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Big fourth quarter halts Sonics' three-game losing slump

SEATTLE (AP) -- Perhaps it was a benching in the previous game.
Or maybe the presence of Navy personnel from his native France,
flying a huge, red-white-and-blue French flag behind one basket.

Whatever the case, Johan Petro was far better than his previous
10 games on Monday night.

Ray Allen scored 29 points and Petro had 12 points, six rebounds
and three blocks -- including a pivotal one of Vince Carter late in
a fourth-quarter comeback -- to rally the Seattle SuperSonics to a
99-87 win over the New Jersey Nets.

"I sat him down and told him, 'All you need is one,
breakthrough game.' Maybe this is it," Sonics coach Bob Hill said
of the 20-year-old Petro.

Hill benched his 7-foot center because of his ineffectiveness on
Saturday in favor of a three-guard lineup -- which failed.

The Sonics (5-7) trailed for all but two possessions of the
first three periods Monday. Rashard Lewis then scored 10 of his 20
points in the final quarter as Seattle outscored New Jersey 33-17.

Carter led the Nets (5-5), the Atlantic Division's early leader,
with 27 points. But he also had eight turnovers. Carter missed
consecutive shots immediately after Luke Ridnour gave Sonics the
lead for the final time with a 3-point shot off a loose-ball
scramble while the shot clock was expiring.

That broke an 83-all tie with 3:59 left. Ridnour was 1-for-6
before that.

The Nets made just one field goal over the final 6:11. Seattle
outscored them 20-8 in that decisive span.

"I had a couple of costly turnovers that really hurt us,"
Carter said.

"We just have to step up and find a way to win."

Ridnour put the game away off of Petro's third block -- which
equaled his season total coming in. Petro chased down Carter from
behind and swatted Carter's runner out of the lane to spark a
Seattle fast break. Ridnour converted that with a runner of his own
to give Seattle an insurmountable, 90-84 lead with 2:29 to go.

And out came the French flag from the sailors.

"I didn't see it. I was so focused on the game," a smiling and
appreciative Petro said.

"I only played five minutes the last game. It refreshed my
mind."

And refreshed the Sonics. They desperately need strong inside
play to complement All-Star shooter Allen and offset season-ending
knee surgery to Robert Swift. Swift was to be Seattle's starting
center this season.

"I'm still a kid," Petro said. "I'm just going to go out and
have fun (now). I was thinking too much, about a lot of things."

The Sonics were thinking Carter might exceed the season-high 38
points he dropped on them last week in the Meadowlands when he
scored 19 points in the first 14 minutes on 7-for-9 shooting
Monday.

His final basket of that surge was a fadeaway 22-foot jumper as
the shot-clock buzzer sounded. Carter then blew on each of his
hands as if to cool them off while jogging back down the floor.

His playful trick jinxed him -- Carter went scoreless for the
next 18 minutes and had just eight points over the final 38
minutes.

"I'm just going to continue to be aggressive, get better and
take what I can get," he said.

Allen warmed as Carter cooled. He had 13 of his 18 first-half
points during the second period to keep the Sonics in the game,
which New Jersey led 51-45 at halftime.

After Seattle took a brief lead in the third quarter, Richard
Jefferson made an open 3-pointer to put the Nets back up entering
the final quarter.

New Jersey's second-leading scorer returned after missing five
games with a sprained left ankle. He badly missed his only shot of
the first half and later had turnovers on consecutive possessions.
His first basket came 7Ā½ minutes into the third period, a slick,
spinning fadeaway in the lane over Lewis.

Jefferson finished with nine points in 26 minutes.

"I missed 10 days, and before that I didn't practice that
much," Jefferson said. "I feel fine. I'm ready to go on Wednesday
(at Portland)."

Game notes
Nets forward Nenad Krstic scored 16 points -- all but two
after he banged his right wrist falling hard to the floor while
battling Petro for a rebound during the game's third minute. Krstic
played 23 of his 26 minutes with his wrist taped. ... Sonics F
Danny Fortson missed his third consecutive game after he had an MRI
on his sore right knee. The team doesn't know if Fortson will be
able to return for Friday's game against Sacramento, as it had
originally estimated.