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Monday, April 3, 2006 - Page updated at 12:38 AM

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A laugher for Sonics, but not for McMillan

Seattle Times staff reporter

Poor Nate McMillan. Not literally, of course.

Still, the hefty contract he received from Paul Allen last year — worth about $27.5 million — provides little comfort on nights like these, when he has to answer questions about Portland's lack of effort.

Unlike his first trip home, in which the buzz surrounding his homecoming carried Portland to an emotional victory, McMillan's second visit to Seattle resulted in a 122-83 Sonics victory that had many wondering if the Trail Blazers quit on their coach.

"Did they stop playing?" McMillan asked. "Did they stop playing? I think mentally, it was difficult to fight back with such a large deficit. Do you have that fight? Do you have that pride to fight through it, play through it and try to work your way thought it?

"You guys saw what I saw. We got kicked tonight."

The Sonics avenged their 116-111 defeat to Portland on Jan. 30, extended the Trail Blazers' string of losses to 11, stopped Seattle's two-game losing streak and erased the bitter taste of last week's 115-87 defeat to Houston.

"That was not us [last week]," said Seattle's Damien Wilkins, who played in place of injured Rashard Lewis on Sunday. "I don't know who that team was. That was a horrible game. We can't play that way and beat anyone. To come back and get a win like we did tonight does a lot for our confidence."

With Wilkins scoring 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting, the Sonics didn't have much need for Lewis, who rested his sprained right ankle and is listed as questionable for Tuesday's game against Houston.

Ray Allen carried the Sonics' scoring load early and departed for the bench midway in the third quarter. Before leaving, he accumulated a game-high 24 points on 7-for-13 shooting and had six rebounds and six assists.

Earl Watson also tossed in 23 points and sank six three-pointers, tying his career high. Combined with Allen and Wilkins, the trio nearly gave Seattle all the points it needed because of a renewed commitment to defense.

"Everything came together defensively," Sonics coach Bob Hill said. "They talked. They rebounded. We got deflections. We contested shots. Our defense was clearly the best it's been all season. We got a lot of points off our defense and that was pretty much it."

The Sonics (30-43) collected a season-high 52 rebounds and held the Blazers to 39 percent shooting (30 of 77). Portland's 83 points were the second fewest for a Seattle opponent this season.

For much of the contest, the Blazers (20-53) appeared to feign interest and looked as if they'd rather be anywhere else. Before the game, McMillan spoke at length about motivating his team and the difficulties he has had this season.

All the Blazers' troubles were on display in the first quarter when they fell behind 34-19. Just past the midway point in the second period, they were done, as the Sonics repeatedly took advantage of their inability to retreat on defense.

Allen caught the Portland defense napping when he skipped a bounce pass across the court to Luke Ridnour for a layup that gave Seattle a 61-33 lead.

On the next possession, Allen threw over the top of backpedaling defenders to Wilkins, who sank a layup that gave Seattle a 30-point lead.

"Just an all-around good win," Hill said. "One of our best."

There hadn't been many opportunities for Sonics fans to laugh with their team this season, and the game gave Sonics starters a chance to pad their stats, gave reserves a chance to play and gave many in the announced crowd of 15,131 a rare chance to savor a blowout victory.

Chris Wilcox finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds, Ridnour had 10 points and eight assists and Robert Swift had 10 points.

The positive feelings from the game were tempered when rookie center Johan Petro took an elbow from Portland's Joel Przybilla in the third quarter, breaking Petro's nose. He's expected to miss at least the next week.

"For everybody else, it was a good game, but not [for] me," Petro said. "I'm happy for them, but I feel very bad. This isn't how I wanted to end my first year."

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

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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