SEATTLE (AP) -- Two weeks of frustration and anticipation finally
ended for the Seattle SuperSonics with All-Stars Rashard Lewis and
Ray Allen autographing their shoes and throwing them into the
frenzied sellout crowd while coach Nate McMillan got doused with
Expected to be among the worst teams in the NBA at the beginning
of the season, the Sonics are headed to the playoffs as Northwest
Division champs after a 97-72 win over the lowly New Orleans
Hornets on Friday night.
Allen scored 32 points as Seattle (51-28) snapped a six-game
losing streak. Immediately after the game ended, the Sonics
unveiled the Northwest Division banner in the rafters of KeyArena.
It's the first division title for Seattle since winning the Pacific
Division in 1998.
"A lot of people doubted the team this year and that was OK. We
went out and played the game the right way all season long,"
McMillan said. "And they finished this last home game the right
Allen shot 12-of-19 in what may have been his final regular
season home game with the Sonics. Allen will be a free agent in the
"Being an All-Star doesn't mean anything, it's so individual
and you really can't celebrate," Allen said. "But when you win
the division, the conference or a championship, words can't
Seattle had not won since April 1 against Portland. During their
losing streak, the SuperSonics averaged just 93 points, allowed
more than 107 and were hampered by injuries for the first time this
season. Lewis, Antonio Daniels and Danny Fortson all missed time
during the losing skid, Lewis missing eight games with a bone
bruise in his right foot.
Friday was the second game back for all three, and the
SuperSonics regained some rhythm.
"It's great to get the win here and not have to worry about
somebody beating Denver," said Daniels, who added 13 points.
"Guys were very focused and everybody in here realized how big of
a game this was."
Ahead 25-23 after one quarter, the SuperSonics started the
second on an 11-0 run to build a 36-23 lead, highlighted by
Daniels' driving three-point play and a dunk from Nick Collison.
The Hornets (18-61) never got within 10 points.
Seattle outscored New Orleans 28-16 in the second quarter as the
Hornets missed their first six shots of the quarter and settled for
3-pointers and long jump shots.
The Sonics led 53-39 at halftime and led by as many as 30 in the
"I knew they were going to come out like mad dogs and go right
after us," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "When we made subs,
they just took advantage of it. They just ate us up then."
Seattle was considered an afterthought before the season,
playing in a division with last year's conference runner-up
Minnesota, and teams in Denver and Utah that many felt had improved
in the offseason.
But the Sonics went 22-6 in the first two months of the season,
and built a double-digit lead in the division that held up despite
the recent skid and Denver winning 24 of its last 26.
"We gave ourselves a big enough cushion," McMillan said. "We
took advantage of players when they were playing well early in the
season and it paid off for us at the end.
While Seattle has wrapped up the division, home court in the
first round is still to be decided. The Sonics need one more win or
a Houston loss to clinch home court advantage against the Rockets.
Seattle would own home court should it face Denver.
The Hornets dressed just nine players as Chris Andersen, George
Lynch and Jamaal Magloire all were sidelined with injuries. Former
Gonzaga star Dan Dickau had missed Wednesday game at Denver with a
strained left shoulder, but returned to score 8 points for the
"Seattle is a much better team than they have been playing the
last couple of weeks," Dickau said. "They came out and hit jumper
after jumper and it was too hard to get back in the game."
"This is why we play the game right here, to celebrate at the
end of the season," Allen said.
Magloire (back spasms) and Andersen (right ankle sprain)
each missed their fifth straight game, and Lynch (sore right knee)
sat out his third. ... Seattle forward Vladimir Radmanovic is now
out of a walking boot he was wearing on his injured right leg, but
coach Nate McMillan is unsure of Radmanovic's availability for the
start of the playoffs. Radmanovic has been on the injured list
since March 18 with a stress fracture in his lower right leg. ...
Dickau, a native of Vancouver, Wash., said that he had to get about
30 tickets for the game. ... Collison played without a face mask
for the first time since breaking his nose March 6 against Phoenix.