SEATTLE (AP) -- Ray Allen scored 32 points and Rashard Lewis had 27 points and 10 rebounds to help the Seattle SuperSonics break a three-game losing streak with a 104-94 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night.
Lewis was strong in the first half, scoring 18 points, and then turned it over to Allen, who had 20 in the second half.
Statistically the worst defensive team in the league -- Seattle was allowing 105.4 points per game -- the SuperSonics spent the last two practices focusing on defense. It showed, as Seattle held the Bobcats to 44 percent shooting and forced 19 turnovers. Teams were shooting 48.6 percent against Seattle, next to last in the league.
Wednesday, November 30
Of note for Charlotte, both Melvin Ely and Primoz Brezec have played well in their last two outings, which should strike fear into the hearts of Sonic fans, as both guys will need to be stopped by big defenders - something MIA in Seattle this season.
Oh, and this is worth a laugh: According to the Bobcats' website, tonight's game "will be a battle between two teams known for their hustle on the defensive end." Um, yeah, if by "hustle" you mean "complete inability to stop the fellow with the ball."
INJURY REPORT - Rick Brunson (OUT), Danny Fortson (QUESTIONABLE), Jumaine Jones (DOUBTFUL), Sean May (QUESTIONABLE), Sonic Defense (GAME-TIME DECISION).
SPREAD - Sonics by 6
NOTES - Gerald Wallace, a guy that more than one of our readers pointed out as a viable Sonic free agent target, is having the best year of his career. After a few seasons in Sacto, Wallace has exploded for nearly 18 points a game, as well as 2.5 steals. Wallace, however, is having trouble hitting 3's on the road. He's at 43% at home, only 17% away.
Tuesday, November 29
Like most of you, I have been puzzled as to what has caused the drop-off from last year’s glorious springtime dash to this year’s plodding jog. I won’t go into all of them at this point, but here’s the first of a few-part series on Why The Sonics Are Struggling.
1. Opposition FG%/Defense. You simply cannot let opponents shoot 49% and expect to win. Only the Raptors have a greater FG% disparity than the Sonics’ 5.5% (compare to last season’s -1.5% difference). Obviously, when you get outscored by more than seven points a game you won’t win very often, yet that’s exactly where the Sonics stand, a full 10 points behind last year’s +2.5 ppg advantage.
The question jumps out at you, why are opponents so successful against Seattle’s defense this year? After all, the offense is scoring only a point below last year’s pace, so it’s not as though Seattle is running a Phoenix-style offense that generates more opposition points merely via increased possessions.
Of course, the first item of business is one Antonio Daniels. AD averaged 27 minutes per game last year, 27 minutes of strong defense and ball-control offense. AD’s minutes have been divided up, as best as I can figure, among Ridnour, Murray, Cleaves, and Wilkins.
Obviously, it’s more complicated than that, with different rotations and so forth, but the reality is that those three guys are replacing AD on the court. What does that mean, though? For one, none of those three can shoot worth a damn, or at least they have yet to this year. Both Ridnour and Wilkins have been horrific this year, shooting below 35%, which means more fast break opportunities for opponents since the majority of their shots come from the outside. Murray’s deficiencies have been outlined all over the web, but the Omen can’t be spared the rod, either, as his stats look almost as bad. Add in Ridnour’s long-bemoaned inadequacies at defense, and you’ve got three guys with horrible defensive stats and one guy, Cleaves, who will always need help on switches. Add in the usefulness of AD in this very area (he can guard PGs, SGs and SFs) and you’ve got a hidden area that is continually hurting Seattle.
And, yet, the departure of Daniels masks another area – the poor performance of the big men. A quick look at this site reveals that the position that is killing the Sonics is center. In fact, to make things easier, here is how the scoring differential breaks down by position.
