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Sonics see 23-point lead in second half dwindle to three

SEATTLE (AP) -- The Seattle SuperSonics began a 25-game run with their new roster on Tuesday night in a positive manner.

Ray Allen scored 33 points and the Sonics held off a major fourth-quarter rally for a 114-104 win over the New Orleans Hornets.

Playing its first game with newly acquired players Earl Watson, Chris Wilcox and Mike Wilks all available, Seattle won for just the third time in the last 13 games. But what looked like a rout in the Sonics' first home game in 16 days got a little exciting in the final quarter.

Seattle led by 23 late in the third quarter, only to watch the Hornets pull within three late in the fourth. The Sonics scored 15 of the final 23 points to finally pull away.

"It was very important to start off these 25 games that way," Allen said. "You have got to set a tone."

Allen missed only one shot in the first half en route to 20 points, and Rashard Lewis added 25 for the Sonics, who had all five starters score in double figures.

By trading for Watson, Wilcox and Wilks, Seattle remodeled its roster and rid itself of disgruntled pieces -- Vladimir Radmanovic, Reggie Evans, Vitaly Potapenko and Ronald Murray -- who did not want to be in Seattle any longer.

Tuesday night, the Sonics bench showed encouragement and enthusiasm that had been lacking in recent weeks. It was a step forward -- even if the Hornets made the final minutes uncomfortable.

"We did well in not hanging our heads and kept fighting," Lewis said.

Rookie Chris Paul led the Hornets with 25 points and 14 assists, and Rasual Butler added a career-high 23 points off the bench, including a club record-tying five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. But the Hornets were outscored 54-22 in the paint and allowed Seattle to shoot a season-high 59 percent.

"We just did a terrible job defensively for pretty much the whole game," Hornets coach Byron Scott said.

The Sonics seemed to put away the Hornets with a sudden burst midway through the third quarter. A 12-0 run gave them an 86-64 lead. Paul scored on a layup with less than a second left in the quarter -- the only field goal in the last 5:19 for New Orleans.

That was just the start for the Hornets.

Paul and Marc Jackson started the fourth on an 11-3 run to pull the Hornets within 92-79. Butler started hitting 3-pointers, pulling New Orleans within 99-96 with 4:23 left.

"I think I did a pretty good job of reading that the defense was going to give me some time to get my shots up," Butler said. Once I started hitting some shots, things started going really well for me."

But the Hornets got no closer. Nick Collison scored for Seattle, followed by two free throws by Lewis. Jackson scored for the Hornets, but Lewis converted a three-point play with 2:22 left for a 106-98 Seattle lead and the Hornets got no closer than five.

"Finally, we planted our feet, defined ourselves and got the stops we needed," Seattle coach Bob Hill said. "It's always good when you can hold off a team when you've got to make plays and you've got to make stops. I think that was significant."

Jackson finished with 19 on 9-of-13 shooting. David West added 12 for the Hornets, who had won the first two games of their four-game trip.

Collison scored 14, Petro 12 and Luke Ridnour had 10 points and nine assists for Seattle.

Game notes
Seattle waived guard Rick Brunson before Tuesday's game. Brunson signed as a free agent in the offseason to be Ridnour's backup, but battled foot problems that limited him to four games this season. Seattle was his seventh NBA team. ... Hornets guard Speedy Claxton missed his fourth straight game with a sprained left ankle, and Scott said Claxton would not play Wednesday in Los Angeles against the Clippers. ... Sonics' C Robert Swift wore his
shorts backward in the first half. They were fixed by the start of the second half.

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