SEATTLE – Last week the Seattle SuperSonics went unbeaten in Japan, and on Friday night they stayed perfect on another continent with a rousing 100-82 home-opening victory over their Northwest neighbors, the Portland Trail Blazers.
Portland, a team that swept four games against the Sonics last season, was on top through much of the first half, but a 9-0 Seattle scoring run leading to the intermission gave the Sonics a two-point margin at the break. They pushed the lead into double digits with a spirited third quarter and the big margin was 99-77 midway through the fourth quarter, though Blazers subs managed to trim the deficit in the late moments.
Despite missing guard Ray Allen, the team’s leading scorer from a year ago who is on the injured list after undergoing recent arthroscopic ankle surgery, the Sonics improved to 3-0 in the young NBA season.
A sellout crowd of 17,072 watched the game at KeyArena.
Seattle was led by guard Ronald Murray, who showed his two 20-plus scoring games in Japan were no fluke with 24 points on 9-for-14 shooting from the field. He added six assists and four rebounds in 40 minutes. Forward Rashard Lewis, coming off a 50-point outing in his last game, backed Murray with 21 points and four rebounds, while Brent Barry tossed in 20 points and Reggie Evans snagged 11 rebounds.
Rasheed Wallace was high for Portland with 25 points and 11 rebounds, and fellow forward Zach Randolph added 19 points and nine rebounds, but there was scant help from the other Blazers. Coach Maurice Cheeks tried to rouse his club throughout the game, but as the Sonics pulled away in the late minutes he could only shake his head with weary disbelief.
Like many Seattle-Portland showdowns, this was a physical affair. There were several hard fouls, and both teams had players who went to the locker room for treatment of injuries. Portland’s Bonzi Wells got tangled up with Evans in a rebound battle late in the first quarter and needed a stint with ice on his left knee. Lewis got smacked in the face by a Wallace forearm early in the second quarter and returned to the bench with an ice pack on his right eye.
Both players returned in the second quarter, though Wells left for good late in the third quarter and watched the remainder with another ice pack on his knee.
And, of course, there was the requisite Blazers outbursts of temper and frustration. Midway through the third quarter, Wallace had an offensive rebound basket taken away for basket interference. After squawking for a half-minute, he finally said enough to get a technical foul.
The game was interrupted in the final minute of the third quarter by a malfunctioning horn. It went on – and wouldn’t go off – for nearly five minutes. Both teams went to their benches and the halftime entertainment, a acrobatic gymnastics troupe, sprinted onto the court for an impromptu performance.
Then, once the horn was turned off, it took another eight minutes for the game to resume.
The Sonics complete their two-game homestand with a 6 p.m. game against the Atlanta Hawks. Then it’s off to the Midwest for a four-game swing that opens Tuesday night in Minneapolis.