PG – (-1.5) 2004-05 (-4.4) 2005-06 Difference: -2.9
SG – (+6.5) 2004-05 (+8.5) 2005-06 Difference: +2
SF – (+2.5) 2004-05 (-0.2) 2005-06 Difference: -2.7
PF – (-4.2) 2004-05 (-4.9) 2005-06 Difference: -0.7
C – (-0.9) 2004-05 (-6.5) 2005-06 Difference: -5.6
If you look at the PER (a complicated rating formula devised by John Hollinger), it becomes even more obvious that power forward and center are the twin Achilles’ heels of the Sonics this year on defense. To further illustrate, here are the worst offenders when we compute how many points the Sonics’ defense allows per 48 minutes with them or without them.
Danny Fortson, 124 on-court, 116 off
Mikki Moore, 148 on-court, 116 off
Damien Wilkins, 123 on-court, 115 off
Flip Murray, 133 on-court, 113 off
Moore’s stats are skewed by the fact he’s only played a few minutes, but the other three are all culpable. It’s surprising, though, that Wilkins makes the list, in that he’s supposed to be some kind of defensive stopper. Looking deeper into the stats, you can see it doesn’t matter if Wilkins is at the 2 or 3, he’s getting beat either way. Likewise, Murray stinks at PG and SG, although he stinks less at SG, for whatever that’s worth.
The bottom line is the Sonics are getting killed at center and their point guard can’t defend a team of girl scouts. Ridnour is a fixture and we’re going to have to live with him. At center, though, it seems to me the best alternative is to start the Potato. His offense has been spotty at best this year, but I’m convinced that if the Sonics get him a solid 25-30 minutes a night, he can help offensively while providing more than adequate help on defense. As Weiss alludes to in a great article on supersonics.com, guard penetration is hurting the Sonics, and one Jerome James would be a welcome addition. Weiss’ hope is that Petro and Swift can keep guys from scoring in the paint, and that an improved attention to team defense will be a tonic. My concern is that if these guys haven’t figured it out a fifth of the way through the season, exactly how much time do they need?
Monday, November 28
Unfortunately for Sonic fans, the month of December beckons, with a schedule from hell. Among Seattle's opponents at holiday time: Dallas, San Antonio, Denver, Phoenix, Philly, and Utah (twice). Think 5-8 looks bad? Try imagining what the record will look like after Christmas.
At least this recent spate of miserable losses (culminating with Saturday's defeat to the Homeless Hornets) has provided us with the first nomination for Quote of the Year, coming from the unlikely Mikki Moore. To wit:
"We need to stop [freaking] babying some of these [guys] and start being real with them."
Thanks, Mik. Of course, it would mean a heckuva lot more coming from a guy whose season-high in points was more than 3.
Friday, November 25
Well, just one. Ray Allen got his turkey carved last night by Bryant, a fact that undoubtably pleased the Lakers' star to no end. Whether on offense (making 3's as if he was an old white guy at the gym draining free throws), or on defense (holding Sugar Ray scoreless in the 2nd and 3rd quarters), Kobe was the difference.
For the Sonics, Mateen Cleaves continued to post impressive numbers. Excluding Rick Brunson (who has only appeared in limited minutes), Cleaves now ranks as the 4th-best on the club in +/-, trailing only Lewis, Collison, and Allen.
Also of note, Radman got some serious PT last night; 40 minutes to be exact. Of course, he only got the minutes because of Collison's foul trouble, but still, at least it keeps Vlade's agent off Bob Weiss' back for a couple of days.
Wednesday, November 23
The Sonics made a game of it after falling behind 61-44 in the third quarter - a methodology that is growing thin despite the recent spate of victories.
Bright spots? Sugar Ray and Rashard, naturally. Not much else, although Cleaves managed nine points in only 13 minutes.
Sour notes? Let's see, Da Fort managed 3 fouls, 3 turnovers, 1 board, no points in four minutes. The Center by Committee showed up late for the meeting, it appears, as Petro and the Potato (isn't that a show on PBS?) combined for 2 points and 1 rebound. Folks, when I'm using the singular to recount our center's rebounding totals we may be in trouble.
