Seattle 111, L.A. Lakers 109
SEATTLE, Jan. 2 (Ticker) --
The crowd at KeyArena gave Gary Payton
a wonderful welcome. Ray Allen
gave Payton and the Los Angeles Lakers a stinging send-off.
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Allen's spinning, driving layup with 5.8 seconds left spoiled Payton's return to Seattle and gave the SuperSonics a 111-109 victory over the Lakers, who lost superstar center Shaquille O'Neal
to a calf injury.
Payton spent 12˝ seasons in Seattle, establishing himself as arguably the best player in franchise history before being traded last season following a contract dispute. He signed with the Lakers as a free agent, hoping to win an elusive championship.
"It was nice to finally talk to him," said Seattle coach Nate McMillan
, a former teammate and friend. "I told him to focus his attention on the championship. You got an opportunity; now go get it."
Some wondered what type of reception was in store for Payton, who sometimes alienated coaches, teammates and owner Howard Schultz with his harsh words. But a standing ovation lasted more than two minutes.
"It was just nice, it was real nice," said Payton, who waved to the sellout crowd of 17,072. "The fans doing that, they really appreciate what I've done here. It was always going to be a remembering moment for me. I love Seattle. I was here for 12 years, so it was really great to see that they appreciate me that way."
Payton scored 24 points on 9-of-20 shooting, adding five rebounds and five assists. He carried the offense in the third quarter after O'Neal left with a strained right calf but took a back seat in the final period -- first to Kobe Bryant
, and then to Allen.
"It wasn't gonna be all about me," Payton acknowledged. "It was about the Lakers playing the Sonics."
Bryant scored 18 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer that answered Allen's 3-pointer and forged a 109-109 tie with 22 seconds to go.
On the next possession, Allen lost Bryant on a pick-and-roll, dribbled past Horace Grant
and squeezed between Payton and Bryon Russell
for a layup that gave Seattle the lead.
"Every basketball game I've played, that's the situation I want to be in," Allen said. "I just put up a prayer and it went in."
"Kobe got pinned by a screen, Horace stepped out on him and he spun on Horace and he got to the hoop," Lakers coach Phil Jackson
Bryant missed a 3-pointer just before the buzzer.
The Lakers fell to 8-9 vs. the SuperSonics under Jackson, who has the best winning percentage of any coach in NBA history.
Allen had season highs of 35 points and nine assists. He was the primary player acquired when the Sonics dealt Payton to Milwaukee last season.
"I'm sure Ray did think about it," McMillan said. "It's good that there wasn't a lot of attention on him. He came out to play. He really wanted this game, just as all of us did."
With 4:58 left in the second quarter, O'Neal became entangled with Sonics guard Ronald Murray
and suffered a strained right calf. He had six points and five rebounds but did not return.
With forward Karl Malone
already sidelined by a knee injury, the offense fell to Payton and Bryant. Payton scored 11 points in the third quarter, which ended with Seattle holding an 86-82
"Phil told me to let the flow come to me and the flow did come to me," Payton said. "Shots started coming, and in them kind of situations, you have to let the game come to you and don't try to force anything."
A jumper and 3-pointer by Allen triggered a 14-4 surge. His lefthanded layup made it 100-91 with 6:49 to go before Bryant got hot. His 3-pointer and Payton's free throw tied it, 106-106, with 1:11 left.
scored 20 points and Brent Barry
added 12 and 11 assists for the Sonics, who have won three in a row. The Lakers (21-8) have lost three of four to fall into a first-place tie with Sacramento in the Pacific Division.