By FRANK HUGHES
The News Tribune
The News Tribune
LOS ANGELES – There was not a great deal to be happy with in the Seattle SuperSonics’ 117-113 loss to the Golden State Warriors during a four-team tournament at the Staples Center on Thursday night.
The Sonics not only lost their second consecutive exhibition game to a team that is rebuilding, but they did it with their worst defensive performance in four games. And while playing poorly, they also lost starting small forward Rashard Lewis for an uncertain period of time.
Lewis sprained his right knee after being landed on by Antawn Jamison. Lewis had to be carried from the floor by teammates Olumide Oyedeji and Eddie Elisma.
Sonics coach Paul Westphal said Lewis will fly back to Seattle tonight to get a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan on the knee and probably will miss the remainder of this four-game trip. Seattle still must play the loser of Thursday’s late Cleveland Los Angeles and then against Sacramento on Sunday night.
“We’re very interested to see the results of the test,” Westphal said. “We’re hoping for the best.”
Lewis was injured in a scrum for a loose ball under the Warriors’ basket. He fell to the floor while Jamison picked up the loose ball, laid in a basket and landed on Lewis’ knee.
It was not a good sign when the public address announcer paged the Lakers’ team doctor to go to the Sonics’ locker room. That was two players lost in two games for Seattle, which played Thursday night without Ruben Patterson. Patterson suffered a contusion on his leg against Houston on Tuesday.
Patterson likely will play tonight, taking Lewis’ spot in the starting rotation. Elisma, who was in the second unit Thursday, will assume that responsibility again tonight.
It was bad enough in Thursday’s loss without Lewis and Patterson, but when Brent Barry got thrown out of the game in the third quarter for complaining to official Luis Grillo about the lack of a foul call, it left the Sonics badly undermanned, particularly since Westphal had allotted a certain amount of time for the starters.
The good news was that Tyson Wheeler and Dickey Simpkins got some time. The bad news was that the time was not spent well.
After the starters left the game at the end of the third quarter with the score tied at 88 – coming back from a 15-point deficit – the Warriors promptly ripped off nine straight points and 14 of the next 16 to take control.
“The second unit has to step up,” point guard Gary Payton said. “When we tie the game up, they’ve got to go out there and put it away. They didn’t do a good job today. They’ve got to be a team that steps up.”
That might be partially true, but it was the entire team that allowed 117 points, including 29 by Larry Hughes and 16 apiece by Danny Fortson, Antawn Jamison and Chris Mills.
Westphal had a discussion with rookie Desmond Mason after the game, because Mason was the victim of many of Hughes’ jumpers. Hughes had 19 points at halftime.
“Larry got off on him,” Westphal said. “I told him to deny him early, not to let him get off those easy shots early, because once a guy like that turns it on, he might not miss the rest of the night.”
On the other hand, Mason got back at Hughes, scoring 20 points on 9-for-15 shooting. It was easily Mason’s best preseason game. He looked as if he was beginning to grasp the offensive and feel the flow of the game.
“With guys like Gary, Vin and Pat, you are going to get a lot of shots,” Mason said. “After the Vancouver game, I talked to Pat, and he told me I had passed up a lot of those shots. I was putting the ball on the floor immediately and getting myself in trouble, and he told me to shoot those shots. That was the difference tonight.”
Payton had another nice performance, totaling 17 points and nine assists in 24 minutes. Barry had 13 points before being tossed. And while Ewing scored only six points on 2-for-8 shooting, he had 11 rebounds and three blocks.
The other concern was Baker. After playing well in the first game, he has struggled in the past three. Against the Warriors, he had eight points and three rebounds in 24 minutes, despite saying early on that his focus this season was crashing the boards.
Westphal said that as the exhibition games dwindle toward the Oct. 31 opener at Vancouver, the starters will begin to play more. But it will after this trip that they will begin to play the minutes they can expect when the season begins.
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