The good news is the Sonics are playing on Thanksgiving against the woeful Lakers. So far this season the Lakers have beaten Denver (twice), Atlanta, and the Knicks - and nobody else. Let's see ... national t.v., Kobe, Ray Allen, crappy Laker team - I'm guessing the over/under on Kobe's FGA around 37. Any takers?
Sunday, November 20
In a brilliant move, Sonics coach Bob Weiss started King killer Danny Fortson at center, who took Peja Stojakovic out of the game in the second half with a slap so hard it was audible from the other end of the court. Danny, you so cRaZy!
The Sonics were also helped by stellar play from Nick "Caveman" Collison, who hit a clutch 15-footer late in the game, and Vlad the Rad, who finally cut his rat-tail, stopped whining and played like the potential all-star we've been hoping for.
Drink up, Sonics fans—the boys are back in town!
Friday, November 18
Seattle came back from 11 down at halftime to beat Chicago 98-84 Friday night at Key Arena. Ray Allen scored 20 in the second half to help the Supes claw back from the dead and win this one going away. Allen and Rashard Lewis both scored 27 points apiece to lead the team.
The Sonics, who had allowed their last five opponents to score over 100 points, finally played some defense with solid efforts from Petro-Power (4 blocks in 24 minutes) and Mateen Cleaves, while limiting the Bulls to 38 percent shooting from the field.
The Sonics started slow, but ended the game looking like the dominant force from last year. Hopefully, the season will play out that way as well.
Thursday, November 17
Ray Allen bounced back from one of the worst games of his career Tuesday to lead the Sonics with 32 points. Rashard Lewis had five steals (!) to go along with his 22 points, and Nick Collison is quickly making everyone forget poor Reggie Evans by grabbing 13 boards and scoring 19 points.
With the brutal road trip (six games in eight nights) behind them, the Sonics return to Seattle for three home games with the division lead easily within their reach. It looks like the team might be starting to turn things around, and just in time too—I was about to turn this site into a Smallville blog!
Wednesday, November 16
As they say, if it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all, so you can’t say the Sonics don’t have any luck, it’s just of the wrong variety. Beyond luck, though, just what in the heck has happened to this team? I’m not as much of a numbers wiz as other folks on the internet, but here are a few bits I’ve noticed from last year as opposed to this:
1. Last year, Seattle outrebounded opponents by a margin of 41 to 38. This year, they’re losing the battle to the tune of 37 to 44, a cumulative difference of 7 boards. Collison’s extra minutes have come at the expense of Mr. Glass, and the erstwhile Jayhawk can’t match Evans’ ability in this department.
2. Defense, defense, defense. Opponents are hitting 50% of their shots, while the Sonics are converting barely 40%. Last year, the Sonics were at 44% to 46% for opponents. The 2.3 blocks per game is flat-out pathetic, and the return of the Potato isn’t going to make any difference, as he couldn’t block one of my shots, let alone someone over 6’6”. (As an aside, in case you read somewhere that the Sonics need more of Mac-10’s ball-stripping ways, know this: the Sonics are averaging more steals this year than last).
3. Folks, you can’t shoot 29% from beyond the arc, as Seattle has done this year, and expect to win many games. Ray Allen is the chief culprit, as his 28% mark from 3-point land is way off his 38% of the previous year. As a 40% career shooter from that part of the court, I’d expect Allen to eventually reverse this trend.
4. Hanging onto the ball. Seattle’s turnovers have skyrocketed from 14 per game a year ago to 17 now. Allen, Lewis, and Murray are chiefly to blame, while Ridnour has, surprisingly, held onto the ball better this year than last. I think the swap of AD for Murray can easily be held up as a good explanation. Add in also the emergence of Petro and Moore, two youngsters in the post who have trouble holding onto the ball (Moore averages a horrific 2 turnovers in his measly 11 minutes of action, which could explain why he doesn’t see more minutes).
