HOUSTON, Nov. 5 (Ticker) -- Gary Payton does not have to talk about contract issues to make a statement.

Payton, who has stopped talking about off-court affairs, dished out a career-high 18 assists and scored 20 points to lead the unbeaten Seattle SuperSonics to a 104-97 victory over the Houston Rockets.

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"I thought he did a great job," Seattle coach Nate McMillan said. "When they didn't double-team him, he took advantage of it, and when they did double-team him, the other guys got open and made their shots."

In a practically flawless floor game, Payton committed only one turnover late in the fourth quarter. The perennial All-Star also grabbed seven rebounds.

Gary Payton and the Sonics are off and running.
Bill Baptist
NBAE/Getty Images
"I don't want to call him an old pro because he doesn't play like an old pro," Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "He's really good at finding people and they have an arsenal of shooters. We tried several different tactics to slow him down, but he had an answer for every one of them. He was a master tonight."

With 6,968 career assists, Payton moved past Hall of Famer Bob Cousy into 11th place on the all-time list. Cousy had 6,956 assists in his career.

"The other guys made that happen," Payton said. "We have good shooters and I'm very confident to get them the ball."

Payton's passing allowed five other SuperSonics to score in double figures, including Rashard Lewis with 18 points. Lewis also led Seattle with 12 rebounds.

"He's carrying this team right now," Lewis said. "He's the reason we're 4-0. He had 18 assists and a guard can't do better than that. He was kicking it out and we were knocking down our shots."

The Sonics maintained their perfect record, keeping pace with Dallas and New Jersey as the NBA's only unbeaten teams. Seattle is 4-0 for the sixth time in team history.

Seattle ran away with the game in the third quarter, outscoring Houston, 32-15. Payton had eight assists in the period as Seattle built a lead that extended as far as 22 points early in the fourth quarter.

"They got hot and shot the ball very well" Houston's Steve Francis said. "In the third quarter they made a lot of threes. ... I think that's the best we've seen a team shoot all year. We didn't have an answer for them."

The Sonics shot 72 percent (13-of-18) from the field in the third quarter, putting together runs of 16-4 and 9-0.

Francis just missed a triple-double with 33 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

Coming off an eight-point game on Saturday against Toronto, rookie center Yao Ming did not score in 15 minutes for Houston. The 7-5 Yao has been held scoreless in two of four games.

Houston clawed back to within six points in the final minute but got no closer.