SEATTLE (Ticker) -- The Phoenix Suns have a big hole to fill
with the loss of Joe Johnson. Raja Bell let the front office
and fans know the position is in good hands.
Bell, who spent the last two years with the Utah Jazz, scored 26
points as the Phoenix Suns rallied from a 16-point, first-half
deficit for a 114-113 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics.
Johnson, who was traded to Atlanta in a controversial
sign-and-trade deal that was finalized just a month prior to
training camp, did a little of everything for the surprising
Suns last season.
Phoenix signed Bell as a free agent this summer after the guard
averaged a career-high 12.3 points last season. Over his
five-year career, he has averaged 7.3 points for Philadelphia,
Dallas and Utah.
Bell shot 11-of-16 from the floor Friday, including 4-of-7 from
the arc, and added seven rebounds in 36 minutes.
Seattle used a 24-8 run over the final 6:48 of the first half to
take a 14-point lead into the break.
The Sonics led, 97-87, with 11:20 remaining before the Suns
started chipping away. They took the lead when Jerome James
converted a three-point play with 2:12 left for a 112-110 edge.
Kurt Thomas added two free throws before Seattle's Ray Allen
closed out the scoring with a 3-pointer.
Seattle had one last gasp when Phoenix was called for a
24-second violation with 4.7 seconds to play. The Sonics
inbounded to Luke Ridnour, whose 18-footer at the buzzer was
James, who will be asked to play a more vital role with All-Star
Amare Stoudemire out four months recovering from knee surgery,
finished with 18 points, while Thomas added 10 and 10 rebounds.
Playing in place of NBA MVP Steve Nash, who is suffering from a
cold, Leandro Barbosa added 13 points and seven assists.
Allen, who signed a five-year, $45 million contract in the
offseason, led Seattle with 28 points, while Ridnour added 18,
10 assists and seven rebounds.
Ridnour, beginning his third year, started for Seattle last
season, but coach Nate McMillan often played stellar sixth man
Antonio Daniels during crunch time. Since Daniels signed with
Washington as a free agent during the summer, Ridnour will have
to improve upon his 40.5 shooting percentage and 8.0 scoring