Good if it goes: Seattle’s Vin Baker had the game’s most unusual basket late in the third quarter. Baker took a pass in the low post and spun to the basket against Indiana’s Jermaine O’Neal. As Baker lifted for a jump hook, the ball squirted from his hands and went almost straight up … only to bounce off the backboard and drop through the hoop.
“It just slipped out of my hands,” Baker said with a grin. “It was one of the strangest shots I’ve made in a long time. It was a crazy play. I felt like this was my night when it went down.”
Top rookie: The Sonics got their first look at Indiana point guard Jamaal Tinsley and they came away impressed. Tinsley, the No. 27 pick of the 2001 draft (he was drafted by Memphis, then traded to Atlanta and then to Indiana), had seven of his 12 assists in the first seven minutes as the Pacers jumped to a 22-14. Since he also had an early basket, Tinsley contributed to 16 of the team’s first 22 points.
He finished with 14 points and 12 assists before fouling out with 49 seconds to play.
Tinsley was also part of a verbal spat with Sonics guard Gary Payton with 3:23 to play in the game. They banged under the basket after Tinsley drew a charging foul for knocking over Seattle’s Brent Barry, and mild words soon became harsh words. Both players drew technical fouls.
” (Payton) was doing the things he does and I just had to let him know,” Tinsley said. “I’m not trying to earn nobody’s respect. I am just going out there to play, but I ain’t going to let nobody disrespect me.”
Said Payton: “Rookies have to know that they are gonna get a lesson taught to them sometime or another.”
The conflict was amusing to the other Sonics. Every year, it seems, some rival rookie talks trash to Payton, and ends up inciting Seattle’s All-Star guard.
“Tinsley was saying some things to (Payton) that he didn’t really appreciate,” Barry said. “I know they weren’t holiday wishes. For me, I would never wake up a sleeping dog like that. I think when we go back to Indianapolis, Gary will be ready for that game.”
Pay the penalty: Sunday’s game was the second straight in which one of the young Sonics showed up late for a morning practice, then started the game on the bench. For Friday’s meeting with Houston, it was Desmond Mason (car trouble). On Sunday, the guilty party was Rashard Lewis (road closure).
“Both guys handled it well,” said Sonics coach Nate McMillan. “They had legitimate reasons, but that’s a policy that I go game to game with. I thought both guys responded well and came out and played, as opposed to being upset and not helping out this team.”
Since the Sonics won both games, Barry (the team’s resident funny man) was plotting further mishaps.
“We need to have cars break down, alarm clocks not going off on time, anything we can have to get guys late,” he said. “I’m going to sabotage (Payton’s) house to make sure he can’t get out.”
Short shots: Indiana’s Reggie Miller scored 17 points to move into the NBA’s all-time top 20 in career scoring. Miller has 21,588 points to move past Hal Greer (21,586). … Indiana shot well from the free throw line (22-for-26, 84.6 percent), but the Sonics were even better (24-for-27, 88.9). … The Pacers’ O’Neal had a big game with 23 points and 17 rebounds, but he also committed seven of Indiana’s 22 turnovers.