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Originally published Sunday, March 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Sonics lose Earl Watson, 11th game in a row

Dang those injuries and fouls. If it weren't for point guard Earl Watson's bruised right calf and foul trouble by Johan Petro, the Sonics...

Seattle Times staff reporter

SALT LAKE CITY — Dang those injuries and fouls.

If it weren't for point guard Earl Watson's bruised right calf and foul trouble by Johan Petro, the Sonics might have been talking about an unlikely win on Saturday night.

Instead, Seattle lost 115-101 to Northwest Division-leading Utah for its 11th defeat in a row.

Seattle's franchise record for consecutive losses is 14, set earlier this season. And as the schedule winds down, the chances get slimmer of the Sonics (16-54) avoiding status as the worst team in franchise history. That title is held by the inaugural team's 23-59 mark in 1967-68, and it will take an 8-4 finish for these Sonics to finish better.

"We were focused and really played hard," coach P.J. Carlesimo said Saturday of his Sonics, who were playing the second of a back-to-back set and become one of six teams to lead the Jazz at halftime this season at EnergySolutions Arena. "It was one of our better games in a long time."

True. In the opening half, Watson was the feisty catalyst who helped Seattle build a 12-point lead. But he was injured late in the second quarter and did not return.

The already short-handed Sonics had even less depth for perimeter defenders and were again hurt by outside shooting. Rookie Kevin Durant had to play 42 minutes, while banged-up forward Nick Collison played 40 because of Petro's foul trouble that disqualified the center in the fourth quarter.

Backup point guard Luke Ridnour took over for Watson, finishing with 10 points and four assists in 36 minutes.

"We got caught a little bit short and ran out of people to throw in there," said Carlesimo, whose team is 6-31 on the road. "They [Utah] deserved it, don't get me wrong. They played well. We just had guys that were exhausted. We were playing them a lot more minutes than we wanted them to be playing."

Utah (46-25) used an 11-2 run to open the third quarter behind the shooting of center Mehmet Okur. The Sonics quickly went up by five, but the Jazz fought back and tied it at 79 on a Carlos Boozer layup with 2:11 left. The Jazz then outscored the Sonics 6-2 to close the quarter. Boozer finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds.

Okur, with a mix of outside and inside shooting, scored 14 of his 24 points in the third. He had 10 rebounds for the game.

"The last game, he hadn't ate in five days and I know he lost a lot of fluids," said guard Deron Williams of Okur, who had a stomach virus and played 28 minutes against the Lakers on Thursday. "It's hard to play under those conditions, so I think he's feeling better now and came out aggressive. We like to see that."

In the fourth quarter, the Jazz's three-point shooting warmed up and treys by Kyle Korver and Okur helped push the lead to 98-85 with 8:37 left.

"We played a lot better and were aggressive, doing a good job with our zone," said Collison, who finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds. "But in the second half, we just lost guys. There were a lot more holes in our zone that weren't there in the first half."

The Jazz angered its crowd early with missed baskets at the rim and costly turnovers that contributed to an early deficit. Utah shot 37.3 percent from the field in the first half, but recovered in the second half to finish at 47.7 for the game.

Watson, already playing with an injured left ring finger, sparked the Sonics early. His through-the-legs bounce pass to a trailing Kevin Durant helped put the Sonics up 56-47 with 1:05 remaining in the opening half. He finished with 14 points and five assists.

Rookie Jeff Green (career-high 23 points) and Damien Wilkins (23 points) provided offensive production, yet the effects of playing two nights in a row showed.

"We've got to respond," said forward Donyell Marshall, who needed three stitches on his lower lip. "You know when people throw punches we've got to fight back. We just didn't do that in the second half."

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com

SEATTLE
min fgm-a ftm-a or-t a pf pts
Green 33:44 7-13 7-8 2-7 3 5 23
Collison 39:53 3-5 4-4 3-13 0 5 10
Petro 21:42 2-5 1-2 0-2 0 6 5
Watson 20:02 6-11 2-2 0-3 5 2 14
Durant 41:49 10-18 3-3 0-3 2 1 23
Wilkins 31:01 6-14 0-1 3-8 0 2 13
Marshall 11:47 1-2 0-0 0-1 0 2 3
Ridnour 36:00 3-10 4-5 0-1 4 2 10
Griffin 2:08 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Sene 1:54 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Totals 38-79 21-25 8-38 14 25 101

Percentages: FG .481, FT .840. Three-point goals: 4-12, .333 (Green 2-2, Marshall 1-2, Wilkins 1-2, Durant 0-1, Ridnour 0-5). Team rebounds: 9. Team turnovers: 17 (24 PTS). Blocked shots: 5 (Collison, Durant, Green, Marshall, Ridnour). Turnovers: 16 (Collison 4, Durant 3, Ridnour 3, Watson 3, Green, Petro, Wilkins). Steals: 2 (Durant, Wilkins). Technical fouls: Defensive three second, 11:47 second.

UTAH
min fgm-a ftm-a or-t a pf pts
Kirilenko 29:42 1-7 5-8 3-6 4 2 7
Boozer 37:28 9-16 8-10 6-13 0 5 26
Okur 35:27 8-17 5-5 3-10 1 3 24
Williams 42:38 5-11 5-7 0-4 14 3 15
Brewer 24:00 7-9 0-0 0-1 1 1 14
Price 5:22 0-2 0-0 0-0 1 2 0
Harpring 18:18 4-8 3-5 2-6 2 3 11
Millsap 22:33 3-7 1-2 2-4 1 2 7
Korver 18:08 4-8 0-1 0-2 1 2 11
Miles 5:52 0-1 0-0 0-0 1 1 0
Collins 0:32 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Totals 41-86 27-38 16-46 26 24 115
Percentages: FG .477, FT .711. Three-point goals: 6-23, .261 (Korver 3-7, Okur 3-7, Harpring 0-1, Price 0-1, Williams 0-3, Kirilenko 0-4). Team rebounds: 8. Team turnovers: 10 (8 PTS). Blocked shots: 4 (Korver 2, Brewer, Kirilenko). Turnovers: 10 (Harpring 3, Okur 2, Williams 2, Boozer, Kirilenko, Price). Steals: 7 (Harpring 2, Boozer, Kirilenko, Millsap, Okur, Williams). Technical fouls: None.
Seattle 34 27 20 20 — 101
Utah 23 29 33 30 — 115
Attendance: 19,911 (19,911). Time: 2:21. Officials: Bob Delaney, Luis Grillo, Olandis Poole.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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