SuperSonics 94, Timberwolves 86
SEATTLE (AP) _ It was a record-breaking night for the Seattle SuperSonics.
They established franchise marks with 64 victories and 38 home-court wins by beating the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 21st straight time, 94-86 Friday night.
So what did Shawn Kemp think?
The All-Star forward almost yawned.
``It doesn’t mean a thing,″ Kemp said. ``We’ve been in this position before. The real thing starts next week.″
Minutes after the Sonics beat Minnesota, they found out their first-round playoff opponent will be Sacramento, which officially became the eighth seed in the Western Conference when Golden State lost to Portland.
``We’re happy this game is over,″ said Kemp, who finished with 13 points after scoring only two points in the first half. ``It was an ugly game on my part, an ugly game on our part and an ugly game on Minnesota’s part. But they play ugly games because they’re not going to the playoffs.″
Seattle, the No. 1 seed in the West with a 64-17 record going into its regular-season finale in Denver, will play the Kings here next Friday night and next Sunday. The best-of-3 series switches to Sacramento for Game 3.
The Sonics will be trying to put their recent playoff history behind them this year. They’ve lost in the first round of the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.
Hersey Hawkins led Seattle with 23 points, including two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, and Detlef Schrempf added 18 points. Sam Mitchell paced the Wolves, who lost their fifth game in a row, with 21 points.
The Sonics’ club record of 63 victories and home mark of 37 wins were set two years ago.
``It humbles me a little bit,″ said Seattle coach George Karl, who did not receive a contract extension despite his team’s big season. ``It’s kind of meaningful after all the negative stuff of last year.″
The Sonics lost in the first round to the Los Angeles Lakers last season after being eliminated by Denver in 1994.
Hawkins, acquired in an offseason trade with Charlotte, said he could understand Kemp’s attitude because Kemp and some of the other Sonics veterans knew their victory record would soon be forgotten if the team wasn’t successful in the playoffs.
But he said he was still going to enjoy it.
``It means a lot to me because this was my first year here and this is the most games I’ve ever won before,″ Hawkins said.
It was another disappointing night for Flip Saunders, the Minnesota general manager who took over as coach from Bill Blair on Dec. 18. He talked about the Wolves getting better through free agency in the offseason.
``We’re going to evaluate what we have and what we need,″ he said.
A bizarre play helped the Sonics win on a night when they were obviously thinking of the playoffs.
With the score tied at 73, Isaiah Rider drove the baseline for a layup but the ball hung on the flat piece on the back of the basket and the officials had to call a jump ball.
Seattle won the tip and Gary Payton scored on a layup with 8:40 left for a 75-73 lead. Sixteen seconds later, Payton followed with a fastbreak layup and the Sonics were off to a 16-3 run for an 89-76 advantage with 2:58 to go.
Three-point baskets by Rider and Spud Webb cut Minnesota’s deficit to 89-82 but Schrempf made a short jump hook with four seconds left on the shot clock and two free throws in the final minute.
``We knew they were trying to deliver a knockout punch since it was their last game before the playoffs,″ Minnesota’s Terry Porter said. ``I thought we did a good job against them.″
``I was proud of the way we played,″ Saunders said. ``We could have given up after being down by nine after the first quarter, but we didn’t.″
The Sonics led 70-69 after three quarters, but Seattle was up 68-61 before the Wolves came back with a four-point play. Mitchell was fouled by Nate McMillan with 2:53 left after making a 15-footer. McMillan was charged with a technical foul for arguing about the call and Mitchell made both free throws.
The Wolves led 46-42 at halftime after the Sonics went cold at the end of the second quarter. After Sam Perkins hit a short shot with 2:35 left in the opening half, Seattle didn’t score until Hawkins’ twisting 5-footer from the key as time ran out.
Minnesota scored the first nine points of the second period, including a pair of baskets by Garnett after the Sonics led 26-17 in the first quarter.
In the opening quarter, Seattle’s defense caused problems for Minnesota in the last five minutes. The Wolves were called for 24-second violations three times in the final 4:41.
Notes: The Sonics were without Frank Brickowski and Vincent Askew, their key reserves. Brickowski was placed on the injured list because of tendinitis in his right shoulder and Askew missed his second straight game because of a sprained right ankle. ... It’s been more than five years since the Wolves beat the Sonics. Minnesota’s last victory over Seattle happened March 15, 1991. The Wolves won 100-96 at the Seattle Coliseum. ... The Timberwolves dropped to 2-8 in April. They are 6-41 in April the past four seasons. ... Minnesota turned the ball over 24 times, three shy of its season high.