T-Wolves angry Payton allowed to stay in game


SEATTLE (AP) -- Flip Saunders said the star treatment is alive
and well after the Seattle SuperSonics knocked off the Minnesota
Timberwolves 97-83 Tuesday night.

Vladimir Radmanovic scored a career-high 21 points and Rashard
Lewis hit a pair of key 3-pointers as the Sonics wore down the

But Saunders was referring to a double-technical foul being
changed at the end of the first quarter that allowed Gary Payton to
stay in the game instead of being ejected.

"Everyone talks about how there is no star treatment, well?"
Saunders said. "What happens is then the player (Payton) thinks
he's got control of the game. He's jawing at our guys and he pretty
much thinks that he's got much free rein to do things."

Payton had 18 points, 12 assists and six rebounds and Lewis had
16 points. The Sonics outscored the Wolves 16-3 over the last 7:39
as they pulled away from Minnesota.

The Sonics got a reprieve when Payton was called for his second
technical foul at the end of the first quarter. Official Michael
Smith called a double technical foul on Payton and Anthony Peeler.
Smith changed his call after conferring with fellow official Tom
Washington, and a technical foul was just assessed to Peeler.

Wolves players Kevin Garnett and Wally Szcerbiak were shaking
their heads when asked about the call.

"I've never seen a double-technical rescinded," Szcerbiak
said. "That's officiating in this league."

Garnett said it might have been the worst call he's seen during
his NBA career.

"I am not complaining about the officials. I heard clearly
'there is a double technical on 44 (Peeler) and 20 (Payton).'
That's why I was jumping up and down when it was changed."

Garnett acknowledged the Sonics' ballhawking and baskets off
turnovers were keys -- and Payton certainly contributed to that.

Lead official Tom Washington said to a pool reporter:

"It may appear that he (Smith) called a double technical, but
what he was doing was taking care of a situation between two people
and he had a technical foul."

Reporters clearly heard Smith call a double technical with 23.5
seconds left in the opening period.

About the incident, Payton said "they wanted to give both of us
a tech, but I wasn't saying nothing. He (Smith) made the right

The Sonics and Payton made the best of their second chance.

Peeler led the Wolves with 20 points, all in the first half.
Kevin Garnett had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota, which
split the season series with the Sonics.

The Sonics put the clamps on the Wolves in the fourth period as
Seattle outscored Minnesota 28-15 in the final period. The Sonics
finally slowed down Peeler. He went scoreless in the second half
after Payton guarded him when they were both on the floor.

Seattle's defense forced 18 Wolves turnovers that the Sonics
turned into 24 points.

Radmanovic's steal and basket helped trigger an 11-0 run that
tied the game at 62. His 3-point shot gave the Sonics a 69-68 lead
after three periods and they never relinquished the lead.

Minnesota led 62-51 after Garnett's 3-point play as he drove
past Payton and was fouled.

The Sonics hit their first eight shots and took a 21-5 lead on
Radmanovic's putback with 7:01 left in the first quarter. Seattle
led 35-23 after one period.

Peeler hit his first six shots and scored 14 points in the
second period. His basket put the Wolves up 40-39 with 7:16 left in
the period.

Payton picked up a technical earlier for complaining about a
call by official Pat Fraher with 8:32 left in the first period.

While Saunders was gesturing with his right thumb anticipating
Payton's ejection, he flipped when the call was changed. Saunders
pounded the scoring table with his hand when Payton was not
ejected. The rest of the Wolves bench went wild, as well.

Game notes
Brent Barry, who scored 31 points in the Sonics' other
win this season over Minnesota, missed the game with the flu.
...Seattle reserve guard Earl Watson separated his left shoulder in
the first quarter.