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X-factor James adds 17 and 15 to lift Seattle

SEATTLE (AP) -- Looking way back, Jerome James was glad he was
cut by Sacramento. And now that he plays for Seattle, he was glad
to help the SuperSonics beat the Kings in their playoff opener.

Ray Allen scored 28 points, James added 17 points and a
career-high 15 rebounds and Reggie Evans had another 15 boards,
leading Seattle to a 87-82 victory over the Kings in Game 1 of the
first-round series Saturday night.

"Jerome was the key tonight," Sonics forward Rashard Lewis
said. "He and Reggie Evans controlled the paint. Jerome was
blocking shots all night. He was a big presence and he intimidated
those guards when they went to the basket."

James played inspired. The center, who started his NBA career in
Sacramento, has been inconsistent during his five seasons with the
Sonics, but he had three blocked shots by halftime, and added two
more early in the second half.

He finished with five blocks, and his work around the basket --
eight offensive rebounds for both James and Evans -- helped Seattle
to a 51-44 rebounding advantage that proved to be huge.

But, no, James said he wasn't trying to prove a point.

"I have no ill will for the Sacramento Kings for cutting me in
1999," he said. "In fact, I'm thankful for it. They allowed me to
grow as a player. It helped me gain the experience I needed in the
NBA."

The Sonics blew a 21-point second-half lead but held on with big
baskets in the closing seconds by Allen and James.

"Anytime you win I don't question it, especially in the
playoffs," Allen said. "We did some things wrong. We'll watch and
critique it tomorrow."

Cuttino Mobley scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half for
the Kings. His jumper with 1:10 to play pulled Sacramento to 83-79,
and he added a 3-pointer with 42.4 seconds to go to make it 83-82.

The Sonics answered, getting James open for a layup with 25
seconds to play after Antonio Daniels found him in the lane.

Sacramento went back to Mobley, who came off a screen by Greg
Ostertag but missed a 3-point try from the right wing. Peja
Stojakovic corralled the ball in the backcourt and fed Mike Bibby,
but he put up an airball that ended Sacramento's chances.

"We have to do a better job and concentrate," Kings coach Rick
Adelman said. "But our guys played hard down the stretch and we
had a chance."

Allen added two late free throws, then threw the ball in the air
after Bobby Jackson missed a 3-pointer with 3 seconds to go.

Stojakovic led Sacramento with 24 points, and Kenny Thomas added
10 points and eight rebounds.

Lewis scored 18 points for Seattle, and Daniels added 12.

Bibby, appearing in his 41st playoff game, looked as though he
had a case of the rookie jitters. He shot 0-for-9 with two assists
in the first half, missed his first two shots of the third quarter
and finished with three points on 1-for-16 shooting.

"I figured I'd make more than one," Bibby said. "I kept
shooting. My shot just felt bad. It won't happen again."

Seattle seemed safe, leading 63-41 early in the second half
after a jumper by Allen, and it looked like another first-round
blowout on a day where Detroit, Houston and Boston all coasted to
easy wins.

The Kings had other ideas. Sacramento used a 14-3 run over the
final 4:57 of the third quarter to pull to 70-64, trimming the
margin on a basket by Stojakovic and a three-point play from
Miller.

They also got two big baskets and three rebounds from Ostertag
in the run. The Kings kept it going by opening the final quarter
with a dunk by Ostertag and a bucket from Stojakovic, cutting the
deficit to four at 72-68.

"Our effort was a lot better in the second half," Adelman
said. "They started missing some opportunities and we got some
momentum going. We had a chance to win."

The Sonics held. Allen ignored his 1-for-7 effort to start the
second half and swished a 3-pointer to put Seattle up 75-68, then
James had a huge rebound and putback and Lewis added another basket
for a 79-70 lead with 5:32 to go.

"The shots didn't fall for us in the second half," Allen said.
"The defense gets tighter."

Sacramento center Brad Miller, who missed the final 25 regular
season games with a broken left leg, scored seven points in 8
minutes. He played 4 minutes in the first half and returned in the
third quarter, taking part in the key run.

"Definitely don't have the wind when I was playing two months
ago, but I felt comfortable getting out there," Miller said.<

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night in Seattle.

Game notes
Kings C Darius Songalia was assessed a flagrant foul midway
through the second quarter when he reached across and flattened
Daniels at midcourt. ... Seattle Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck
watched from a seat on one baseline. ... Tempers flared when Reggie
Evans rolled over Thomas after Thomas rebounded with 1:39 to play,
but officials stepped in to cool things down. Evans had 15
rebounds, eight offensive. ... Sonics F Danny Fortson made his
first playoff start after 402 NBA games, the third-longest stretch
among active players. He scored three points.