(8-20, 4-10 away)
(15-15, 6-6 home)
7:00 PM ET, December 26, 2002
Key Arena, Seattle, WA
Payton scored 35 points, including 10 in a row in the second half, as the SuperSonics snapped an excruciating four-game losing streak with a 97-88 victory Thursday night over the reeling Toronto Raptors.
''Gary got it going for us,'' said Sonics coach Nate McMillan. ''I think he made four or five in a row. I considered taking him out, but I left him in and he just kept going.''
Payton, who played 42 minutes of the stuff that made him a star for the Sonics, snapped out of his recent offensive drought by making 15 of 25 shots. He was only 15-for-57 over his past three games.
After Toronto went on a 14-2 run to cut Seattle's lead to 63-62 with 1:55 remaining in the third quarter, Payton took over and scored the final eight points of the period and the first basket of the fourth. That pushed the Sonics' advantage back to 11 points.
''We kept our composure and made plays,'' McMillan said. ''Gary found his rhythm. It was good to come back and get this win.''
Recently, victories haven't come too easily for the Sonics. Their last four defeats were by a combined seven points, and the final three of those were on game-winning shots in the final two seconds.
The victory pushed Seattle back to .500 at 15-15. It had started the season at 8-2 before its troubles in December.
''We came back and played hard tonight,'' Payton said. ''We finally got it off our back. Right now I know that we are still an up and down team, but we've got to know how to finish people. I don't think we played well in the stretch of games. That comes with being inexperienced.''
The Raptors, still playing without injured Vince Carter and Antonio Davis, were led by Voshon Lenard's 27 points. Morris Peterson scored 16 of his 22 points in the first half. Alvin Williams added 12 for the Raptors, who have lost four in a row and eight of their last nine games.
Lenard said he's tired of answering the same questions about the team's struggles because of the injury bug.
''I'm tired of saying it, and I'm really tired of losing,'' he said. ''It's just so frustrating, but we need to play through it. We're all being paid to play. All teams are going to have injuries. We've just had more than most.''
Raptors coach Lenny Wilkens echoed the guard's comments, saying, ''No games are perfect, but when you're playing short-handed the little things get magnified and it makes it hard to get on track.''
Payton wasn't the only Seattle player who shot well, and the Sonics made 48.7 percent. Rashard Lewis chipped in with 20 points, and Vladimir Radmanovic added 16. Predrag Drobnjak had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
''This is our style of ball,'' Lewis said. ''We took our time down the stretch and executed. That was important tonight.''
While the Raptors opened the game missing 11 of their first 14 shots, Payton came out aggressive on offense. He scored 10 points in the first quarter, helping the Sonics take an 18-7 lead.
After Peterson made six consecutive shots for the Raptors, Michael Bradley gave them their first lead at 28-26 on a layup with 9:30 to play in the second period.
Seattle led 48-41 at the half with Radmanovic hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cap a 16-7 run.
Wilkens and McMillan are two of only four players to have their numbers retired by the Sonics. ... Peterson scored more than 20 points for the ninth time this season. ... In Toronto's past four games against Seattle, all defeats, it's been outscored by a combined 56 points. ... In Seattle's losing streak, it was the first time in club history it had lost four in a row by three points or less. ... In the nine games Lewis has played in since serving a one-game suspension for fighting on Dec. 7 against Miami, he has averaged 20 points and eight rebounds. ... Center Jerome James, who has been on the injured list with a stress fracture in his right foot since Dec. 10, practiced Wednesday. ... Members of the University of Oregon and Wake Forest football teams were in attendance. The teams will play in the Seattle Bowl on Monday.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||36-78 (.462)||37-76 (.487)|
|3PM-3PA||8-22 (.364)||3-10 (.300)|
|FTM-FTA||8-16 (.500)||20-24 (.833)|
|Fast Break Points||9||3|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||24 (0/0)||20 (0/0)|