With 4:39 to go, a sweating, tired and emotional Shawn Kemp fouled out.
Like the Seattle SuperSonics in the NBA Finals, he gave it his best. It just wasn’t enough against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night.
“We were so close,” Sonics forward Detlef Schrempf said. “I’ve been waiting for this for 11 years and this is very disappointing to have it end this way.
“If we could have won this one, anything could have happened in Game 7.”
In the finals for the first time in 17 years, the Western Conference champions were the best of the rest. In Game 6, they weren’t close to being as good as the Bulls, who grabbed a 41-29 lead in the second quarter and led 64-47 in the third period.
Nate McMillan, the inspirational leader of the Sonics’ two victories in Seattle, could play only 10 minutes because of an irritated sciatic nerve caused by a bulging disc in his back. Pain shot down his left leg and he wasn’t a factor.
“I aggravated it in the second quarter and the pain just kept getting worse,” McMillan said. “It’s tough when you have to play that way.”
Gary Payton and Hersey Hawkins blamed the Sonics’ 20 turnovers with being a major factor in their team’s defeat. Payton had five of the turnovers.
“We thought we could beat this team,” Payton said. “But when you turn the ball over this many times, something we didn’t do in our last two games in Seattle, you’re not going to do it.”
The Bulls had 14 steals.
“We knew we had to win the rebounding battle and the turnover battle,” Hawkins said. “Those are two big issues. When you lose those, you’re going to lose the basketball game against the Bulls and that’s what happened tonight.”
During the offseason, Ackerley must resign Payton and Hawkins, two of his freeagents-to-be.
“Our goal is to win the championship next season,” Sonics president Wally Walker said. “Our team has had a great year. I think it’s a team that deserves to stay together. We’re going to try to keep it together.”
The Sonics’ other free agents will be Sam Perkins, Ervin Johnson, Steve Scheffler and Frank Brickowski. Vincent Askew has the option of not returning for the final year of his contract, too.
Coach George Karl has another season on his contract, but has hinted he may sit out next year because his $1.1 million contract isn’t in the same neighborhood at John Calipari’s $3 million-a-season, five-year deal that Calipari just signed with the New Jersey Nets.
“George is under contract for next season,” Walker said. “He can’t go anywhere else. We plan to sit down this summer and talk to him about extending it.”
“This summer is going to be interesting not only for the Seattle SuperSonics, but for the entire NBA,” Karl said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen.”