Rally in third quarter lifts Sonics over Blazers
The chant began midway in the first quarter and rang all night long. Early on it was faint and barely audible but after a few attempts...
Seattle Times staff reporter
The chant began midway in the first quarter and rang all night long. Early on it was faint and barely audible but after a few attempts, several others inside KeyArena joined the boisterous crowd of a hundred or so who sat in the south end seats near the Portland Trail Blazers bench.
"Save our Sonics," they shouted. "Save our Sonics. Save our Sonics."
Sonics chairman Clay Bennett, who wants to move the team to Oklahoma City as early as next season, may not have heard their plea, but several players said the support helped the team snap their 11-game losing streak and upset Portland 97-84 on Monday night.
"I did hear it, and that's some of the best enthusiasm that I've heard all season from our fans," said Damien Wilkins, who scored 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting off the bench. "We definitely appreciate that. I know I do.
"When we first came out on the floor, I was wondering where everyone was. It seemed like it was going to be empty tonight, but people started crowding in that section behind Portland's bench. They just did a great job showing their support, showing their enthusiasm and showing their love for the team."
The Sonics used the tidal wave of emotion and a suffocating second-half defense to overcome the loss of starters Earl Watson (right calf contusion) and Chris Wilcox (right dislocated pinkie) and a 53-49 halftime deficit.
Once the third quarter began, everything changed.
Suddenly Martell Webster, who scored 15 first-quarter points, no longer had open looks at the basket. LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 10 points at halftime, sprained his ankle midway through the period and Portland's inside game disappeared. And first-year All-Star Brandon Roy couldn't save the Blazers this time because he was smothered defensively.
In fact, the Sonics threw a blanket over the rim in the third quarter and allowed Portland a season-low 13.6 percent shooting. The Blazers converted just 3 of 22 field goals, which allowed Seattle to take control of the game.
"We scored 10 points in the third quarter," Portland coach Nate McMillan said. "You've got to score against them. We can score. We've shown we can score ... but then we go into some hibernation and start settling for jump shots."
Rookie Kevin Durant, who scored a game-high 23 points, gave the Sonics their second lead since the opening minutes of the game on a three-pointer with 6:03 remaining to make the score 59-58. While Portland plummeted, Seattle continued surging, took a 71-63 lead into the fourth quarter and never looked back.
"In the first half, we screwed up the rotation, and we gave away some threes," Nick Collison said. "We tightened it up and we did a much better job."
Every Sonic who scored was in double figures as Seattle improved to 17-54 and Portland fell to 37-34.
Luke Ridnour (15 points and nine assists) started in place of Watson and Collison (13 points and 11 rebounds) filled the void for Wilcox. Jeff Green finished with 16 points and Johan Petro had 10.
Webster managed just seven points after the first quarter and finished with a team-high 22 on 8-for-20 shooting. Roy, a former Washington Husky, had 11 on 5-for-17 shooting, and Travis Outlaw chipped in 13 off the bench.
Portland shot 38.4 percent from the field.
"We had open looks, we just missed a lot of shots," Roy said. "I don't know what happened."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 9:40 PM
Portland stops Orlando, which plays without suspended Dwight Howard
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