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Monday, October 14, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

Sonics’ Loss Causes Search For Answers

By Bob Condotta Tacoma News Tribune

The Seattle SuperSonics’ 99-97 loss to the vastly undermanned Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night at KeyArena prompted a lot of soul searching.

The soul searching started shortly after the game ended as guard Gary Payton and Sonics coach George Karl met for almost a half hour.

Karl wouldn’t say what was discussed.

“That’s between Gary and I,” Karl said. “But he’s as concerned as I am and it shows his leadership and class to come in and talk about it.”

Payton wasn’t available for comment afterward, but it’s easy to figure out a few things that might have been on the table for discussion:

What has happened to the team that rebounded from a tough first half to win the first seven after the All-Star break, that beat the Lakers, Jazz, Rockets and Knicks in a span of 10 days?

Tuesday’s loss was Seattle’s third in its past four games and second in two games at home. Each time, the Sonics have started slowly before rallying at the end.

Are lineup changes in order to stop the slump?

Karl hinted they might be. He started a three-guard lineup of Payton, Hersey Hawkins and Nate McMillan to start the second half. The big men who started were Shawn Kemp and Terry Cummings after the Lakers had taken a 50-39 halftime lead by holding the Sonics to 31 percent shooting.

Payton, Hawkins, Jim McIlvaine, Larry Stewart and Sam Perkins had started the game - with Kemp still benched for missing a team flight and practice Saturday - and fell behind 20-8, an early drought the team never really recovered from.

“I just played my security blanket,” Karl said of the second-half lineup, “guys I knew were going to bust it for me. I want energy and I put the guys out there who I felt would give me energy.”

It’s possible the starting lineup - which has not changed all season for strictly performance reasons - could change when Seattle plays host to Milwaukee on Thursday.

“Yeah,” Karl said. “I’m willing to try anything. We’ve got to evaluate how teams are playing against us. Teams are playing small against us and playing against us like we play ourselves.”

Has the Sonics’ always-fragile chemistry taken a fatal hit in the past week thanks to distractions such as Kemp’s lost weekend in Phoenix? Karl was the only one who alluded specifically to that. Players, while not naming names, simply said chemistry isn’t what it was even two weeks ago.

“Now we have some distractions,” Karl said. “Shawn’s problem with being late and then the team’s reaction to it and then me reacting to it.”

Karl also mentioned the problem of fitting Cummings - who has become a bigger and bigger presence lately - into the team’s rotation. That scheme also took something of a jolt Tuesday with the return of Detlef Schrempf, for the first time since Feb. 26.

“Maybe there’s a little bit of frustration and frustration drains you mentally,” Karl said.

“You could see they’ve lost it a little bit,” said Lakers guard Nick Van Exel, who scored a game-high 30 points and ensured that he didn’t have to pay up immediately on his bet of $100 per player should the Sonics win the Pacific Division.

The Lakers (49-23) are now only a half-game behind the Sonics (50-23), although their schedule looks a little tougher the rest of the way.

Lakers 99, SuperSonics 97

FG FT Reb L.A. LAKERS Min M-A M-A O-T A PF Pts Blount 30 5-7 2-2 5-11 0 5 12 Kersey 41 6-9 2-3 3-11 2 5 14 Campbell 23 2-7 0-2 1-5 0 1 4 Jones 43 7-16 4-6 2-5 2 1 20 Van Exel 43 10-28 7-9 3-6 6 4 30 Bryant 12 4-5 0-0 0-1 1 5 9 Knight 1 0-1 0-0 1-1 0 0 0 McCloud 4 0-2 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 Fisher 5 0-1 1-2 0-1 0 1 1 Scott 28 3-8 0-0 0-1 0 1 7 Rooks 10 0-1 2-2 0-2 0 1 2 Totals 240 37-85 18-26 15-44 12 24 99

Percentages: FG .435, FT .692. 3-Point Goals: 7-21, .333 (Van Exel 3-10, Jones 2-7, Bryant 1-1, Scott 1-3). Team Rebounds: 11. Blocked shots: 7 (Campbell 3, Kersey 2, Jones, Blount). Turnovers: 11 (Campbell 3, Van Exel 2, Bryant 2, Fisher, Kersey, team 2). Steals: 9 (Van Exel 5, Jones 2, Kersey 2). Technical fouls: illegal defense, 4:11 second; illegal defense, 3:37 third; Coach Harris 2, 3:52 fourth. Ejections: Coach Harris, 3:52 fourth. Illegal defense: 1.

FG FT Reb SEATTLE Min M-A M-A O-T A PF Pts Perkins 24 1-6 0-0 1-5 4 3 3 Stewart 7 1-4 0-0 1-2 1 1 2 McIlvaine 8 0-2 0-0 3-3 0 0 0 Hawkins 39 4-13 11-12 4-8 3 1 19 Payton 45 8-20 3-6 2-5 8 4 19 McMillan 32 3-5 0-0 0-4 2 5 9 Kemp 34 7-15 7-11 6-10 0 2 21 Schrempf 20 5-10 2-2 1-3 1 4 13 Cummings 19 4-6 0-0 0-4 0 2 8 Wingate 12 1-2 1-1 0-1 1 1 3 Totals 240 34-83 24-32 18-45 20 23 97

Percentages: FG .410, FT .750. 3-Point Goals: 5-17, .294 (McMillan 3-4, Perkins 1-2, Schrempf 1-4, Wingate 0-1, Payton 0-1, Hawkins 0-5). Team Rebounds: 13. Blocked shots: 5 (McIlvaine 3, Schrempf, Wingate). Turnovers: 12 (Schrempf 3, McMillan 2, Payton 2, Perkins, Stewart, Hawkins, Cummings, Wingate). Steals: 5 (Hawkins 2, Payton, Kemp, Schrempf). Technical fouls: Coach Karl, 8:18 first; Schrempf, 7:33 second. Flagrant foul: Kemp, 3:43 second. Illegal defense: None.

L.A. Lakers 26 24 28 21 - 99

Seattle 18 21 34 24 - 97

A-17,072 (17,072). T-2:21.

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Wordcount: 948
Tags: basketball

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