SuperSonics Rain Baskets on the Suns’ Parade, 120-101


This had been building inside the Seattle SuperSonics for about a week, through the first three games of the Western Conference finals against the Phoenix Suns, even though one had been a victory.

When the venting came Sunday afternoon, before 14,812 at Seattle Coliseum, there was no mistaking that the potential of the SuperSonics had materialized--and just in time.

Facing the possibility of falling behind three games to one with the series heading back to Phoenix, the SuperSonics got some long overdue contributions from key players and shot 54% en route to a 120-101 victory.


Seattle came in averaging 97 points and 41.8% shooting, compared to 102.7 and 49.1% for the Suns.

“We told you guys it was going to come,” Ricky Pierce said. “We said there would be a time when everybody shot well and played good basketball. And it came today.”

Or, as Phoenix Coach Paul Westphal said: “They pretty much beat us every way you can beat a team. I can’t think of a lot of good about this, other than the nice weather.”

Things were overcast inside, when the SuperSonics shot 57.7% in the first quarter to take an eight-point lead, and about to get much worse.

The skies opened in the third quarter, Seattle baskets turning a 63-60 lead into an 82-65 cushion in 6:37. The Suns got no closer than 11 points the rest of the quarter and were never within fewer than nine from then on.

“We played like we are capable of playing,” Coach George Karl said. “I think for the first game of the series, we played like we are capable of playing.”


The reasons were various and obvious.

Derrick McKey, the 6-foot-11 forward who had gone 13 for 31 over the previous three games, finally capitalized on his height advantage. Karl called a play before the game that would send McKey inside on the first SuperSonic possession and found the same fault line in the Suns’ defense that the Lakers had found in the first round: Big people can give Phoenix problems.

McKey went inside against Richard Dumas, Cedric Ceballos and even Danny Ainge. McKey took only nine shots, but made six and went to the free-throw line 11 other times. He finished with 20 points, tying Shawn Kemp for team-high honors.

“You have to make adjustments in a playoff series,” said Pierce, who had 28 and 34 points the previous two outings but became largely a decoy in Game 4, taking only seven shots. “And now they (the Suns) have to look at the films and find a way to stop Derrick when he’s on the blocks.”

Dumas and Ceballos, McKey’s counterparts, went two for seven and two for two, respectively. The most noise Ceballos made was with his trash talking to McKey, which started early, but, predictably, faded into silence for one reason.

“He was sitting on the bench,” McKey said, managing a smile.

There was also the matter of Eddie Johnson making a contribution somewhere besides in his guest column in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. That has prompted a columnist for one of the other papers to write that Johnson shoots like a sportswriter. So it goes when you sink four of 19 shots, or 21.1%.

Johnson entered the game to a loud ovation with 3:51 to play in the first quarter, followed soon after by chants of “Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!” Then, as if noise could provide a jump-start, he made two baskets before the end of the quarter, one a three-pointer, and finished with 12 points.


Put it all together and the SuperSonics had a victory and a 2-2 series heading back to Phoenix for Game 5 on Tuesday. At worst, they have guaranteed one more home game.

“Today in a lot of ways,” Karl said, “the war just began.”

Western Conference Notes

Kevin Johnson, bothered by a deep thigh bruise, played 35 minutes but had six points, seven assists and four turnovers. “Kevin said it was OK, but obviously it’s not that often that he shoots two for 11 and has six points,” Sun Coach Paul Westphal said. “So I’d have to think that something was bothering him.” . . . The SuperSonics had 19 turnovers, but Phoenix converted them into only seven points. . . . Westphal, who started Cedric Ceballos the first two games at small forward and Richard Dumas the next, stayed with Dumas on Sunday.