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Nuggets coach remembers high-scoring series against Golden State

George Karl's Greatest Moments - Seattle 1992

From Albany, N.Y., to the Golden Gate Bridge, from Seattle to Spain, Nuggets coach George Karl has been a part of more than 2,000 professional basketball games in the NBA, CBA and Europe.
Karl, one of seven coaches in NBA history to win 1,000 regular-season games, sat down with to reflect on some of his most memorable games and moments over the past 35 years.

Every career has its share of defining moments.

Fired from jobs in Cleveland and Golden State, Karl spent four years coaching in the Continental Basketball Association and overseas when Seattle SuperSonics general manager Bob Wittsitt brought him back to the NBA on Jan. 23, 1992.

“My career was probably saved by (Sonics owner) Barry Ackerley’s decision to allow Bob Whitsitt to hire me,” Karl said last spring. “There weren’t a lot of people on that list that were going to hire me.”

Karl seized the opportunity and never looked back.

The Sonics, led by second-year point guard Gary Payton and high-flying forward Shawn Kemp, won 27 of their final 42 games and earned a date with third-seeded Golden State in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Defense was an afterthought for the Warriors, who were coached by Karl’s mentor Don Nelson. Behind the duo of Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin, Golden State averaged 118.7 points per game in 1991-92, a scoring pace that hasn’t been matched in the past 20 years.

The Sonics were statistically a middle-of-pack defensive team, but they had solid individual defenders in Payton, Derrick McKey and Nate McMillian. Seattle “held” the Warriors to 109 points and got 28 points apiece from Kemp and Ricky Pierce to win the series opener 117-109 in Oakland.

The Warriors pulled even in Game 2, and the series shifted into overdrive when the Sonics shot 61.5 percent from the field in a 129-128 victory in Game 3 at Key Arena in Seattle. Ricky Pierce and Eddie Johnson combined for 53 points as the Sonics closed out the series with a 119-116 victory in Game 4.

Seattle fell 4-1 to the Utah Jazz in the conference semifinals, but Karl’s run of success with the Sonics was just getting started.

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