Payton is No. 1; Sonics take fall

  • RICH MYHRE / Herald Writer
  • Saturday, December 9, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports


Herald Writer

SEATTLE – Gary Payton snagged a piece of history in the second quarter of Saturday night’s game at KeyArena.

Alas, so did the Houston Rockets, and what the visitors did in that stretch was instrumental in a 111-104 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics.

Houston put on a devastating shooting display in the second period, going 9-for-12 from the 3-point line to tie an NBA record for most 3-pointers in a quarter. The barrage, which turned around a game that had the feel of a potential Sonics blowout, allowed the Rockets to score 43 points in the quarter, a high for a Seattle opponent this season.

In the end, though, the Sonics still had a chance to win in the game’s waning moments. Seattle led 99-96 with under five minutes to play, but a series of offensive breakdowns – mostly turnovers and missed free throws – allowed the Rockets to run off nine unanswered points to go on top to stay.

And if Houston swung the game from the 3-point stripe in the second quarter, it won the game in the fourth quarter at the free throw line. The Rockets were 14-for-18 at the line in the closing period, while Seattle was just 3-for-8.

The outcome dampened an otherwise memorable night for Payton, who became the all-time leading scorer in Sonics history. Former Sonic Fred Brown had 14,018 points in his 13 NBA seasons, a total Payton passed with 5:18 to play in the second quarter on an off-balance 8-foot bank shot from the right of the key.

“It’s just something that happened,” Payton said. “I did it, but I’d rather have a win. I’m glad it’s over with and now we can just focus on getting better.”

The game stopped for a timeout after Payton’s big play. At the end of the break Payton was presented with the game ball (which was then used for the completion of the game) by Seattle coach Nate McMillan, Payton’s longtime Sonics teammate. McMillan’s jersey number has already been retired and Payton’s number seems certain to follow someday, which McMillan whispered to Payton during the brief ceremony.

“I told him that when he retires, we’ll be hanging together forever once they put his number up in the rafters,” McMillan said. “It was just a great reward for a great guy who has really given his heart and soul for this organization.”

Brown, who was reportedly traveling out of town, did not attend Saturday’s game,

Payton went on to finish with 35 points. Together with his 15 assists, five rebounds, two steals and even a blocked shot, it was another remarkable night in an increasingly remarkable career.

“He really kept us close,” McMillan said. “It was just another great effort by a guy who deserves that record.”

Still, this was a highly disappointing outcome for the Sonics, who were coming off an inspired 103-95 win over the Lakers in Los Angeles on Friday night.

“You’ve got to win at home,” said Seattle’s Ruben Patterson. “To come up with that big win (in Los Angeles), it was crazy for us to lose this game. But we have to put it behind us and get ready for Orlando (on Tuesday).”

Houston’s outside shooting in the second quarter was an extraordinary display. Seattle essentially matched the visitors goal for goal, but Houston was picking up an extra point with each basket. Starting guard Steve Francis had one 3-pointer in the quarter and the other eight came from the bench trio of Matt Bullard, Cuttino Mobley and Kenny Thomas.

“They were on fire,” Patterson said. “That was awesome,” added teammate Brent Barry.

Ironically, the Rockets were just 2-for-11 from the 3-point line in the other three quarters, including 1-for-8 in the second half.

The officiating trio of Terry Durham, Bennie Adams and Derek Richardson angered several of the Sonics – not to mention the KeyArena crowd – and ultimately that worked against Seattle, with Rashard Lewis and Vin Baker each drawing technicals in the fourth quarter.

“You don’t want to lose your cool at any point, and certainly when a game is close,” Barry said. “There are some things that you definitely have to tone down, and focus on trying to win the basketball game. The extracurricular stuff really cost us some critical points, and in a close game it’s going to kill you.”

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