Lewis’ 37 Points Does in McMillan, Blazers
Seattle 111, Portland 99
PORTLAND, Ore., Dec. 16 (Ticker) -- Rashard Lewis gave Nate McMillan a very quick reminder of what he might be missing.
Lewis scored 20 of his 37 points in the first quarter and the Seattle SuperSonics led by as many as 33 in the first half en route to a 111-99 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
"It was just good to see Nate," said Seattle coach Bob Weiss, who served as an assistant under McMillan. "I think since we played Portland here in the preseason, it took a little fun out of it. We needed a win and our guys came out and played well, led by Rashard."
Both clubs have struggled in the early going, but the SuperSonics still have weapons that can take over a game in Lewis and fellow All-Star Ray Allen, who finished with 24 points. Lewis wasted little time in doing so in McMillan's first meeting with his former team.
"Seattle has a number of shooters and you have to stay close to them," said McMillan, who repeatedly pushed aside the fact he was facing his old team. "I'll want to watch the tape to see how they got so many open shots. You can't come out flat like that."
Lewis drilled the first of four 3-pointers in the first quarter to give his club an 11-8 lead just over four minutes into the contest. He was scoreless to that point but had 17 more points before the period ended, capping it with a 14-footer at the buzzer to give Seattle a 37-16 advantage.
"That first quarter we did kinda come out blazin'," said Lewis, who gave McMillan a hug before tip-off. "It didn't matter who it was tonight, we wanted to come out aggressive and put the pressure on them. Fortunately, we got that big lead in the first quarter."
The 6-10 forward, who blossomed into an All-Star under McMillan, was 7-of-8 from the floor, grabbed four rebounds and had two blocked shots in the first 12 minutes.
"That was kinda amazing," Weiss said. "Rashard was looking for the ball a bit more, but once he hit one or two of those shots, he just gets it rolling."
"My first couple of shots went down, and that's when I felt I was in a rhythm," Lewis said. "I felt like every time I touched the ball, it was going in."
Lewis and Allen hit back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the second quarter as the Sonics made their first eight from the arc to build the advantage to 60-27. A 17-2 run by Portland was stopped by Allen, who hit from the arc at the buzzer to rebuild the lead to 67-46.
The Blazers got within 87-70 on four straight points by Ruben Patterson late in the third period and were as close as 104-96 late in the fourth but remained in pursuit of their first 100-point effort this season.
"That's what a McMillan-coached team will do, play hard regardless of the score," Lewis said of Portland's comeback effort. "They play hard, dive, scrap, they never quit. Those are all signs of what he stands for."
"Despite what we did in the last quarter, we talk here about playing a 48-minute game, not a 36- or 24-minute game," McMillan said. "You don't start preparing for a game like this when you walk into a building. You have to prepare yourself the day before."
Luke Ridnour matched a season high with 16 points for the Sonics, who shot 67 percent (12-of-18) from long range to avoid their first four-game losing streak this season.
"It was definitely a big win for us," said Ridnour, who received three stitches in his head after bumping into teammate Vitaly Potapenko in the pregame introductions. "We just needed to get back on the winning side, no matter who we were playing."
Portland (6-15) has lost nine of 10 after a surprising 5-7 start and tensions seem to be mounting.
After the game, McMillan held his players in the locker room for an extended period of time.
"I was addressing the team and asking them where we are as an organization," McMillan said. "We are still developing as a whole and we're trying to find the right combinations that will be effective at a consistent level. I would say that the development of the team hasn't changed much since the beginning of the year."
Zach Randolph scored 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting and Viktor Khryapa and Steve Blake both had season highs of 19 points. Blake recorded a career-high 13 assists in his first start of the season in place of Sebastian Telfair, who suffered a torn ligament in his right thumb Sunday against Houston.
"I'm glad that I played well but that doesn't matter if we don't win the game," said Blake, who recorded his second career double-double. "We have got to come out more mentally and physically prepared and not get behind so early."
McMillan will return to Seattle for the first time January 30.
"I think when he comes up north, there will be a little more emotion," Weiss said. "Our place will be electric."