Sonics survive Grizzlies’ rally

  • RICH MYHRE / Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, December 13, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

By RICH MYHRE

Herald Writer

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The last time the Seattle SuperSonics visited Vancouver, Brent Barry was injured in a pregame practice and the team was humiliated in an opening-night loss to the host Grizzlies.

This time was better, though the demons of Vancouver nearly got Seattle again.

Though they led almost the entire game, the Sonics gave away most of their margin in the closing minutes with a series of turnovers and other miscues. The game came down to a last-second shot by Vancouver’s Shareef Abdur-Rahim, and the 18-footer from the left baseline kicked off the rim at the horn to preserve Seattle’s 94-93 victory Wednesday night.

“We made it tough on ourselves,” Sonics coach Nate McMillan said. “We didn’t take care of the ball from the second quarter through the rest of the game. (The Grizzlies) started getting more aggressive. They were making plays and getting calls, and we started playing a little soft. We had to get back to playing aggressive.

“But I thought we hung in there as a unit and played through some things. It was a dogfight to the end, and we found a way to get it done.”

The Sonics broke on top in the game’s early moments and built their lead to double digits for most of the second quarter. Through the third period and into the fourth, Vancouver made a series of attempted rallies and the Sonics withstood each of the threats.

The margin was 93-86 with 3 1/2 minutes to play, and Seattle needed only a few good possessions to seal the victory. Instead, the Sonics committed turnovers on five of their last six chances with the ball, and Vancouver crept closer.

Seattle’s last possession came with less than 35 seconds to play when guard Gary Payton made a spinning pass and the ball slipped through teammate Patrick Ewing’s hands. The Grizzlies chased down the ball and Abdur-Rahim ended up getting to the free throw line for a pair of chances with 21 seconds left.

He made the first, drawing Vancouver within 94-93, then missed the second. The ball bounced into the corner and then out of bounds off Emanual Davis’ foot. Now the Grizzlies had a chance to win, though actually it would be three chances.

Center Bryant Reeves shot an air ball from 15 feet, but the ball was knocked out of bounds by the Sonics with 3.7 seconds left. On the inbounds play, Vancouver’s Michael Dickerson broke off a back screen and took the pass under the basket, only to have Davis make a game-saving block out of bounds with 1.9 seconds left.

The last inbounds pass came to Abdur-Rahim in the corner and his shot was short at the buzzer, allowing the 12-12 Sonics to reach .500 for the first time since the season’s initial week.

Though this was hardly a polished effort, the Sonics showed just enough poise to win a difficult road game. And they did it, McMillan said, despite some bothersome calls – more accurately, a lack of calls – by the officials.

“This was the best night I’ve seen us where we kept our head when we didn’t get a call,” McMillan said. “We felt like we got hit a lot, but that happens. Sometimes you get the calls and sometimes you don’t. But if you keep your head, you have an opportunity to win the game.

“I saw some guys with a lot of heart. It showed me a lot about some of these guys on this team.”

The Sonics got a scare in the closing moments of the first half when Payton was injured and had to be carried to the locker room. It happened as Payton drove the lane for a last-second shot and took a knee in the thigh as he split some Grizzlies defenders for a finger-roll layin. As the Grizzlies took the ball back the other way, Payton remained under the basket, bent over in pain.

Seattle trainer Mike Shimensky and several players gathered around Payton, and he was eventually hoisted and carried to the locker room by two teammates.

Though he was hurting in the second half, Payton said, “I’m going to play. Unless my foot is broken or something, I’m all right.”

The injury, though, required Payton to play the entire second half.

“I knew if I came out and sat down, it would have got stiff on me,” he said. “Nate knew that if I was going to go, he’d have to leave me in for the whole second half.”

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