Ho-hum, Sonics lose fourth straight game

  • FRANK HUGHES / The News Tribune
  • Sunday, October 22, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

By FRANK HUGHES

The News Tribune

SACRAMENTO – There were nine seconds left in the Seattle SuperSonics’ game against the Sacramento Kings. Point guard Shammond Williams had fouled out and Gary Payton was done for the night.

So Sonics coach Paul Westphal looked to the end of his bench and told Tyson Wheeler, “I hope you’re loose, Tyson. You’re going in.”

As it turned out, Wheeler, who probably saw the final nine seconds of his NBA career flash by, ended up with the potential game-tying shot. Standing in the corner, he lofted it high, it came down a little wide and it bounced away unthreateningly, giving the Sonics their fourth consecutive preseason loss, 113-110, at Arco Arena on Sunday night.

Wheeler got hugs from his soon-to-be ex-teammates for his gallantry, but his miss left the Sonics winless on this weeklong trip, with two preseason games left to play.

Still, Westphal was not upset. His team played without Rashard Lewis, who is home with a knee sprain, and Vin Baker, who missed the game with a groin pull and a sore knee.

They played without Payton for the final 12 minutes, and they still had a chance to win the game.

“It was OK,” Westphal said. “We have to take care of the ball a little better, and some defensive lapses we had led to some open threes. But for the most part it was encouraging. I was real happy with all the starters.”

There was one particularly positive outing. Center Patrick Ewing played his best all-around game as a Sonic, putting his offensive skills together with his defense and rebounding.

Ewing had been solid in the latter two for most of the exhibition season, but his offense was far behind. At times, he looked like every bit of a 38-year-old on aged knees.

But against Sacramento – which was playing without Chris Webber (Achilles’ injury) – Ewing seemed to have his way with Vlade Divac, downing five of 11 shots and nine of 10 free throws for 19 points.

The Sonics intentionally ran a bunch of plays for Ewing, and he seemed to be able to score or draw a foul in most of his opportunities.

“I felt good,” Ewing said. “That’s what the preseason is all about, trying to get yourself ready. We have two more games left, so I want to get myself in the right frame of mind for the season.”

The game was the perfect example of how Westphal plans on using Ewing. He wants to keep him around 32 minutes a game to keep him fresh for the duration of the 82 games – as well as the playoffs – but he also wants him to get in his work and be a major factor.

“I always want to play more,” Ewing said. “But I came here to win. I am not even going to let that stuff (about minutes) bother me. At this point in my career, I’ve done a lot, I’ve accomplished a lot, I know the kind of player I am. All I care about is trying to get that ring.”

Payton continued to shine, scoring 18 points to go with five assists and five rebounds in 24 minutes, making one wonder what he will accomplish when he plays his usual minutes.

Westphal will give Payton that opportunity soon. Westphal said he will begin playing the starters their regular minutes Wednesday night, when the Sonics meet the Kings at KeyArena.

Desmond Mason had his second consecutive strong outing, scoring 18 points. He also got his first taste of NBA officiating when he threw down a vicious breakaway dunk and got called for a technical foul for pulling himself on the rim.

Westphal argued vehemently with the officials.

“You just haven’t seen that guy jump,” Westphal said to referee Terry Durham. “He was still on his way up.”

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