DALLAS – The Seattle SuperSonics are going with a younger look these days, but one thing hasn’t changed: Gary Payton is still their go-to guy.
Payton had 25 points, including 10 in a row during a 14-0 run at the end of the third quarter, and Calvin Booth had a career-high 24 points against his former team as the SuperSonics handed the Dallas Mavericks their third consecutive defeat, 105-97 Tuesday night.
When the Mavericks got close late in the third quarter, coach Nate McMillan called on the 33-year-old Payton.
“Coach says I’ve got to be our step-up guy when things start happening,” said Payton, who added 10 assists and five rebounds. “He started calling all my plays and it was my job to make the baskets.”
Payton took control with 12 points in the third quarter to lift the Sonics, who had lost five or their previous seven.
Dallas got as close as 74-71 with 3:37 left in the third quarter on Michael Finley’s short jumper. Payton then scored five straight baskets for an 84-71 advantage. Long-range jumpers by Predrag Drobnjak with 35 seconds left in the quarter and Desmond Mason at the third-quarter buzzer gave Seattle an 88-71 lead.
The Mavericks cut the deficit to 96-88 with 4:39 left on Steve Nash’s 3-pointer, but Payton’s layup closed a 6-0 run with a 3:17 remaining to give the Sonics a 102-88 lead.
“I think this team will win because we have a guy who’s not afraid to put this team on his back,” McMillan said.
Payton got plenty of help from Booth, the Mavericks’ backup center last season before signing a free agent contract with the Sonics over the summer. Booth started after missing the previous five games due to a sprained right ankle. He grabbed six rebounds and went 12-for-12 from the free throw line.
Booth said it was only a coincidence that he returned to the lineup against the Mavericks.
“It’s only one game against them,” said Booth. “We’ve got a lot more to come. It feels good to come back and get a win.”
But Finley said it was obvious that Booth was motivated to have a big game against his ex-teammates.
“We knew what we had in Calvin,” said Finley. “Obviously, he had something to prove tonight. He wanted to go out and score 100 points against us. He had a big game. My hat’s off to him.”
Mason added 20 points for Seattle.
Finley had 26 points and Nash contributed 25 for the Mavericks, who were coming off consecutive road defeats to Detroit and Houston by a combined 63 points. Juwan Howard had 12 points and 13 rebounds for Dallas.
Dirk Nowitzki, who started the night as Dallas’ top scorer with a 21.6-point average, went 5-for-19 from the field and finished with 14 points.
Nowitzki was bothered by a cold, and said that he should have watched the game in street clothes.
“I shouldn’t have played,” Nowitzki said. “I didn’t help the team at all out there. I think it was a stupid decision to play.
Seattle built a 44-22 lead with 9:10 to go before halftime on a 27-10 run, but Dallas rallied to cut the deficit to 54-44 at intermission.
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