So, will any of this change? I would venture that the Sonics will gradually hit more of their shots while their opponents fade from the aberrant 50% mark. Turnovers will likely even out. However, rebounding and shot blocking will not change in the foreseeable future. It is painfully obvious the Sonics miss Jerome James, something I never would have expected to type in this lifetime. Petro is too young, the Potato isn’t willing, and Moore isn’t strong enough. Unless the Sonics change their defensive style and go with more trapping, or else slow the ball down and limit possessions (a la Fratello or Van Gundy), Seattle will continue to score well and lose.
Tuesday, November 15
Yes, Pearl Washington, it's true, New Jersey will no longer have a team. Of course, tonight's game between two teams that were considered to be two legit playoff teams has turned into a miasma befitting the garden state. For the love of Tony Soprano, will somebody put these two clubs out of their misery?
Sunday, November 13
- Lewis was obviously the star today, scoring 41 points, but check out the free throws: 14-16! Does this mean Shard is finally going to be more aggressive and start playing with some passion, or is it just another Derrick McKey-like tease? Only time will tell.
- After being benched for two games, Petro Power not only started, but had his best NBA game so far, grabbing 10 boards in 38 minutes. Nice job, Le Pew!
- Look who didn't suck today: Flip Murray! 15 points in 29 minutes is exactly the kind of performance we need from Flipper. (Of course, he had three turnovers, but hey, Ray-Ray had six and you don't hear me squawking!)
- Look who barely played: (Not so) Radman! Despite the extra quarter, the rat-tailed one only played 13 minutes. Guess who's going to be bitching to his agent tonight?
(P.S. It's been brought to my attention that I forgot to mention Nick "Caveman" Collison's excellent game (20pts, 10 boards). As usual, Ni-Co's no-frills brilliance flew under my radar—sorry Nick!)
Thursday, November 10
Fire the Coach. This is always a popular choice, especially in this case when the coach isn't a Sonics legend like his predecessor. While it's true that Coach Slate has looked a bit like Joe Rockhead in the first few games, Mac-10, Larry Brown, and even Phil Jackson haven't gotten off to great starts with their new teams, either. It takes a while for teams to adjust to a new system, so it's a little early to pass judgment on the coach. I'll give him two weeks.
Trade the Players. Are you sick of seeing Flip "The Human Turnover" Murray dribble the ball out of bounds while Ray Allen stands unguarded two feet away? Tired of hearing Vlad "Not-So-Rad,Man" whine about minutes while shooting worse than Reggie Evans? Are you ranting on sports boards across the Internet about how we should trade these bums? Well, you can stop ranting, because these guys are going nowhere. Due to the recently signed CBA, Vlad, Evans, and Flip cannot be traded due to their one-year contracts. Which means, unless you want to trade Ray or Rashard, we're basically stuck with the crew we've got.
Give Up All Hope. This is the method I usually resort to when dealing with early-season suckitude. It's still a little early to flush this one down the tubes, though. Any team with Ray Allen has a chance. Does he need help? Of course. Could the coaching be better? Yes. Would playing some defense help? Duh. Obviously, there are a lot of things this team needs to improve if they want a shot at the playoffs. Luckily, it's a long season, and there's still time to fix the ship.
Wednesday, November 9
Tuesday, November 8
With the departure of Stromile Swift to Houston, the only remaining piece of Vancouver Grizzlies’ basketball has left the franchise. Yes, there are remnants of Vancouver scattered throughout the league – a Bibby here, an Abdur-Rahim there – but they left the franchise long ago. Stro was the last link to a dismal franchise, and now even he has left the ship.
I suppose I may be the only person bemoaning Stromile Swift’s presence – or, rather, the lack thereof – on Memphis’ roster. In our world, we quickly move from what was to what is, and, besides, nostalgia is a vain emotion at best.
