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Originally published April 17, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 17, 2005 at 3:06 PM

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Sonics

Sonics settle in for more business

They arrived to this land of 10,000 lakes yesterday afternoon riding different waves of euphoria. Some were still inebriated from the overflow...

Seattle Times staff reporter

MINNEAPOLIS — They arrived to this land of 10,000 lakes yesterday afternoon riding different waves of euphoria.

Some were still inebriated from the overflow of emotions after Friday night's division-championship celebration, while others were simply fighting the more traditional hangover.

"We probably had a little of both," said coach Nate McMillan, who confessed that he, too, was bleary-eyed at yesterday's practice because of an inability to sleep the night before. "Guys had a right to celebrate and have their fun.

"But we need to know that the season isn't over. There's more out there that this team can accomplish."

To accentuate the point, the Sonics' coaching staff drilled players for two hours yesterday at the Northwest Arena Club, a downtown health facility in Minneapolis that doubles as the practice facility for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The noncontact workout was more cerebral than anything else as the Sonics focused on fine-tuning their defensive assignments and re-emphasizing their offensive responsibilities.

"We had a lot to go through," McMillan said. "And it was a chance to just send that message that we're not coming here to just go through the motions. That's not the approach. Come out here and let's focus on this team. Let's get back to work."

The Northwest Division title is behind them now. Denver, which had doggedly pursued them the past month, is no longer a concern.

McMillan, however, believes the goal hasn't changed.

"Win games," he said. "That other stuff will take care of itself."

Sonics at Minnesota


12:30 p.m. today at

Target Center

Radio: 950 AM

Records: Seattle 51-28,

Minnesota 42-37

Bottom line: Minnesota is still in the playoff race because Memphis has lost four straight games. If the Timberwolves win their three remaining games and the Grizzlies lose their last two, Minnesota will claim the No. 8 seed. ... Minnesota has won nine of the past 12 games. However, the Timberwolves had a crushing defeat in Atlanta on April 9, which dampened their playoff dreams. ... The Sonics lead the four-game series 2-1, having won in Minnesota on Nov. 23 and in Seattle on Feb. 25.

Injuries: Sonics — F Vladimir Radmanovic (right fibula stress fracture) and C Robert Swift (right knee patella tendinitis) are on the injured list. Timberwolves — F Ndudi Ebi (left patellar tendinitis) and F Mark Madsen (right wrist surgery) are on the IL.

Seattle plays three games on this season-ending road trip. The first is against Minnesota today at the Target Center before Tuesday's game at Dallas and Wednesday's contest at Houston.

Still, the Sonics coach admitted that he's able to relax a little and planned to watch last night's Houston-Denver game with a few friends at a local eatery.

The outcome of the game directly affected the Sonics because the two teams were tied in the standings and the winner most likely would face No. 3 seed Seattle. Houston won 115-87.

Houston could also claim home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs if it is paired against the Sonics and the two teams finish the regular season with identical records.

"That's why I don't think that we'll have a hangover or anything in these games," forward Nick Collison said. "We've still got some things to wrap up and we're playing some good teams, which always gets your attention."

Among the chief concerns is recalibrating Rashard Lewis' shot after two games in which he's connected on just 6 of 25 field goals, including 2 of 13 three-pointers.

The All-Star forward is struggling in his return from a right-foot contusion that forced him to miss eight games before returning Wednesday.

"We've got to try to get him some easy looks, some easy buckets," guard Luke Ridnour said. "He's been getting some good looks, but they've been all threes mostly. Maybe get him some stuff in transition. Some easy layups. That always helps him get going. Even some post-ups. Something other than a three."

Note

Vladimir Radmanovic, who is on the injured list because of a stress fracture in his lower right leg, walked on a treadmill wearing a weight-bearing vest yesterday in Seattle. McMillan said there's a 50 percent chance of him returning for the start of the playoffs.

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

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