SuperSonics 101, Celtics 95
Wilcox, at 6-foot-10, 235 pounds, may not have the strength or weight of other big forwards, but he makes up for it with speed and quickness. Wilcox flashed his way through middle of the Celtics’ defense for a season-high 24 points Sunday night to help the Sonics to a 101-95 victory against road-weary and injury-depleted Boston.
Damien Wilkins added 20 points as the Sonics have won seven of their last eight home games. Ray Allen, Seattle’s leading scorer, was 7-of-20 from the floor for just 15 points after having a season-low 14 in Friday’s 101-82 loss to Minnesota. Allen, who averages 24.7 points, may be a little tired this week after the birth of his second son, Walker Allen.
“The way he (Wilcox) plays, the team has to look for him because he’s different than most big forwards in the league,” Sonics coach Bob Hill said. “You have to look for him and throw him a bone once in a while. If you don’t throw to him, he’ll quit running and those easy baskets will disintegrate.”
How is Wilcox different?
“How active he is. How hard he runs. How high he jumps. How big his hands are,” Hill said. “Now he’s making his free throws and that 15-foot jump shot.”
Wilcox was traded to the Sonics late last season and signed a free agent deal this summer. He will play a larger role than anticipated with Rashard Lewis out for two months with a hand injury. Not only is he the team’s primary inside scorer, but when he’s as effective as he was against the Celtics—with dunks and jumpers—it helps everyone.
“We, as guards, have to take care of our teammates,” Ray Allen said. “He is definitely a guy who is going to make it easier for us on the perimeter. For him to be able to run and get the alley-oops that he’s getting now, it’s going to take a lot of pressure off us.”
Boston trailed by 17 at the end of the third period, but cut the lead to 86-80 on a free throw by Tony Allen with 4:33 left. Earl Watson drilled a 3-pointer on the Sonics’ next possession then stole the ball and laid in another basket to get the lead back to 91-80 lead with 3:21 left.
Celtics’ coach Doc Rivers called a timeout, but without his go-to scorer, Paul Pierce (foot injury), his team fell short. They managed to get within 93-87 before Rajon Rondo missed a wide-open 3-point attempt with 50 seconds left. The Sonics made all eight of their free throws in the final minute.
“We did a great job of moving the ball around tonight,” Wilkins said. “Anytime we do that, everyone’s going to benefit. I just get out there and let my energy dictate my offense as well as my defense.”
The Sonics, leading 48-39 at halftime, had their margin reduced to 57-51 with 7:10 left in the third. Then they went on an 11-0 run, punctuated by a pair of basket-shaking dunks by Wilcox. His second included a free throw as he helped the Sonics build a 68-51 lead. It was 76-59 at the end of the third.
“Coach got on me the other day and told me I’ve been going to soft to the basket so today I wanted to capitalize on that,” Wilcox said. “I went back to my old ways and just finished. My mind-set was just to finish. Guys made great plays to get me the ball and I just went strong and finished everything.”
The Celtics finish this grueling five-game road trip Monday in Portland. They are without Pierce, who re-aggravated a left foot injury Dec. 20 against Golden State. He was averaging 26.6 points.
The Sonics opened the game by shooting 81.3 percent (13 of 16) in the first period, but led by just nine. The Celtics, who went nearly 4 minutes without scoring, shot just 30 percent. Tony Allen kept them close with 11 points in the period.
“It was bad energy to start the game … we’ve got to figure out a way to start games better and not put us behind the eight-ball,” said Wally Szczerbiak, who is coming back from a right ankle sprain. He had 13 points in 22 minutes. “They got a lot of dunks and alley-oops. That stuff we’ve got to clean up.”
Danny Fortson started his third game of the season as the Sonics center after missing the previous two games with knee soreness. … Delonte West, the other key Celtic hampered by an injury, is limited by back spasms.