Howard's heroics doom Sonics


DENVER (AP) -- The Denver Nuggets finally found some focus at the
end of a game and ended their longest losing streak of the season.

Juwan Howard had 22 points and 10 rebounds, and hit a jump hook
with 35 seconds left as the Denver Nuggets stopped their losing
streak at seven with an 88-85 victory Saturday night over the
Seattle SuperSonics.

"We are playing against teams now that are playoff teams, and
we can beat them. That shows the pride and character in this locker
room," Denver's George McCloud said. "Lately we have lost focus
near the ends of games, but tonight we got back on the right

After Howard's jump hook put the Nuggets up 87-85, Rashard Lewis
missed a long 3-pointer with 30 seconds left. McCloud then made it
88-85 by hitting one of two free throws with 27 seconds left.

Seattle's Gary Payton missed on a tough drive to the basket, but
Howard missed two free throws on the other end with 7.6 seconds
left. Brent Barry had a long 3-point attempt to tie it with 2
seconds left, but didn't hit the rim.

"This was a product of frustration," Seattle coach Nate
McMillan said. "A few calls don't go your way, you miss a few
shots and all of a sudden you lose a game you should have won. It

Denver won the season series with Seattle (3-1) for the first
time since 1987-88 and beat the Sonics for the fifth straight time
at home.

Seattle had won three straight to move into seventh place in the
Western Conference, but is just a half-game ahead of eighth-place
Utah. The Sonics shot 35 percent -- the lowest by a Denver opponent
this season -- and were 4-for-19 from 3-point range.

"When you don't make shots in this league, you are an easy
target for a loss," said Seattle's Vin Baker, who had nine points
and seven rebounds in his third game back after missing 17 days
with three dislocated toes.

The game featured 12 ties and 11 lead changes before Denver went
on a 13-3 run spanning the third and fourth quarters. Voshon Lenard
had seven points, and Ryan Bowen capped the run with a breakaway
layup that put the Nuggets up 81-72 with 9:21 left.

Denver missed its next six shots and had three turnovers as
Seattle scored the next eight points to pull within 81-80 with 6:32

Lenard scored 16 of his 24 points in the second half and was
4-for-7 from 3-point range.

"Voshon was good. He came in and made shots," Denver coach
Mike Evans said. "I told him that minutes are not predicated on
one game. You have to show some consistency in your performance."

Seattle's Predrag Drobnjak had 16 points, and Barry added 15.
Payton finished with 12 points and seven assists.

"This wasn't a normal game for us," said Lewis, who had 16
points and 15 rebounds. "We don't miss the wide-open shots we
missed tonight. You'll have nights when you can't make shots. Our
defense wasn't good and that is where we really failed."

Denver, already struggling with injuries, lost point guard Tim
Hardaway for the remainder of the season after he broke his left
foot in the first quarter.

Hardaway had seven points in the first 3 minutes, but hopped off
the court and went straight to the locker room after Randy
Livingston stepped on his foot with 3:24 left in the first quarter.

Hardaway came to Denver in a seven-player trade with Dallas on
Feb. 21.

"We were really concerned about Tim because he had worked real
hard to get himself into shape to play," Evans said. "That was
the first thing he said when he came here, that he wasn't in the
condition he needed to be in to be a starter. It's sad to see him
go out like that."

Denver, which shot 32 percent and lost by a combined 68 points
in its last two games, was 6-for-12 from 3-point range after
hitting just 12 of 70 the previous seven games.

Game notes
The Nuggets have been outscored by 428 points in the first
half this season. ... Payton needs three steals to become the ninth
NBA player to reach 2,000 in a career. ... Denver was 4-for-5 from
3-point range in the first half. ... Howard and Seattle's Desmond
Mason each received technical fouls with 2:55 left in the third
quarter after getting tangled under the Seattle basket.