SuperSonics 105, Trail Blazers 93
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Gary Payton scored 24 points, and the Seattle SuperSonics played with renewed energy under interim coach Nate McMillan in Tuesday night’s 105-93 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
McMillan, hired Monday to replace the fired Paul Westphal, wasted no time in challenging his team after its mediocre 6-9 start. McMillan benched forwards Vin Baker and Ruben Patterson, and gave Jelani McCoy and Emanual Lewis their first starts of the season.
McCoy and Davis weren’t great, but the rest of the team got the message. Patrick Ewing had 10 rebounds, Patterson added 15 points and Rashard Lewis, who missed two games with a bruised left shin, had 18 points.
Damon Stoudamire had 20 points and Rasheed Wallace 18 and 10 rebounds to lead the Blazers, who had won four straight and nine of 11 after a 1-3 start. Also, coach Mike Dunleavy and guard Bonzi Wells were both ejected in a tumultuous fourth quarter.
Wells’ tantrum is sure to earn him a fine. Angry over a call, he knocked the ball out of referee Tim Donaghy’s hand. After a technical foul was issued, Wells fumed at Donaghy and had to be restrained by teammates and coaches.
Donaghy also tossed Dunleavy for arguing a no-call after a missed shot by Wallace.
The Blazers got more bad news when center Arvydas Sabonis left with an injured left knee midway through the first quarter. It’s the same knee Sabonis had surgery on in October, causing him to miss the first eight games.
The Sonics led by 22 points late in the second quarter, but their lead dwindled to eight by the end of the third, after they made just five of 18 shots in the period.
The Blazers got more aggressive on the offensive glass and getting to the line. After Stoudamire and Dale Davis hit four straight free throws, Wells tipped in his own miss to cut it to 76-68 entering the fourth.
After Dunleavy’s ejection, Seattle scored six straight points. Portland got back within 71-61 with 4:03 to go on a 3-pointer by Scottie Pippen, but the Sonics got a layup by Patterson and a breakaway dunk from Brent Barry to push the lead to 95-81.
Vin Baker, reportedly Westphal’s biggest headache, slammed a lob from Payton to make it 100-86. Baker had 10 points.
McMillan had said the only element missing from his team was effort, and in the first quarter the Sonics proved him right. They raced to a 23-9 lead in the first eight minutes and grabbed seven offensive rebounds in the period, to just one for the Blazers.
Portland showed little imagination on offense, especially after Sabonis stepped on Pippen’s foot after blocking a shot. The Blazers just fired away from the outside, and when most of the shots missed, Seattle got its fast break going.
After Shawn Kemp threw the ball away, the Sonics got a layup from Patterson and the foul for a 44-25 lead. Five minutes later, Barry made his second 3-pointer of the quarter to push the lead to 57-35.
Notes: Payton has led the Sonics in scoring 14 of 16 times. ... The Blazers had won six straight against the Sonics. ... Seattle had lost its two previous road games by a combined 51 points. ... Kemp, who left the morning shootaround early to see a doctor about an upper respiratory infection, played just 11 minutes and scored 2 points.