By RICH MYHRE
SEATTLE – Because basketball is a team game, Antawn Jamison couldn’t beat the Seattle SuperSonics all by himself.
Goodness, he gave it a good try.
Jamison, the sharp shooting Golden State Warriors forward, tossed in 51 points Sunday night, putting on a scoring display unseen in Seattle for almost 2 1/2 decades. Not since Bob McAdoo of the old Buffalo Braves scored 52 points back on March 17, 1976, has an NBA player, friend or foe, had such a high total at the Seattle Center Coliseum, Tacoma Dome or KeyArena.
Jamison’s hot hand was a fine subplot to the evening’s contest, though the main story line still favored the Sonics. Gary Payton scored a season-high 38 points and Seattle shot .566 from the field, another season best, to run past the visiting Warriors 118-102.
The decision, before a modest KeyArena gathering of 11,669, raised Seattle’s record to 3-1 under new coach Nate McMillan.
” (Jamison) was in a zone,” said McMillan, who replaced Paul Westphal last Monday. “The guy had a huge first half (with 31 points), then came back again in the second half. He just played out of his mind.
“Guys can get in a zone like that, but we controlled everybody else and we hung in there and got a nice win,” McMillan said.
Jamison, a 6-foot-9 forward in his third NBA season, finished the night 23-for-36 from the field (2-for-7 from the 3-points stripe) and 3-for-4 in free throws. He also added 14 rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocked shots.
His 51 points matched the fifth-highest total by a Seattle opponent in franchise history, and was the most since Tom Chambers scored 60 points (the record for a Sonics opponent) in a game at Phoenix on March 24, 1990. It was also the best Golden State scoring game since Purvis Short had 59 points on Nov. 17, 1984.
“It was just one of those nights when everything was feeling pretty good,” said Jamison, whose previous career best was 37 points. “All the hard work and dedication I’ve been putting in is starting to pay off. I had a feeling that I had it going early on. The ball just went through the hoop tonight.”
Jamison’s effort overshadowed a fine outing by Payton, who tacked on 12 assists and seven rebounds to his 38 points. Payton bounced back nicely from his poorest shooting game of the season at Denver on Saturday (7-for-25 from the field) by converting 15 of 27 tries, including a pair of 3-pointers.
” (Jamison) can score 100 as long as we win,” Payton said. “I don’t care about somebody getting (a lot of) points. Everybody can score in this league, so we don’t care about that.”
Another primary figure was forward Ruben Patterson, who gave Seattle impressive contributions from the bench. Patterson had a season-high 24 points (8-for-12 from the field, 8-for-8 from the line), eight rebounds and four steals in just 29 minutes. He gave the Warriors fits defensively, though he was having similar trouble trying to guard Jamison at the other end.
“When a guy’s in a zone like that, where he’s hitting everything, there’s nothing you can do,” Patterson said, smiling and shrugging. “I mean, 51 points? I give him credit. I played great defense and he still hit some tough shots over me. He was just in a zone and there’s nothing you can do about that.”
Both teams were without one key front-line player. Golden State’s Chris Mills missed the game with a sore right ankle, while Seattle’s Vin Baker sat out his second straight game with a sore right leg. Baker was in uniform an hour before the game, expecting to play, but changed his mind at the last minute and watched from the Seattle bench in street clothes. He is questionable to play Wednesday vs. Detroit.
The Sonics are entering a stretch of seven home games in their next nine contests. It will be a chance to gain some much-needed ground in the Pacific Division, where Seattle currently sits in fifth.
Seattle’s players “seem to understand what I want and that I’m not going to change,” McMillan said. “I want your effort, I want your focus, I want your mind into the game, and I want you to execute no matter what the score is. Whether we’re up and we’re down, I want you focused on what we want to do and how we want to play.
“It’s fun when everybody is playing the same way and with the same purpose, and when everybody is working hard,” he said.
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