DALLAS (AP) -- This is why the Seattle SuperSonics have become
the team to beat in the NBA.
One night after Ray Allen helped Seattle become the first team
to win in San Antonio this season, Rashard Lewis did the honors in
Dallas, scoring 13 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter of a
107-102 victory Thursday night.
Many of Lewis' baskets came when the Sonics needed them most,
such as quickly erasing the Mavericks' only lead of the second half
then protecting Seattle's advantage with a high-flying baseline
dunk, a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired and two free throws
with 18.5 seconds remaining.
"Rashard is playing like a man possessed," said Allen, who
followed his 29 against the Spurs with 22. "He's on a mission.
He's been a guy who's willing to stand back and watch, but this
year he's stepping up and is one of the guys at the forefront."
With Allen burying jumpers and Lewis a threat to score anywhere
on the court, the Sonics have won four in a row and nine of 10 to
continue their grip on the league's best record. They are 17-3, a
half-game ahead of idle Phoenix.
The Mavs lost for the second time in three games and are just
6-7 since mid-November. This was their fifth home loss, matching
last year's total in just 12 games, with all the losses -- and just
one of the wins -- coming against winning teams.
"It's still early," said Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 27
and came away with a bruised tailbone on a late collision with
Seattle's Luke Ridnour. "We still have a lot of improving to do on
both ends of the court."
The Sonics jumped ahead quickly and seemed headed toward a rout,
leading by between seven and 15 from early in the second quarter
until early in the fourth. Then, Dallas used a 14-3 run to go ahead
87-86 with 7:08 left on two free throws by Jerry Stackhouse.
That's when Lewis took over.
He got the ball on the ensuing possession, went into the lane
and drilled a 12-footer, putting Seattle back on top. The Sonics
never trailed again, although the game remained tight.
Dallas was within 99-95 when Lewis grabbed a rebound on the
right baseline and flew to the rim, throwing down a thunderous
dunk. He grabbed his jersey and screamed, silencing the crowd.
Fans were vocal again once Stackhouse converted a three-point
play to make it 101-100 Seattle. The Sonics' next possession was
dangerously close to ending on a 24-second violation, but Lewis
swished a 3-pointer from the left side and again pumped his chest.
"I had been struggling with my shot, missing some easy shots,
but I kept confident," Lewis said. "My shots were going to fall.
... This year, I know I've got to step up my game at crunch time.
I've got to do my part to open things up for my teammates."
Michael Finley, activated from the injured list before tipoff,
tried a 3-pointer with 22.9 seconds left that would've put Dallas
up by one. But the ball hit the rim and went out of bounds over the
Lewis was fouled on the inbounds, putting the Sonics ahead
106-102. Dallas missed two chances at the rim on their next series
and that was it.
"We really fought to get back into the game and take the lead,
but it just seemed like they hit big shot after big shot," Mavs
coach Don Nelson said.
Vladimir Radmanovic had 18 for Seattle, including 5-of-7 on
3-pointers. Ridnour scored 10 and had seven assists. Danny Fortson
had seven points and eight rebounds, and was called for the foul
that let Stackhouse give Dallas its brief lead. The two got tangled
going for a rebound and Fortson was hit with the loose-ball
"That must have been the worst call I've ever seen in the
history of the NBA," Fortson said. "I don't want to criticize the
officials, but I was hit in the back. He clobbered me. It was
Finley, who had missed 15 games with a sprained ankle, and
Stackhouse both scored 19 and both had 10 in the final period.<
Dallas had a scare when Nowitzki went down hard after being
undercut by Ridnour on a rebound with 4:44 left. Nowitzki was
face-down on the court for several seconds, but shook it off during
"I don't know what his intentions were," Nowitzki said. "He
wasn't going to get the rebound."
Fortson, stuck at the end of Dallas' bench last season, got
a nice little ovation when he entered. He didn't, however, get to
hear the gong that he used to get when he entered games, a nod to
his samurai-style haircut. ... After the game, Nowitzki spoke to
500 German exchange students.