SEATTLE, Dec. 26 (Ticker) -- Gary Payton
knows how to close quarters for
the Seattle SuperSonics.
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Payton scored 16 of his 35 points in runs at the end of the
second and third quarters as the SuperSonics halted a four-game
skid with a 97-88 victory over the shorthanded Toronto Raptors.
Seattle had lost four straight games - all in the final seconds
- and was locked in a tight one again as Toronto held a 33-32
lead in the second quarter. Payton pumped in eight points in a
16-6 run to close the half for a 48-39 lead.
"I think he took it on his shoulders tonight to carry this
team," Seattle coach Nate McMillan said. "I saw that he was
aggressive in the first half and he was looking to get in a
The SuperSonics held a 63-62 edge in the third quarter after
Toronto's Lindsey Hunter
scored with two minutes left. Payton
had a pair of jumpers and two inside hoops to close the period
for a 71-62 advantage.
"We came back and played hard tonight," Payton said. "We finally
got it off our back. We've got a young group of guys. We've got
to play as a group."
"Gary is a tough player," Toronto coach Lenny Wilkens said. "He
is smart and he controlled the tempo of the game."
Toronto began a five-game road trip without injured starters
and Antonio Davis
, both of whom did not make the
trip. Voshon Lenard
led the Raptors with a season-high 27
points, 23 after halftime.
"We've been playing without a lot of guys all season," Raptors
forward Morris Peterson
said. "We are playing with the guys we
have and giving 110 percent."
Seattle's Rashard Lewis
finished with 20 points, his sixth game
of 20 or more in the last seven contests. Vladimir Radmanovic
made 6-of-9 shots for 16 points off the bench.
Payton made 15-of-25 shots and added seven assists and seven
rebounds. The eight-time All-Star had made just 26 percent
(15-of-57) of his shots in the previous three games.
"Gary had a real good game for us," Seattle guard Brent Barry
said. "He has been struggling from the field. Tonight it looked
like he definitely back on track, and that can only help our
team for the next couple of games."
collected 15 points and 10 rebounds as Seattle
held a 44-39 edge on the glass. The Sonics also shot 83 percent
(20-of-24) at the line, 6-of-6 by Lewis.
Lewis credited Payton with keeping the team's spirits up.
"He's our captain, he's our go-to guy, so if he gets rolling
early, we seem to just follow behind," Lewis said. "When he's
not knocking down shots, then somebody else usually has to step
up and do it. But Gary's most definitely our energy guy."
The Sonics used their passing to carve up the Raptors, handing
out 28 assists on 37 baskets. Kenny Anderson
had eight assists
in 13 minutes and Barry added seven.
The lone bright spot for Toronto was a phenomenal shooting
display by Lenard in the fourth quarter. The veteran guard made
all five of his shots for 15 points in the period, including
Peterson scored 22 points and Alvin Williams
added 12 for
Toronto, which shot 46 percent (36-of-78). The Raptors held a
20-7 advantage in points on the fast break.