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NBA PHOENIX 78 SEATTLE 83 5:45 LEFT, 4TH QTR 5:42PM ET
Gary Payton scored 22 points and Detlef Schrempf added 13 as the Seattle SuperSonics held off a furious flurry by the Phoenix Suns in the final seconds to win their fourth straight game, 89-87.
Payton hit 9-of-17 from the floor and Schrempf added 10 rebounds and eight assists in his second game back following a throat injury. The two combined for three free throws as Seattle failed to score from the field over the final 5:27.
After Schrempf hit 1-of-2 from the line to give the Sonics a 89-87 lead, the Suns called time and inbounded from halfcourt with 9.6 seconds left. The pass went to a driving Rex Chapman, whose layup went in and out. Both George McCloud and Antonio McDyess missed short follows before Chapman's high-arcing baseline jumper bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
"I don't know if we did enough to really deserve to win," said Seattle coach George Karl. "I think a lot of luck was on our side. I'm a little disappointed at getting outworked."
Third-place Phoenix fell six games behind first-place Seattle in the Pacific Division with its third loss in four games.
Seattle, which led by eight points after a three-pointer by Hersey Hawkins with 5:27 to go, has won its last three games by a total of five points.
"We got lucky, that's the bottom line," said Hawkins. "They outhustled us, they outplayed us and if we were in Phoenix they probably would've won this game."
McDyess totaled 24 points and 11 rebounds and Dennis Scott added 19 points, including a three-pointer that pulled Phoenix within 88-87 with 11 seconds to play. Chapman contributed 13 points for the Suns in their first visit to Seattle since they lost Game Five in the opening round of last season's playoffs.
Leading 75-70 after three quarters, the Sonics took their biggest lead of the game after Dale Ellis buried a three-pointer and Sam Perkins sank a free throw 1 1/2 minutes into the final period.
McDyess hit consecutive baskets and Hot Rod Williams, who grabbed 13 rebounds, hit a free throw to pull the Suns within 79-75 with 7:19 to go. Seattle went back on top by eight after Hawkins' three-pointer before Phoenix fought back, creeping within 86-84 on a free throw by Jason Kidd with 3:04 remaining.
Both teams went cold until Payton hit a pair from the line with 29 seconds left, doubling the lead. Scott made his three-pointer for the game's first basket in nearly three minutes before Schrempf was fouled and hit the second of two from the line.
"They weren't shooting the ball well and it was a good thing for us because we weren't rebounding the ball," Payton said. "It was a good win... an ugly one, but we'll take it."
Williams started in the middle for Cliff Robinson, who was a late scratch with back spasms. Without Robinson, who averages 13.2 points per game, the Suns managed just 39 percent (34-of-88) from the field. Chapman was the biggest offender, missing 14 of 19 shots.
"We had a lot of missed opportunities," Chapman said. "Every time we got a couple of breaks, we couldn't take advantage of them. We ran our last possession to perfection only the shot didn't go in."
Vin Baker added 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting and Perkins scored nine in 19 minutes for the Sonics, who were outrebounded 58-41 but committed just 12 turnovers while forcing 18.
"I felt we did a good job rebounding the ball and played well defensively for the the most part," said Phoenix coach Danny Ainge. "We didn't get a lot of offense out of Jason and Rex, but we got a lot of great things out of them. Overall we played a great game, with the exception that we needed to make more shots."
The Sonics improved to 8-0 at home against Pacific Division foes despite shooting just 40 percent (31-of-77) from the field and 61 percent (17-of-28) from the line. They moved to 15-1 overall against their own division, where they hold a 4 1/2-game lead over the Los Angeles Lakers.
McCloud collected 11 points and 11 rebounds but Kidd netted a mere five points on 2-of-13 shooting for the Suns, who tied a team record by attempting only one free throw in the entire first half. Kidd did add 13 assists and eight rebounds, but committed seven turnovers.
"I missed a lot of easy shots and started to aim the ball instead of shooting it," Kidd conceded. "It was just one of those days when nothing went right."
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