Still, I miss the Grizzlies. In a way, rooting for the Grizzlies in Vancouver was like rooting for the Mariners in the 1980s – another fruitless passion of mine. Neither team rewarded us with many victories, but there was something to be said for staying with your team despite the ridicule you faced from other, much-wiser fans (in fact, if you replace the Seahawks with the Canucks, you’d get a pretty good picture of what it was like). Just as I vividly remember being mocked for rooting for Phil Bradley and Mike Moore, I just as vividly remember the joy in seeing Shareef post another 20-10 game, or Big Country putting on his bi-monthly displays of skill.
In any event, the Sonics play the Grizzlies tonight in Memphis. Somewhere, Grant Long and Cherokee Parks are watching.
SPREAD: Grizzlies by 4 1/2
The Griz turned in a good-ol’ fashioned barn-burner the other night against the Cavs, winning 113-106 behind 29 from Sr. Gasol. Like Seattle, Memphis will be spending much of the next two weeks on the road, so they’ve got high motivation to grab a win here. That said, the Sonics played well against the Griz last year, taking both games in Memphis. Add in the Grizzlies’ weak rebounding and the Sonics’ strong showing in that department, and you’re looking at what could be a very winnable game for Seattle.
PICK: Seattle 102 – Grizzlies 96
PETE’S RECORD: 0-1
Monday, November 7
- Through 2 games, Ray Allen is, quite obviously, the greatest player in Sonic history through 2 games. How much does he help the Sonics' offense? Well, Seattle is averaging 40 fewer points per 48 minutes with him wearing a warmup jackup than without.
- The Sonics are holding opponent 2 guards to 7 points a game.
- Flip Murray's stats are so bad, it makes me wish for Jon Sundvold.
- Did you know? Danny Fortson leads the NBA in fouls/game.
Other important tidbits gleaned from other sources: Mateen Cleaves has replaced Flip Murray in the rotation, at least temporarily. It appears he will join the Omen in a high-energy "spark off the bench" type thing. Thank you, Mr. Flint ... Rick Brunson is on the inactive list with a sore left foot he reinjured in the Clipper game. Not known if he'll play against the Grizzlies on Tuesday night.
Friday, November 4
I heard some guy call in to D-Locke's show after the opener, saying "Vote for Petro" as he hung up. Brilliant! I don't know if he came up with it, or if I'm just late to the party, but regardless the Johan Petro for Less Pine Time campaign should be in full swing by now.
The rook showed some surprising grit to go along with the expected jitters vs. the Clips. For every time he finished nicely around the rim, just as often he'd get stuffed or swarmed before he could even move. Stranger still, the short-in-the-tooth rookie had more poise than his comparatively walrus-like substitute, Danny Fortson. In 12 minutes, Petro had 8 points on 3-of-5 shooting, 5 boards, a block, 3 fouls, and sure, 3 turnovers.
Meanwhile, Fortson in his 7-odd minutes had only the "Personal Fouls" column filled in his line, with five. Granted, there may be nights when you can swap those Petro stats for Fortson's, but good ol' Fort can always fall back on his league-leading "Boneheaded Momentum-Deflating Play" figures.
One night is not going to get Petro anointed the savior. But he performed well enough to warrant extended play. Steal time from Reggie, who after some quick buckets in the first quarter decided he was the first option on offense. Take time from Danny. Shoot, team the kid up with Vitaly for a Petro-Potato twin tower thing. (Mmm, French-fried Potatapenkos).
I'm ready to believe Petro could be solid for this team. The fact that he did some goofy poppin' and lockin' for his silhouetted pre-game intro was reason enough for me. But if you need more convincing, the reviews in the Times, Tribune and P-I have been positive--not glowing, mind you--but nevertheless favorable.
So Mr. Sonics Post Game Caller, please save me a spot on the "Vote for Petro" campaign bandwagon. Before all the deserters from The Bob Swift Veterans for Truth pile on...
Wednesday, November 2
It started out so promising, with Johan Petro looking like the second coming of Hakeem and Reggie Evans scoring six points (!) in the first quarter. Then, reality came crashing down like David Thompson at a disco. The Sonics suddenly remembered to forget how to play defense and let the Clippers score over 100 points (!!), losing 101-93.
