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Hot Hand: McDaniel's 42 Points Make It a Close Call

May 24, 1987|CHRIS BAKER | Times Staff Writer

SEATTLE — The Seattle SuperSonics may be one game away from being eliminated from the NBA playoffs, but star forward Xavier McDaniel said the SuperSonics aren't going to roll over and die.

"It don't look too good for us," McDaniel said after the Lakers edged the SuperSonics, 122-121, Saturday to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals. "It's like we're in the hospital in critical condition. And they're about to gather up the family because we aren't going to make it.

"But I'm not going out without a good fight. And I don't mean a fist fight."

The man the SuperSonics call "X" scored a career playoff-high 42 points against the Lakers, including 28 in the second half.

With the Lakers threatening to pull away, McDaniel kept the SuperSonics in the game in the final period, scoring 20 of his team's 35 fourth-quarter points, including a three-point shot at the end of the game.

"I felt like I could run through a brick wall in the fourth quarter," McDaniel said. "It's just one of those feelings you get when you get hot like I was.

"I might have scored 42 points, but I let my man (James Worthy) score 39. I have nothing to be proud of.

"James Worthy was unreal tonight. He got a lot of easy baskets. It wasn't a personal duel between us because he didn't guard me.

"I'm really frustrated because we didn't win, no matter how well I played. To me winning is more important than anything else.

"I guess I had a real good streak going for a while, and then it went sour.

"The Lakers were playing off me (in the fourth period), and then I hit a few shots. I guess it was my night." McDaniel made 20 of 29 shots from the floor and 1 of 2 free throws in 39 minutes. He also had a team-high 10 rebounds and 4 assists.

Said Seattle guard Dale Ellis, who scored 19 points: "X was hot. He wasn't missing anything in the fourth quarter. We wanted to milk him until he ran dry. Xavier played an excellent game and he kept us alive, but we weren't able to make big shots down the stretch."

Said guard Nate McMillan: "I didn't think he (McDaniel) had that many points. X can go off on you at any time and he did tonight. He was his old self again, crashing the boards and jumping over people. Tonight, he played exceptionally well.

"X just shot the ball well. It wasn't like we were looking for him. He got a lot of offensive boards."

Said Seattle forward Maurice Lucas: "X had the hot hand tonight, and you have to feed that hand because that's feeding yourself."

However, Seattle didn't go to McDaniel when the game was on the line.

Trailing, 118-115, with 42 seconds left to play in the fourth period, the Sonics called time out and set up a play for Ellis. However, Laker guard Michael Cooper partially blocked Ellis' shot.

"The play was set up for Dale," McDaniel said. "I was out at the three-point line in case Dale or Tom (Chambers) didn't get the ball."

Said Ellis: "We tried to run a little curl play, but it broke down. I popped to the corner, and I felt I was fouled (by Cooper) on it.

"We played well. It's just that we haven't played well enough to beat the Lakers. I think we're capable of playing better. I haven't played good at all the last three games. I'm not too pleased with my performance at all the last three games."

Said McMillan: "X was shooting well, but the play we ran was for Dale. It's a play that works 99% of the time. He (Ellis) was open, but I think A.C. Green was there and I hesitated."

Asked why the Sonics didn't go to McDaniel, Seattle Coach Bernie Bickerstaff said: "There's no second-guessing on this team. We ran a little curl for Ellis to get a layup. X was supposed to be in the three-point area as a safety valve. Coop made a great play.

"I told our guys after the game that I didn't have any complaints with the way they played. I have no reason to drop my head because I'm proud of our guys. The Lakers are just a great basketball team."

The Sonics said they weren't surprised by McDaniel's outburst Saturday.

"I've seen some games where he was just unbelievable," Seattle guard Danny Young said of McDaniel. "Tonight he played a great game. I think he got more aggressive in the fourth period. He wanted the ball and he was putting shots down. I think X gets a lot of his points in the transition off the fast break."

Said forward Tom Chambers: "X was hot and whenever he touched the ball it went in."

Said guard Kevin Williams: "Without X that surge would have probably never happened."

Said center Alton Lister: "He (McDaniel) was scoring well and we wanted to isolate him quite a bit. He did a good job of scoring off offensive rebounds."

Said guard Eddie Johnson: "I'm not surprised because X is capable of playing like that. He had it going for him, and our philosophy is to keep going to him."

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