Sonics haven’t forgotten opener

  • By Rich Myhre / Herald Writer
  • Monday, January 10, 2005 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – Given how well the Seattle SuperSonics have played this season, it is possible to forget how poorly they started.

Well, some folks may have forgotten. But the Sonics themselves? Not a chance.

On Nov. 3, Seattle was in Los Angeles to open its schedule against the Clippers at the Staples Center. Despite a lackluster preseason, the Sonics coaches and players were optimistic. Seattle, after all, has dominated the Clippers for decades. The Sonics swept L.A. in six of the past 10 seasons, winning 35 of 39 games overall. Even as the road team, Seattle won 16 of 18 games in that same span.

Yes, the Sonics were optimistic, maybe a little overconfident. Surely no one had any inkling they were about to witness one of the most humiliating nights in team history.

It was, in a word, a debacle. The Clippers sprinted to a double-digit lead in the game’s early minutes and pretty much pulled away to the final horn. Led by forward Bobby Simmons, who scored a career-high 30 points on 13-for-15 field goal shooting, the Clippers shot .629 from the field (44-70) and had 33 assists, both highs for a Seattle opponent this season.

The result was a 114-84 Clippers victory. It was a historic outcome – never before had Seattle lost to the Clippers by such a one-sided margin – and it left the Sonics dazed, embarrassed and wondering if their remaining 81 games might be more of the same.

“This was not Sacramento, this was not San Antonio and this was not Dallas or one of the other good teams in the league,” said Seattle forward Rashard Lewis. “I was thinking, ‘If we play like this, this season is going to take forever to come to an end.’ Our main goal was to get into the playoffs, and by losing to the Clippers by 30 points it wasn’t looking bright for us.”

What happened next, of course, was every bit as surprising. Seattle won its next nine games and today is one of the NBA’s best teams with a shiny 24-8 record. Still the Sonics, to a man, figure they need to address some unfinished business tonight when the Clippers pay a 7 p.m. visit to KeyArena.

“This is actually one of those games I’ve thought about all year,” said Sonics guard Ray Allen. “It’s one of those games you mark on your calendar. I’ve anticipated playing them again because of the way they manhandled us. So regardless of what our record is now, this is a game we have to respond to because of how they beat us every way possible.”

“We haven’t forgotten that game (in Los Angeles),” Lewis agreed. “We remember the whooping they put on us. We most definitely want them to know that we’re going to compete (tonight) and that it’s not going to be the same thing that happened the first game of the season.”

That said, this is not another typically dreadful Clippers team. Despite being beset by injuries – center Chris Wilcox and guard Marko Jaric, both usual starters, will miss tonight’s game – the Clippers are 16-16, meaning they are close to overtaking the 17-14 Lakers for supremacy in Los Angeles.

Guard Corey Maggette, a onetime Sonics first-round draft pick, leads Los Angeles in scoring at 21.9 points a game, while forward Elton Brand, one of the game’s premier low-post players, contributes 18.5 points and 8.8 rebounds a game. Both were a big part of that Nov. 3 outcome in Los Angeles.

Recalling that night, Allen said, “It wasn’t just that we were that bad. They were that good. Sometimes you catch a team on the wrong night, and that was the wrong night for us.”

Tonight, he added, “we have to show to ourselves as a team that we aren’t as bad as we were that night.”

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