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Suns Return to Real World, SuperSonics Even the Series


SEATTLE — Maybe there should have been an announcement, if not a warning. Something like, "Phoenix Suns to Earth. Incoming."

Charles Barkley and Dan Majerle screamed through the ozone layer Thursday night and hit the ground somewhere inside Seattle Coliseum. This was only two days after Barkley had 43 points and Majerle eight three-pointers.

The Seattle SuperSonics, actually using those performances as something of an inspiration, washed away Barkley's triple-double, Majerle's NBA playoff record and the Suns' 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals in one swoop with a 118-102 victory before 14,812 to force a deciding Game 7 Saturday at Phoenix.

"Barkley and Majerle, those were once-in-a-lifetime performances," Nate McMillan said after the SuperSonics tied the series, 3-3. "You don't see those very often. We didn't think we'd see it again."

On this night, they didn't. Barkley, who had 15 rebounds and 10 assists to go with his 43 points on Tuesday, contributed 13 points on four-of-14 shooting and 11 rebounds on Thursday, when the Suns had a chance to advance to their first NBA finals since 1976.

Majerle, fresh of making eight of 10 three-point shots in Game 5, was four of 11 overall and one of four from behind the arc.

Without them, and with the SuperSonics shooting at least 50% for the third consecutive game after a terrible start, the Suns had little chance. They barely made it into the fourth quarter.

Seattle was ready from the start, maybe even chomping at the bit. Not the start of the game--the start of the day, when Coach George Karl got worried because the SuperSonics seemed so wired at the afternoon shoot-around.

They were ready when it mattered, too. Taking advantage of key Phoenix turnovers and using flashbacks of their Game 2 victory on the road, the SuperSonics threatened to turn what could have been their final home game of the season into a first-half blowout.

The lead was only 44-42 when they made their move, jump started when Sun Kevin Johnson had two bad passes in three trips. Seattle scored off both those, then padded the six-point cushion moments later when Barkley got a technical foul for slamming the ball in protest of an offensive foul.

Ricky Pierce made the free throw, and it became a four-point possession when Sam Perkins hit his second three-pointer in 45 seconds. Those turned out to be decisive, just like the two he made in the final 1:59 for the win last week at Phoenix to make it a 1-1 series.

By the time the SuperSonics slowed, they had a 61-46 advantage thanks to a 17-4 run. The Suns scored the final two baskets of the half to cut the deficit to 11.

Pierce had 18 of his game-high 27 points in the first half.

Phoenix drew back within five in the third quarter, then was overwhelmed again. Another 17-4 run did it--this time for good. The Suns were never closer than 11 in the fourth quarter and trailed by as many as 20, 114-94.

"They were just too good for us today," Sun Coach Paul Westphal said. "There aren't many ways to cut it. They beat us."

The SuperSonics' front line outscored the Suns, 56-17, and all of the Seattle starters were at least three points better than their 1993 playoff averages.

The Suns, meanwhile, got 22 points from Johnson, most when he went down the lane daredevil-style for driving lay-ins, but little else. Barkley got only five shots in the second half, getting five points and three rebounds those 18 minutes, and Majerle missed all six of his attempts the last two quarters, scoring only with three free throws.

That was more troubling news on another front. Cedric Ceballos, a part-time starter this series, re-injured his left foot with eight minutes to go in the third quarter and may be finished.

"I'm pretty sure he's out for the season," Westphal said. "He had been nursing a stress fracture and I think it broke."

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