SAN ANTONIO, April 22 (Ticker) --
The Seattle SuperSonics took advantage of David Robinson
's absence by focusing on Tim Duncan
Gary Payton scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as the SuperSonics constantly double-teamed Duncan and used a balanced attack to defeat the San Antonio Spurs 98-90 and even their
Western Conference first-round series at one game apiece.
Robinson was out with a lower back strain and Seattle sent every big man available to Duncan, who still finished with 32 points and 12 rebounds. However, the Sonics forced the ball out his hands with double-teams and Duncan's teammates were unable to make them pay.
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"We were much more focused tonight," Payton said. "We executed better, we played hard, we were cutting hard, getting to loose balls and getting rebounds. Now the fight is just starting."
Seattle took the lead for good when Vladimir Radmanovic scored five straight points and Jerome James added a tip-in for an 80-74 advantage with 9:12 remaining.
Duncan scored inside to cap a run of six straight points and pull San Antonio within 85-84 with 5:24 left.
Payton responded with a tough turnaround jumper over Spurs rookie Tony Parker, and Rashard Lewis added a basket for an 89-84 lead with just over four minutes left. Seattle held the Spurs without a basket for the final 5:24.
"We tried to confuse Tim and cut out some of those assists he was getting the other night, passing out of the double-team," Seattle forward Vin Baker said. "Tim is an excellent player and we just tried to make him work to his post spots."
Lewis scored 19 points and Baker collected 15 and 10 rebounds for Seattle, which hosts Game 3 on Saturday afternoon.
"Seattle did a great job of being aggressive," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Game 3 is a month-and-a-half from now. I'm sure Seattle would like to play tomorrow, but for opposite reasons, we want to sit and wait."
Payton and Seattle overcame an horrific first quarter in which San Antonio built a 36-22 lead and Payton missed all seven of his shots. Payton's free throw capped a 15-2 run to open the second quarter and pull the Sonics within 38-37 and his jumper cut the deficit to 54-52 at halftime.
Duncan had 19 points in the first half, but James provided tough defense and limited him to six points in third. James had back-to-back baskets as Seattle opened up a 73-69 lead with just over a minute left in the quarter.
Although James was successfully able to body up Duncan for that stretch, the double-teams had an effect as San Antonio misfired from the perimeter. Parker and Steve Smith combined for six missed 3-pointers as the Spurs made just 5-of-17.
Seattle enjoyed a 49-35 rebounding edge without Robinson in the middle as Desmond Mason added 15 points and eight rebounds. The Sonics grabbed 19 offensive rebounds, which helped them to a 22-10 advantage in points in the paint.
"Tim and Malik (Rose) are monsters on the board," Seattle coach Nate McMillan said. "The key to this game is to keep them off the boards and not create second opportunities."
"It was huge not having David on the court," Duncan said. "We are going to find a way to get it done and move on."
Baker and James each fouled out in the fourth quarter as they took turns with Duncan, who also matched a career playoff high with six blocks. Radmanovic drew the assignment for the final 2:43 and limited Duncan to two points.
Smith finished with 16 points and Parker netted 13 but managed only two assists while being defended by Payton. Danny Ferry and Antonio Daniels combined to miss all six shots.