Failure in the stretch: Late scoreless run ruins Sonics' effort
Rashard Lewis and Luke Ridnour have almost been like a comedy routine lately, toying around after practice in one-on-one games and having...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Rashard Lewis and Luke Ridnour have almost been like a comedy routine lately, toying around after practice in one-on-one games and having fun during media sessions.
In all honesty, however, Ridnour would prefer the goofing off to stop. The reserve point guard would rather have Lewis — the team's second-leading scorer at 21.5 points a game — in a Sonics uniform, toying with opponents so Seattle doesn't experience another fourth quarter like the one Friday in a 107-101 defeat to Chicago at KeyArena.
Ridnour fought through any self-doubt about his own offense to hit back-to-back three-pointers with 8:22 left to tie the score at 83.
After that, though, the Sonics struggled to find any consistent offensive options.
Seattle went to Nick Collison, mainly because the forward's remarkable turnaround the past 11 games has produced eight double-doubles.
It seemed, though, after Collison forcefully slammed home a dunk and drew a foul to make the score 97-95 in Seattle's favor, he would then pass the ball back out to the perimeter, seemingly not wanting to attempt shots down the stretch.
Guard Earl Watson attempted a few long-range jumpers, but those bounced off the rim. Leading scorer Ray Allen (29 points) found himself smothered in his usual double-team.
Damien Wilkins, who replaced rookie Mickael Gelabale in the lineup, had a chance to give the Sonics some momentum with a driving layin that could have pulled the Sonics to two points down with 45.3 seconds if the officials called a defensive blocking foul. After a brief conference, however, official Jack Nies signaled an offensive foul against Wilkins.
Tied at 97 with three minutes left, the Sonics (17-30) missed six shots as the Bulls breezed through a 6-0 run.
And as been the case too many times this season, the Sonics lost late — their fourth consecutive defeat before heading back on the road, where the team has matched a franchise-record 14 consecutive losses.
It's the type of outcome that should have had Sonics coach Bob Hill sweating his future. He praised his team's effort while pointing out that the fourth quarter was an indication of how much the team is missing Lewis.
Prior to the game, Hill even tried to put an end to all of the rumors about his job security.
"When you get fired you don't die," said Hill, trying to put everything into perspective. "You just get another job. Coaches have a hard time winning when players are hurt. But it's always the coach's fault and I understand that."
It doesn't erase the Sonics' current position, however.
"This is a disappointment and it's not a good stretch," said Ridnour, who finished with 12 points. "But we get Rashard back and there's still time left. We've just got to find a way to win games in the fourth quarter."
Lewis is expected to practice with the team Tuesday, his first since straining the tendon sheath in his right hand against Dallas on Dec. 20. He could play in the final three games before the All-Star break. Sonics forward Danny Fortson also said his goal is to be ready to return for the same stretch from a chronic sore left knee injury.
Both players would give the Sonics some experience to rely on. Gelabale, besides showing promise, didn't play in the fourth quarter because he was burned defensively by Bulls forward Luol Deng.
Deng, a second-year player from Duke, teamed with reserve forward Andres Nocioni to score 17 of Chicago's 28 points in the fourth quarter. They also had a combined seven rebounds, and helped keep the Sonics off the offensive boards.
Deng finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds.
"There's not a whole lot of things we have to do to correct this," said Wilkins, who finished with 18 points. "It's just small thing like the defensive lapses. [Deng] is constantly moving. Their team is in perpetual movement. They're moving, moving, moving and the second you fall asleep, they're open.
"The positive thing is that we were right there."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org