Despite a complete lack of "D" most of the night, the Sonics tied the score late in the game. In the end, though, three things sealed the Supes' doom:
1) Sam Cassel hit three 3-pointers in the final five minutes.
2) Danny Fortson had five fouls in eight minutes.
3) Flip Murray still thinks he can dribble.
Let the grumbing begin . . .
As always, Elton Brand will be the key for Seattle’s defense. They held the big fella to less than 20 ppg last year, but with no JJ around, and the Potato possibly MIA, it will be up to the mish-mash of 4s and 5s to do the job tonight.
As a year ago, the Sonics are favored to win. It doesn’t take a genius to see the Clippers are not a legitimate player in the west and the Sonics are. Of course, the Hornets had no chance in their home opener, either, so there you go. In any event, here’s the scoop:
SPREAD – Sonics by 6
OVER/UNDER – 194
PETE’S PICK: Seattle 100 – Clippers 88
I thought it was considerate of them to put a nice big picture of Ray on the tickets, for us po' folks in the upper, upper bowl.
Is it 7 o' clock yet? And whose dumb idea was this whole "Spring Forward/Fall Back" thing anyway? Stupid Pacific Standard Time, making me wait another 5+ hours until ZHO-han Pet-trow steps into the halfcourt circle for the tip...
At any rate, Supersonicsoul will be there in
But enough with my retarded monkeytypings already--I'm sure Mr. Nussbaum is crafting another one of his patented Game Night previews as we speak. Admittedly, prognos... prognosti... prognostification is not my strong suit. Nor is word talking. Thank goodness I can yell and act a fool at sporting events, or I'd be completely useless to this crew.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go warm up: "GO! ...SONICS! GO! ...SONICS!"
I jab you with the left
and swing a hook without the phonics
--DAS EFX, "Underground Rappa"
Tuesday, November 1
The prediction season is upon us, so let the indignation begin.
You say my team can’t win its division? You’re an imbecile. You say my favorite player can’t defend the pick and roll and shrinks in the clutch? Well, you can’t possibly have watched as many of his games as I have.
In all honesty, none of us know what to expect. If the weatherman on my television set can’t even predict what it will do tomorrow with any semblance of accuracy, how can we expect any more when predicting the behavior of 300-odd professional athletes? After all, look only at my prediction last season of the Sonics finishing so far in the basement they would need a sump-pump to see playoffs.
This year, though? Cautious optimism is my way of thinking. Lewis and Allen are still in their peaks, Ridnour and Collison are on the way up, the Omen looks good, and Frenchie may have some skills after all.
Of course, lest we forget, our starting center is apparently physically incapable of stringing together two consecutive healthy months, our starting power forward couldn’t hit two consecutive jump shots if his mother’s life depended upon it, and our backup power foward is as likely to score 2 points as he is to score 22.
Still, the NW Division is a shoddy one. Denver is this year’s trendy pick, but I fail to see how Camby, Melo, and K-Mart will be healthy for 82 games, and the George Karl milk carton is rapidly approaching its “Best By” date. The T-Wolves have a rookie coach and a suspect backcourt. Oh, and their center is Michael Olowokandi.
Utah is supposedly better, but the jury is still out. I’ll like them better with 82 games of AK-47. Funnily enough, the Blazers seem like a reasonably good team to me. If Nate can get the young fellows to keep their heads about them when the inevitable losing streaks pop up, they could approach .500.
But enough of the prelude. Where will the Sonics see themselves this spring? I’ll be honest, I like the Potato. I don’t like Mr. Glass. I’m ambivalent about Radman. I think Collison could average double-figures in the right situation this year. I think Rashard will get 20+. Sugar Ray will be Sugar Ray. And Ridnour is plenty good enough.
Mark it down as 48 wins, first in the NW, and the 2nd round of the playoffs.