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Sonics tie team marks for futility

3/13/2004

MIAMI (AP) -- Just when they needed him most, Rafer Alston
stepped up and delivered in a big way for the Miami Heat.

Eddie Jones scored 19 points, and Alston hit two crucial
3-pointers in the final two minutes to help the Miami Heat escape
with an 82-74 win Friday night over the slumping Seattle
SuperSonics.

The Heat led by 16 points in the first half -- thanks to Seattle
tying a franchise record for futility -- but had to rally down the
stretch after falling behind.

Alston hit back-to-back 3-pointers to rally the Heat to their
fourth win in five games. Miami trailed 72-70, but Alston hit a 3
to put the Heat ahead, then another, to highlight a game-closing
12-2 run.

"The first one felt great. I couldn't tell you how the second
one felt," Alston said. "I struggled the past couple of games. It
felt good to get back some shots."

The win, combined with a loss by the New York Knicks, put the
Heat and Knicks in a tie for the seventh and eighth playoff spots
in the Eastern Conference.

The Sonics, who lost their sixth straight game, tied their
all-time low for fewest points in a quarter and a half. They had
eight points in the first period and 25 at the break.

They didn't have a basket until Ronald Murray's 3-pointer with
4:56 left in the first quarter and were 2-of-15 from the floor in
the opening period.

Seattle also scored eight points in a quarter, against Denver on
Oct. 31, 1985, and against Cleveland on Jan. 12, 2003. The Sonics
scored only 25 points in a half one other time, against New Jersey
on Nov. 25, 2003.

The eight points tied the franchise low for fewest allowed by
the Heat in a period. It also was the lowest field goal percentage
(13 percent) by a Miami opponent.

With the Sonics firing mostly blanks, the Heat built leads of
20-8 after one period and 36-25 at the half.

Still, the Sonics hung around and got to 42-36 in the first five
minutes of the third period as the Heat went cold. Ray Allen's
3-pointer closed the gap to 50-47 with just under two minutes left
in the third.

The Sonics kept chipping away in the fourth. Murray scored three
straight baskets, and Rashard Lewis made a pair of free throws to
tie the game at 62 with 6:21 left.

A pair of free throws by Allen gave Seattle its first lead at
70-69 with 3:19 remaining.

Alston was 1-of-7 from behind the line when he gave Miami a
73-72 lead, and his 3 on the next possession provided a 76-72
cushion with 1:13 left.

"I played with Rafer and we used to practice our shots
together," Allen said. "That was one of the big question marks on
him: Could he make the outside shots. The difference in his game
now is that he's playing with more confidence. When he stepped up
in those spots tonight, he had the confidence that he was going to
make them."

After Alston's second straight 3-pointer, Allen drove the lane
for a dunk to get Seattle within 76-74. But Lamar Odom knocked down
a 3-pointer to open a 79-74 lead with 49 seconds left.

Allen was scoreless in the first half, but responded with 10
points in the third quarter and finished with 16. Murray and Lewis
also scored 16 points each.

"When the game is on the line, you have to execute and make
plays," Sonics coach Nate McMillan said. "They moved the ball
when the game was on the line and made those shots, and our
rotations were a little slow.

"In the first half, we could not score, didn't score, didn't
get good looks and dug ourselves a deep hole."

Alston and Odom had 15 points apiece for Miami.

"We did distance ourselves," Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said.
"We were up 16 points. We've done that several times and the other
team has always come back.

"Would I like to see us go up by 30? Absolutely, but how many
teams in the NBA lay down like that. We're fighting to get in the
playoffs, and I don't see a lot of teams going out there and
winning by 20. There were two pretty even teams out there tonight,
and it was a tough game. This was a great step for our team."<
^NOTES:@ The Sonics are 4-8 on the road against the Eastern
Conference. ... The Sonics have dropped four straight on the road.
... Sonics guard Brent Barry, in his second game back after missing
the previous 20 with a broken hand, scored four points. ... The
Sonics have gone 10 straight games with fewer than 100 points. ...
Miami has won three straight home games. ... Alston has made at
least one 3-pointer in his last 32 games, the longest active streak
in the NBA.