By Eric D. Williams The News Tribune
BOSTON — It was back to school night on Wednesday at the TD Banknorth Garden.
Class was in session, as the experienced Boston Celtics showed the Seattle SuperSonics how an elite team handles its business on a nightly basis in the NBA.
In a 111-82 manhandling the Celtics, holders of the NBA’s the best record at 51-12, raced out to a 20-point halftime lead and coasted in the second half, sending the Sonics home licking their wounds after being saddled with their sixth straight defeat.
Seattle has lost 10 of its past 11 games, and finished 1-6 on its longest road trip of the season. The Sonics will try and get back on a winning track on Friday against a team they know they can beat — the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Sonics already have defeated Minnesota three times this season.
“I just think it’s part of the learning process,” Seattle coach P.J. Carlesimo said about the rough stretch of games for his team. “We would like to be the people that dictate things by how hard we play defensively, and how well we play.”
The second half turned into a practice session for the Celtics, winners now of 11 straight, with Boston working on different sets and trying different player combinations in preparation for the league playoffs beginning in six weeks.
Boston also used the laugher as an opportunity to work in new additions P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell. A sold-out crowd of 18,624 — those that remained anyway — gave their team a standing ovation in the closing seconds as they finished off the Sonics.
Seattle (16-49) trailed 34-24 at the end of the first quarter. And Boston’s reserves, including Eddie House, Leon Powe, Tony Allen and Glen Davis, helped put the game away by turning up the defensive intensity and attacking the glass against the Sonics.
Seattle turned the ball over 22 times, resulting in 22 points for the Celtics.
The Celtics, who already have clinched a playoff berth, outscored the Sonics by 10 points again in the second quarter and led 64-44 at halftime.
Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen had 18 points apiece for Boston. Paul Pierce, the team’s third All-Star, finished with a double-double of 14 points and 11 assists, scoring all 14 of his points in the first half.
Seattle rookie Kevin Durant led the Sonics with 16 points in the loss. Johan Petro finished with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Earl Watson chipped in 11 points along with seven assists.
“I could see that they were searching,” Allen said about his former team. “They were trying to find something with the lineup rotations, to see if anybody had anything going.
“We all have been on the other side of the spectrum where you are trying to find your way through a loss, where you are playing against a team who has everything working.”
With 17 games remaining the road to the end of the season is a windy one. The Sonics face 13 teams that could finish in the playoffs, meaning the Sonics will have to play some solid basketball if they want to get some wins down the stretch.
“We’re going to be playing teams that are at the elite level,” Watson said. “It’s a good experience for us, because we’re about to see how teams prepare mentally for the playoffs. Just the focus and tenacious nature that they have is going to be key for us to pick up on because it’s something that you can’t duplicate unless you’re in that situation.”