 11 this time for only nine Spurs points. And they did a better job of forcing the pace so the Spurs were unable to jam the lane defensively.

“We combated by going at them in the paint,” Allen said. “In the first two games, I think we shied away from it a little bit.”

This one was very physical—a real bruiser. Daniels caught Robert Horry’s knee on his sore left knee, Ginobili took Danny Fortson’s elbow in his face— and later another from Daniels.

“They were tougher. They were more physical. They were desperate,” Ginobili said. “That made them play with more determination.”

Notes

Allen had made 45 straight free throws until missing a technical foul shot midway through the second period. … The Spurs are 15-1 all-time in series where they lead 2-0. … Bowen, Allen’s nemesis in recent seasons, was roundly booed during introductions. Brent Barry, who played five seasons in Seattle from 1999-2004, got a big cheer. … Sonics F Reggie Evans left in the third with a bruised back, and Lewis left with 3 1/2 minutes remaining with a sprained big toe on his left foot.

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