Ewing, Sonics win reunion game
By RICH MYHRE
SEATTLE — As reunion games go, Tuesday night’s contest between Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks was a bit of a letdown. Blame it on emotion-fed jitters, but the new Seattle SuperSonics center didn’t play all that well.
Then again, neither did the Knicks.
In a game that was often short on excellence, but always overflowing with sentiment and significance, the Sonics gave Ewing a night to remember, defeating New York 96-75 before 17,072 delighted fans at KeyArena.
The 7-foot Ewing was hardly the star of the game, but he gave the Sonics some steady play in the middle with nine rebounds and three blocked shots. Offensively, he started slowly, missing his first four chances from the field and committing two unsightly turnovers. Ewing didn’t score until 1:14 remained in the second quarter when he snugged in a 15-foot baseline jumper over former New York front-line companion Marcus Camby.
Eight of Ewing’s points came in the second half as he helped Seattle turn a 48-43 halftime margin into a nine-point lead after three quarters and a double-digit advantage through most of the final period.
Despite a slow start, Ewing "kept his head in the game," said Sonics coach Paul Westphal. "He came out and really broke their back in the third quarter (with six points). He’s just a consistent player. He’s not a go-to superstar like he was, but he’s still a very good center.
"I was very happy for Patrick," Westphal added. "He was smiling after the game. I’m sure it meant a lot to him."
"I’m just happy to get the game over with," Ewing said. "I was tired of all the media hype and questions about the game. I’m happy to get it over with, and now we don’t play the Knicks again until February."
Ewing, acquired by Seattle in a four-team, 13-player trade on Sept. 20, was greeted affectionately by his former teammates before the game. As the teams went through their layin drills, Ewing paused to embrace several of the Knicks. More hugs were exchanged as the starters took the court before the game.
Seeing his ex-teammates "was great," Ewing admitted. "I’ve been war with a lot of those guys for a lot of years. We have mutual respect for each other, and they wished me luck just like I wished them luck."
His new teammates, meanwhile, "wanted to win this game for me," Ewing said. "They said it when I first came here, they said it before the game, and I’m just happy we won the game. We needed to beat them more because we’ve been struggling than because they’re my ex-team."
If the game was memorable for Ewing, it was hugely significant for the Sonics. Having lost six of their past eight games, including four of five on a recent East Coast road trip, Seattle was greatly in need of a win. It was accomplished this night largely because of the defense. The Sonics held New York to just 34.1 percent (29-for-85) from the field. New York’s 75 points was easily the low for a Seattle opponent this season.
"It was a great wire-to-wire effort by us," Westphal said. "Our goal was to play 48 minutes of defense and I think we accomplished that.
Gary Payton had a typically sensational game, scoring 25 points and adding 13 assists, eight rebounds and three steals in 46 minutes. Also contributing in a big way was backup guard Brent Barry, making his first Seattle appearance of the season after missing six games with a sprained ankle. Barry played 25 minutes and scored 14 points, with four of his five field goals coming from beyond the 3-point stripe.
"Brent gave us a big lift off the bench," Westphal said.
In an effort to jump-start his struggling team, Westphal shuffled his starting lineup and his rotation for Tuesday’s game. Ruben Patterson was in the opening unit in place of rookie Desmond Mason at shooting guard. Mason did not play, while point guard Shammond Williams and center Ruben Wolkowyski, who both had reserve roles in recent games, had only mop-up duty.