PORTLAND, Ore., March 24 (Ticker) --
With the Seattle SuperSonics' two
All-Stars ailing, they needed a lift from an unlikely source.
They got it from seldom-used rookie Damien Wilkins
Wilkins scored a season-high 21 points, including his team's
last seven, and made a steal in the waning seconds to preserve a
96-91 victory over the slumping Portland Trail Blazers.
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The undrafted forward had played just 13 games prior to this
one, scoring 16 points. But when All-Star Rashard Lewis
the game late in the first quarter with left knee tendinitis,
Wilkins picked up the slack.
"To be honest, it's a different stage, but these are the games
that I've been sitting on the bench all year long wanting to be
a part of," Wilkins said.
"Wilkins had the game of his life tonight," Seattle coach Nate McMillan
said. "He looked very confident out there. He made
big free throws down the stretch. He's a guy that has prepared
himself all year long by getting to the gym early, shooting at
the game early. He had himself ready and he took advantage of
With the Trail Blazers holding a 91-89 lead, Wilkins buried a
3-pointer with 1:09 remaining to give Seattle the lead for good.
"I've been working on my jump shot as a whole all year," Wilkins
said. "As long as I'm ready to shoot it and my feet are set, I
feel comfortable taking any shot. What better teacher to learn
it from than Ray (Allen)."
"That was a 'Yes' jump shot," McMillan said. "I've been telling
guys all year, if you're out on the floor, you got to be ready
to shoot and you got to take the shot when it's there."
Just 1-of-5 from the line this season, Wilkins made 5-of-6 free
throws, including a pair with 13 seconds left to extend the lead
Losers of a season-high eight consecutive games, Portland had a
chance to tie, but Joel Przybilla's
pass was intercepted by
Wilkins, who raced downcourt for a dunk that sealed the victory.
"To tell you the truth, it was a gamble," Wilkins said of the
steal. "Coach was telling me to switch. I was supposed to go
with Derek Anderson
, but I just stayed. I felt that Przybilla
was waiting for that to happen, so I just wanted to get a piece
of the ball. Once I grabbed it, I took off running."
Nearly scratched prior to the start because of a sprained right
ankle, SuperSonics All-Star guard Allen added 19 points but made
just 7-of-19 shots, including 3-of-10 from the arc.
"It wasn't looking good for us at one point," Allen said. "The
young Wilkins stepped it up tonight and took us over the hump
tonight. That was all the difference in the game."
Despite having the second-best road mark (24-9) in the league,
Seattle lost its first visit to the Rose Garden this season and
had not posted a victory at Portland since March 30, 2002.
"This team needs a win," said Blazers interim coach Kevin
Pritchard, who is 1-11 since replacing Maurice Cheeks. "I feel
real good about the way we played. No, it wasn't a win, but
credit (the Sonics). They are the more talented team, but we
hung with them throughout."
Portland closed out the first half with an 8-2 run to take a
48-40 lead. After rookie Sebastian Telfair
opened the third
quarter with a 20-foot jump shot, Portland had its biggest lead
Seattle answered with a 20-4 burst capped by Jerome James'
for a 60-54 advantage with 4:44 left in the period. The lead
reached 11 before Damon Stoudamire
hit a 3-pointer to close out
the third and make it 72-64.
Stoudamire, who shot just 1-of-9 through three quarters, erupted
in the fourth, hitting four straight shot from the arc to cap a
15-5 run and put Portland ahead, 79-77, with 8:21 to play.
Stoudamire scored 19 points overall on 6-of-17 shooting.
"We played a good game, but we just didn't get the win,"
Stoudamire said. "I think Damien Wilkins is one of those
players that just needs a chance. He got that chance tonight
and he capitalized on it."