With Allen sidelined, Lewis anchors Sonics by Brand, Clippers

SEATTLE (AP) -- Rashard Lewis knew he'd have to step up his play with leading scorer Ray Allen sidelined with an ankle injury.

Lewis scored 31 points to help the Seattle SuperSonics beat the Los Angeles Clippers 77-75 on Thursday night.

"I knew at that point I was going have to take more shots tonight and try to score a little more to cover for Ray," said Lewis.

His biggest shot came with 24.8 seconds left on an inside floater from the right side with two Clippers guarding him.

That gave the Sonics a 77-73 lead. A pair of free throws by Corey Maggette with 9.3 seconds left brought the Clippers back to within two.

The Sonics lost the inbounds pass giving the Clippers a chance to tie the game, but Elton Brand's jumper at the buzzer hit off the back rim.

"He shoots a floater as well as anybody I've ever seen, at 6-foot-10 especially," Sonics coach Bob Hill said of Lewis' crucial basket.

"When he gets in five to eight feet, with his length and ability to shoot and touch, he's really difficult to stop."

After playing 43 minutes Wednesday in a 96-91 loss to the Clippers, Lewis said he legs were weary in those final seconds taking on Brand.

"I didn't want to bail him (Brand) out and take a jump shot and really didn't have confidence I would make it," Lewis said.

"If anything I thought I would try to penetrate and hope that he'd commit a foul. But he just shadowed me and didn't body up to me so I was able to get the floater off."

Brand finished with 22 points while Cuttino Mobley had 18.

The Clippers also were without a key player, guard Sam Cassell. He has a tender groin.

Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said the team does not perform as well without Cassell's experienced hand. Rookie Will Conroy, signed to a 10-day contract Tuesday, played in Cassell's spot.

"I thought in the second half when you need to go to more complicated stuff, we couldn't do it with (Conroy) because he didn't know the plays," Dunleavy said. "He hasn't even practiced with us. That was kind of an unfair situation for him to be in but I thought he gave us a good effort."

Trailing by seven at the half, the Clippers tied the game at 44, three minutes into the second half. Brand held to just one shot in the first half, had 13 points in the third period. The Clippers built their biggest lead of the game at 53-50 on a floater by Tim Thomas with 40 seconds left.

The Sonics made just five of 16 attempts in the period and at one point went nearly 5 minutes without a field goal. They still managed to draw even with the Clippers at 57-all heading into the final 12 minutes.

Lewis, who has played only nine games since missing 22 with an injured hand, scored 12 of his 31 points in the final period.

"People forget how great the guy was playing early in the season," Hill said of Lewis. "He was having a career year then.

He missed 22 games and that's a long time. He's pretty much doing everything well. He's really trying to defend. His defense is so much better. He's getting to the foul line more, he was 9 of 10 tonight. He had five assists. He had five turnovers but his new-found confidence in dribbling the ball has increased his ability to have assists and make his teammates better."

Allen, who is uncertain if he will play Sunday, has been dealing with this nagging ankle problem for more than a month. He has not practiced with the team in 10 days. He will be examined by a doctor Friday.

Game notes
Conroy returned to his home city. He played his high school and college basketball (University of Washington) in Seattle. Conroy played 14 minutes with two rebounds and an assist. ... The Sonics are wearing a black band across their left shoulders in honor of former player Dennis Johnson, who died last week.