Monday , May , 02 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Playoff Notebook: Allen, James carrying the Sonics

(Sports Network) – All-Star Ray Allen and center Jerome James have the
Seattle SuperSonics on the brink of advancing to the Western Conference
semifinals for the first time since 1998, as they hold a 3-1 lead over the
Sacramento Kings in their best-of-seven first-round series.

In Game 4, Allen scored a playoff career-high 45 points and dished out six
assists, while James netted 17 and grabbed eight rebounds as Seattle rebounded
from Game 3s loss to defeat Sacramento, 115-102, at ARCO Arena. Seattle’s
other All-Star Rashard Lewis also had a solid game, as he finished with 19
points and eight boards in the win.

The SuperSonics had a rough first half in Game 3, as they struggled from the
floor and trailed by 12 at the break. However, Seattle, which trailed in the
contest by as many as 19 points, buckled down on defense and started to hit
its shots in the second half. The Sonics pulled to within four heading into
the fourth quarter, and outscored Sacramento 35-18 in the final stanza to walk
away with a 13-point victory.

“We played defense tonight,” said Seattle head coach Nate McMillan after Game
4s victory. “In the first half, we didn’t play defense and didn’t follow our
rules. We gave up 68 points and shot 57 percent (from the field).

“We didn’t get stops. In the second half, they scored 34 points. We stuck to
our rules, and weak side help was there. Anytime you play defense, it puts you
in a groove. Ray Allen was great. He hit great shots. Played like an All-Star.
Rashard (Lewis) looked for the ball. He made the right reads. I was real happy
with the second half. That was the difference in the game.”

Allen was 17-of-28 from the field, including 6-for-14 from three point range,
in Game 4 and played a team-high 45 minutes. He was also 11-of-12 from the
charity stripe.

“I was shooting before the game,” said Allen. “And they put the lights out on
me. But I was still making the shots. In the game, that was all I needed — to
get the shot up there.”

James was 7-of-11 from the field and was a force defensively, as he blocked a
game-high four shots. The Sonics also got decent production from the bench,
which outscored Sacramento’s reserves, 26-16, in Game 3s victory. Forwards
Danny Fortson, who scored six points in eight minutes of playing time, and
Nick Collison, who contributed five points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of
court time, scored timely baskets and made the most of their time on the
hardwood.

“I thought our spacing was good,” said McMillan. “Jerome (James) took
advantage of the double teams. Nick (Collison) and Danny (Fortson) did a good
job of attacking the weak side.”

Collison and the rest of the Seattle bench know that they have a specific role
and they need to follow the game plan for the team to be successful. The
Kansas product did not put up big numbers in that stat book in Game 4, but he
did the dirty work that helps teams win in the postseason.

“I just screen for them,” said Collison. “That’s basically what I do. Just
take my time, set screens and make shots. When (Ray Allen) gets off, it takes
some pressure off us. It was unbelievable. When he plays like that, we’re
tough to beat.”

Allen leads the Sonics in scoring (33.0 ppg) and assists (5.0 apg) in the
first round of the postseason, while James is second in scoring (18.8 ppg) and
is averaging a team-high 10.3 rebounds per game against Sacramento. Lewis, who
averaged 20.5 points per game during the regular season, has contributed 14.5
points per contest so far in the playoffs.

The 29-year-old Allen, who has played in 30 playoff games during his career,
is expected to carry a large portion of the load for the Sonics, but James’
play has been a pleasant surprise. James averaged just 4.9 points and three
boards in 80 games during the 2004-05 campaign. The 7-1 center has given
Seattle a low post presence in the postseason, as he has been able to get
great position down low which is opening up the outside for Allen and Lewis.

James’ surprising performance has made the SuperSonics a much more dangerous
team. Seattle has not been known for its play down low, but with James finding
that he does possess and all-around game the Sonics are able to get the most
out of their deadly outside shooting.

Allen has scored at least 26 points and has led Seattle in scoring in the
first four games against Sacramento. He has made clutch shots and appears to
be unstoppable.

The Sonics have not won a playoff series since 1998 when they defeated
Minnesota in the opening round. Seattle fell in five games in the next round
to the Lakers.

With the emergence of James in the postseason, the Sonics have become a club
that can win with their play from the inside or outside. If Lewis finds his
stroke, Seattle will be even more dangerous. For now, Allen and James are able
to handle the load for the Sonics.

SAC SEA