Sonics let another win get away

  • RICH MYHRE / Herald Writer
  • Friday, November 17, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

By RICH MYHRE

Herald Writer

SEATTLE – Barely two weeks into the new NBA season, this much is obvious. Neither the Seattle SuperSonics nor their followers can take anything for granted.

Not even a 15-point halftime lead against the historically meek Dallas Mavericks.

On a night when the Sonics desperately needed to win, they found a way to lose. A 10-point lead vanished in the game’s final seven minutes and the Mavericks capped the scoring with six unanswered points to seal a 99-95 victory Friday at KeyArena.

It was a staggering defeat for the Sonics, who now head out on the road for games against the Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas and San Antonio. Seattle is 3-7, and a season that began with so much promise is dangerously close to a severe downward spiral.

“Losing at home like this, and especially the way we started out the season, this loss is not good,” sighed Seattle’s Brent Barry.

To say the least. The Sonics seemingly had the game in hand at halftime, sitting atop a 58-43 margin. The pesky Mavericks made some rallies in the third quarter, twice drawing within four points, but Seattle pushed the lead back to 79-72 at the end of the period and raised the cushion to 86-76 with seven minutes to play.

Then, disaster.

Seattle’s offense went stagnant in a rash of turnovers and missed shots. The Sonics, who had just four turnovers in the first half as they built their lead, turned the ball over six times in the fourth quarter, accounting for 10 Dallas points.

When the Sonics did shoot the ball, they shot poorly. Seattle was just 5-for-18 from the field in the final period and missed all six attempts from the 3-point stripe.

“You have to play 48 minutes of defense and offensive execution,” said an obviously frustrated Paul Westphal, Seattle’s head coach. “We played about 42 minutes. It’s tough because this is a game we should have (won). We played well enough to take it, and then we let it get away.”

Seattle’s starters simply didn’t produce in the waning minutes, save for forward Vin Baker. The Sonics scored just seven points in the last seven minutes of the game and five in the final five minutes. Those five points were scored by Baker, who cashed in a short jump shot with less than three minutes showing and a three-point play with 1:29 to play.

Baker’s three-point play – he missed a point-blank layin, but battled for the rebound and laid it in while drawing a foul – seemed to be the break Seattle needed. It gave the Sonics a 95-93 edge, but it was to be their final highlight of the night.

Dallas’ Michael Finley dropped in a baseline jumper to knot the score, and Seattle missed three consecutive chances on its next possession. The last, a 3-point try by Barry from the top of the key, was in then out, and the long rebound triggered a Mavericks fast break. Victoria native Steve Nash put Dallas up by two points with a pull-up jumper from right of the key with 12 seconds to play.

After a timeout, Seattle’s Gary Payton drove the lane, but ran into a trio of Mavericks and had the ball swatted away. A long lead pass to Finley led to a game-deciding dunk in the closing seconds.

“That was a crying shame to let that game get away,” Westphal said. “In the fourth quarter, the last six minutes, we just started turning the ball over, missing shots. then they got hot and we let a nice effort get away.

“You have to execute in the last six minutes when you have the lead to put the game away,” he said. “We did not do that and it cost us.”

Dallas was led by its impressive forward tandem of Dirk Nowitzki and Finley. A year ago, Finley made the All-Star team for the first time and Nowitzki seems likely to be there soon, if not this year. The third year player, a native German, devastated the Sonics with 28 points, 14 rebounds and four assists, while Finley tossed in 26 points to go with five rebounds.

Seattle was led by Payton’s 22 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, though the All-Star guard was just 8-for-25 from the field.

Barry, who gave the Sonics such a lift with four 3-pointers off the bench in Tuesday’s win against New York, was a woeful 1-for-9 from the field, including 1-for-8 from the 3-point stripe.

“I haven’t had a night like this in a long, long time,” Barry said. “But it really shouldn’t have come down to that situation for us. We had the game well in hand. … You can’t stop playing because you have a little bit of a lead. This is professional basketball and (the Mavericks) have a lot of pride. And they showed it.”

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