Payton scored 18 points and had 11 assists as the Sonics took advantage of Vince Carter's absence to beat the Toronto Raptors 101-75 on Saturday night.
The Sonics have won six straight and seven of eight. In five of
the seven victories, the opposing team's star player was out
because of injury or left early through injury or ejection.
"Teams were doing the same thing to us when we had guys out, so
now it's a little bit of the reverse. We're getting ours," Payton said.
Carter, the NBA's sixth-leading scorer at 25.5 points per game,
watched from the sideline after injuring his left shoulder Friday
night in the Raptors' 89-86 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. He
was listed as day-to-day.
"He's our go-to guy," Raptors swingman Morris Peterson said. "He's the nuts and bolts of our team. He keeps everything together."
Seattle took a 21-point lead into the second half and led by as
much as 31 in the fourth quarter. The Sonics shot 51 percent from
the field, while Toronto converted only 38 percent of its shots.
The Raptors' Dell Curry was 0-for-6 from 3-point range.
"We don't have Vince, we don't have Dream, you know, you don't have enough guys," Raptors coach Lenny Wilkens said of Carter and Hakeem Olajuwon, who stayed in Toronto with an infected toe.
"They played well. They took advantage of us," he said. "We struggled, and we didn't shoot the ball. It was like running in the sand."
Vin Baker led Seattle with 21 points, and Rashard Lewis added 18
as the Sonics (16-15) moved above .500 for the first time this
season. Predrag Drobnjak had 11 points and six rebounds in 16
Morris Peterson led Toronto with 18 points. Keon Clark added 15
points, 11 rebounds and five blocks, and Tracy Murray had a
season-high 16 points.
Carter and Olajuwon are "at least half of their offense," Sonics guard Brent Barry said. "But we don't feel too bad for them. We've been there before."
Seattle still is without starting center Calvin Booth, who has a sprained ankle. Baker and swingman Desmond Mason have missed several games each.
"That's part of the game," Sonics coach Nate McMillan said.
"These teams have had injuries, we've had injuries and still do
have. You just have to play through it."
He said the Sonics players had achieved a goal they set themselves two weeks ago of being at or above .500 before the new year.
"We're playing our best basketball of the season right now," Baker said. "Early in the season, we lost about seven or eight games that we should've won. But now we're starting to come together. We're starting to pass the ball, and our defense is playing much more physical."
Seattle outscored Toronto 31-14 in the second quarter and led
57-36 at the half.
The 21-point halftime deficit was the largest the Raptors faced
Seattle outscored Toronto 16-4 in fast break points in the first half. The Raptors shot just 39.5 percent from the field, including 0-for-7 from 3-point range. Seattle shot 53 percent.
Game notes Payton converted a technical foul shot for the 16,000th
point of his career at the end of the first quarter. The technical
was called on Wilkens. Payton, the Sonics' career scoring leader,
said he wasn't focusing on milestones. "When I retire, I'll
probably look on it in a different way." ... Seattle leads the
series with Toronto 6-5. Toronto entered the game with a four-game
winning streak over the Sonics. The teams play again on Feb. 24 in