In absence of the playoffs, the Sonics and their faithful following have nights such as these, when Seattle plays nothing like the second-to-last place team in the Western Conference and KeyArena reverberates beneath an army of stomping feet. When they beat a team like the San Antonio Spurs — co-leaders of the Western Conference — 106-102.
Speaking of furious feet, San Antonio's Bruce Bowen added another chapter to his explosive feud with Ray Allen on Sunday when he drove his right foot into the back of the Sonics guard, which was like throwing a can of gasoline on a bonfire.
At the time, the Sonics were down 11 late in the second quarter, but Bowen's antics provided sufficient motivation for Seattle to play one of its best games of the season.
Allen admitted that he nearly threw a punch at Bowen, but he kept his cool and answered with 5.4 seconds remaining when he drained the winning three-pointer.
"I like the competition and I don't mind a guy going at me on both sides of the floor," said Allen, who broke out of a two-game shooting slump and finished with a game-high 33 points.
"I get a lot of that with Kobe Bryant. We go at each other on defense and offense. I can respect that. But when guys start throwing elbows and when they kick you when you're down, that's dirty basketball and I don't respect that."
The Allen-Bowen battles were well-chronicled during last year's Western Conference semifinals when Allen sprained his right ankle after getting tangled up with the San Antonio forward.
A year earlier, Allen described Bowen's antics as "sissy ball," and on Sunday he had more to say about Bowen.
"I wasn't going to allow him to bait me when I went at him and possibly allow him to get me kicked out of the game," Allen said. "I just think that it's coward basketball. I don't even call it basketball."
The Allen-Bowen incident occurred at the 5:45 mark in the second quarter when San Antonio held its largest lead (39-28).
Allen went up for a shot and was crowded by Bowen and Nazr Mohammed. The Sonics guard and Bowen crashed to the floor simultaneously and Allen landed on Bowen's left foot.
Bowen then kicked Allen in the back, which prompted an angry retort. However, Mohammed quickly corralled Allen and officials rushed in.
The brouhaha resulted in Bowen drawing a technical and ignited a 5-0 Sonics run that allowed them to cut San Antonio's lead to 39-33.
"For us, we were disappointed that he [Bowen] didn't get ejected because he [Allen] got kicked right in the back," Rashard Lewis said. "If you can just go out and kick somebody and not get ejected, then I should have did it, too."
The Sonics' spark was short-lived, but they climbed back into the game late in the third quarter with a flurry of three-pointers. Luke Ridnour (19 points and seven assists) tied the score 69-69 with a trey from the corner. Ridnour dropped another three-pointer with seconds remaining in the third to knot the score at 74-74.
The Sonics led 100-93 with 3:12 remaining, but were undone by three turnovers and a missed layup on their next four possession. The drought opened the door for the Spurs, who ran off nine unanswered points to take a 102-100 lead with 39.5 seconds left.
That's when Allen took over.
Ridnour threw an inbounds pass to rookie center Johan Petro, who handed the ball to Allen. Petro turned to screen Bowen, and Allen launched a three-pointer over Tim Duncan that splashed in the net and gave the Sonics a 103-102 lead with 5.4 seconds left.
On the ensuing possession, Petro poked the ball away from Duncan and Lewis grabbed the loose ball. He drained three free throws to seal the victory and finished with 16 points.
Chris Wilcox added 14 for Seattle (28-41) and San Antonio (54-16) was led by Duncan's 28. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker each had 17 and Bowen had 12.
"That's the kind of game that All-Stars need to play like All-Stars and guys playing for contracts need to play like they want to get paid," coach Bob Hill said. "That's how we played. I thought our effort was outstanding the whole time."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org