Kevin Pelton, SUPERSONICS.COM
| November 14, 2006
After closing out a successful road trip by defeating the New Jersey Nets 119-113 on Monday, the Seattle SuperSonics bring a three-game winning streak back to KeyArena to host the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday (7:00 p.m., FSN, KTTH 770 AM, )
Following the heartbreak of losing their first two games of the trip at Miami and Orlando by a combined four points, the Sonics bounced back to win their final three games, sweeping a back-to-back against Charlotte and Atlanta and racing out to a big lead before holding on in New Jersey. It was the Sonics most successful road trip since a 5-1 East Coast swing early in their 52-win 2004-05 season.
"The Sonics should feel good when they land in Seattle."
"The Sonics should feel good when they land in Seattle tomorrow," Coach Bob Hill
said after Monday's game. "Three in a row, and we actually had a chance to win the first two on the trip."
The standout individual performance of the trip was Luke Ridnour's career-high 32 points on 11-for-18 shooting against the Nets. Ridnour is averaging 15.8 points per game and shooting 50.5% from the field and an even 50% from 3-point range. As detailed earlier this month at SUPERSONICS.COM, Ridnour's work with Sonics Assistant Coach Gordon Chiesa has broadened his midrange game and become much more confident shooting the basketball.
What is most striking is the contrast is Ridnour's starts the past two seasons. A year ago, Ridnour struggled during the month of November, shooting 33.3% from the field and 22.9% from beyond the arc. This year, he has been nothing short of sensational.
"I kept calling pick-and-rolls for him and he kept getting in the paint and hitting those floaters," said Hill Monday. "That in-between game is so important for him. He put on a clinic tonight. And when he didnít make it, he made his free throws."
As usual, All-Stars Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis carried the team offensively much of the trip. Allen, whose average of 25.5 points per game thus far this season would surpass last year for a new career high, was at his best in scoring a season-high 33 points at Atlanta. Allen drove the lane and went to his left hand to score the winning basket in the closing seconds of overtime against the Hawks, giving the Sonics their first close win of the year after four losses by a combined 14 points.
Like Allen, Lewis has scored 20 or more points in seven of the first eight games - an improvement on last year's pace, when he topped the 20-point mark 40 times in 78 games. After Hill challenged Lewis at halftime in Charlotte, when the forward had just two points, Lewis responded with 19 in the second half and 50 points in the next two games. The Sonics went to Lewis in the post against smaller defenders to close out the New Jersey game, which saw him add 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the year.
After a disappointing preseason, Chris Wilcox has once again found his groove during the regular season. Wilcox has averaged 12.4 points and 9.1 rebounds, shooting 55.7% from the field. Wilcox has three double-doubles, nearly halfway to the seven he recorded with the Sonics in the last two months of 2005-06, and has thrown down 15 dunks - including four of his eight field goals in New Jersey.
Against the Nets, Ridnour, Allen, Lewis and Wilcox all scored at least 20 points, the first time since March 8, 1996 that four Sonics have reached the 20-point mark - when it was done by Vincent Askew, Gary Payton, Sam Perkins and Detlef Schrempf.
While the Sonics top four scorers have all played well throughout the season, the team came into the road trip looking for a fifth player to complement them. Nick Collison was expected to be that player entering the season, and after a slow start he seemed to get on track during the road trip. Collison averaged 9.2 points and 8.6 rebounds in 30.8 minutes per game, solidifying the Sonics defense.
The lineup of Ridnour, Allen, Lewis, Wilcox and Collison has played 50 minutes together so far this season, outscoring opponents 104-95.
Having completed their five-game road trip, the Sonics now have a favorable home schedule the remainder of November and into December. 10 of their next 13 games are at KeyArena, and the Sonics won't be away from Seattle for more than a game until Dec. 12. It's a great opportunity for the Sonics to continue their momentum.