DENVER – After running off two straight victories under interim head coach Nate McMillan, the Seattle Sonics were running on empty Saturday night.
“It isn’t enough that we struggled,” said Seattle’s Gary Payton, who played 47 minutes in the 103-92 loss to the Denver Nuggets. “We’re not in good enough shape for the style Nate wants us to play.”
McMillan saw something else.
“You’ll never win a game giving up 21 second opportunities on the offensive boards,” said McMillan of the Sonics, who were missing Vin Baker, who sat out the game with a sore right knee. “They just out worked us by sending their big men to the boards. We can’t get beat like that.”
Antonio McDyess had 37 points and 17 rebounds for the Nuggets.
“I feel unstoppable,” said McDyess.
McDyess has 77 points and 37 rebounds in his last two games for Nuggets, who won for the sixth time in seven home games and beat Seattle for only the fourth time in 18 meetings.
Voshon Lenard added 22 points for the Nuggets.
“Mac is in a zone right now,” Denver coach Dan Issel said. “Even when they started double-teaming him, he is passing out of the double-team better than he ever has.”
McDyess followed up his 40-point, 20 rebound game on Thursday with 16-for-26 shooting and for his ninth double-double of the year. He was 6-for-6 in the fourth quarter as the Nuggets improved to 7-0 when holding an opponent under 100 points.
“I’m getting the ball and I’m making a lot happen,” said McDyess. “I’m thinking better and not taking stupid fouls, so I can play my game.”
Rashard Lewis led Seattle with 26 points and was 4-for-7 on 3-pointers. Payton and Emanuel Davis had 14 points each for the Sonics.
McDyess had 14 points in the first quarter when the Nuggets built a 30-19 lead. The combination of nine first-half turnovers and shooting a chilling 38 percent was enough for the Sonics to fall behind, 55-41, by halftime.
Seattle made a brief run to start the third quarter with four points from Patrick Ewing and three from Jelani McCoy to get within 57-48. McDyess responded with a fadeaway over Ewing. McDyess hit another jump shot after tipping in a shot for the Sonics, credited to McCoy, as part of an 8-2 run that gave the Nuggets a 69-57 edge.
Seattle closed the quarter with an 8-1 run with baskets off the break by Payton and Ruben Patterson to get within 70-65.
“We got mixed up and tried to change defenses,” Issel said. “We don’t do a very good job of changing things in the course of the game, but we were fortunate that McDyess came back in and helped us put together some runs.”
The Sonics went cold for nearly three minutes in the fourth quarter before Payton’s short jumper. Denver took advantage as McDyess hit three shots and the Nuggets took an 80-70 lead.
Brent Barry and Emanuel Davis hit 3-pointers to keep Denver’s lead at 10 points, 86-76. Nick Van Exel hit a layup and free throw, and Lenard added a jumper to build Denver’s lead to 91-76 with 5:27 left.
McDyess buried a fadeaway and tipped in a miss by Keon Clark in the last two minutes as the Nuggets withstood a two, 3-pointers by Lewis.
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