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SuperSonics Go to Whip in Second Half

Pro basketball: Payton scores quiet 23 points, and strong defensive effort enables Seattle to defeat Clippers going away, 98-81.


SEATTLE — The Clippers suffered an old-fashioned whipping Friday night, and then beat up on themselves afterward.

"We just didn't play our game tonight. Point blank," Lamar Odom said of the Clippers, who lost, 98-81, to the Seattle SuperSonics before 13,282 at Key Arena. "I can't even beat around the bush. . . . We didn't play up to our potential and got . . . beat."

For the second time in a week, the Clippers lost to a Seattle team they feel they can beat. Their problem? Gary Payton, who else.

Payton, who was suspended briefly for a run-in with Coach Paul Westphal on Wednesday, did not bring his normal trash-talking game. Instead of his on-court narrative, Payton let his performance do his talking and finished with a game-high 23 points to go with 11 assists, eight rebounds and five steals.

"We just came out and we just played defense well," said Payton, who made nine of 22 shots. "That was the best thing we did. . . . Everybody was also real aggressive with the ball."

Scoring easy baskets is something Seattle did a lot of against the Clippers.

The Clippers committed only 17 turnovers (down from the 30 they had when they lost to Seattle by three points Saturday), but they gave up 27 fastbreak points, not a good thing when you shoot only 39.3% from the field as the Clippers did Friday.

"We struggled with our transition defense," said rookie Quentin Richardson, who had eight points and three rebounds off the bench. "They got a lot of run-outs and layups in the open court. We usually don't give up that many points like that."

The first time the Clippers played the SuperSonics, Westphal declined to double team center Michael Olowokandi to start the game. Olowokandi didn't score often but he was a major factor in the first half, forcing the SuperSonics to double-team him after intermission.

On Friday, Seattle didn't give him much of a chance. The SuperSonics gave aging center Patrick Ewing help the first time Olowokandi touched the ball in the low post, which forced the Clippers to make the extra pass, and for a while, they answered the challenge.

With Tyrone Nesby and Odom knocking down open shots, the Clippers jumped to an early lead. Even Olowokandi got into the action with six quick points before the Clippers got soft on defense and allowed the SuperSonics to tie the score, 26-26, after one quarter.

In the days leading up to the game, Clipper Coach Alvin Gentry hinted about making changes in his rotation and he did just that in the second quarter. Instead of turning to rookie Darius Miles and veteran Eric Piatkowski as his first swingmen off the bench, Gentry turned to Corey Maggette and Richardson.

Unfortunately for the Clippers, Richardson and Maggette teamed with rookie point guard Keyon Dooling and big men Sean Rooks and Olowokandi, and the team's offense took some time off.

Led by reserves Desmond Mason and Emanual Davis, who combined to make all five shots they attempted and score 13 points in the first half, Seattle jumped to a six-point lead before the Clippers knew what hit them. Only some late scoring from Richardson kept the score close at halftime with Seattle ahead, 52-48.

"We just have to keep trying to find a combination of guys that give us some kind of offensive comfort zone," Gentry said. "We just have to work so hard to get baskets. We have to find some way to get points."

In the second half, it was all Seattle. The SuperSonics shot 49.4% from the field and had only nine turnovers.

"We were running our offense and getting buckets right with them," said Clipper point guard Jeff McInnis, who returned to the lineup after missing nearly two games because of a bruised knee. "We just came out in the third quarter and started watching each other go one-on-one. We got out of sync and then they made a run. We never got back into the game after that."

Odom finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, and Olowokandi had 10 points and a season-high 15 rebounds.

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