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Originally published Monday, November 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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No one in reserve for Sonics in loss to Spurs

Earl Watson didn't hear coach Bob Hill's postgame comments in which he attributed Seattle's 98-78 defeat against San Antonio to a lack of...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Earl Watson didn't hear coach Bob Hill's postgame comments in which he attributed Seattle's 98-78 defeat against San Antonio to a lack of offensive production from the Sonics reserves.

While Hill stood in front of a podium Sunday at KeyArena and said: "We have been doing so poorly with our bench scoring. When we go to our bench our scoring just falls off," Watson was in the middle of a 15-minute run on the treadmill across the hallway from the team's locker room.

When Hill's comments were relayed to Watson, the Sonics point guard appeared stunned.

"If coach wants to point the finger and say it's the bench, I'll take it all day like a man," he said. "I'm not afraid to fail. I'll take it. I'll take every loss in the season. ... If you get 15 minutes, you got to be that great when you get 15 minutes. That's pretty impressive though."

Watson, who finished with two points on 1-for-8 shooting in 19 minutes, did very little offensively to help the Sonics, who set season-low marks in scoring, field goal percentage (38.4) and three-point percentage (10.0).

He was, however, instrumental in Seattle's fourth-quarter comeback bid when it shaved an eight-point deficit (71-63) at the start of the period to three because of renewed vigor on the defensive end.

The Sonics trailed since the early minutes of the first quarter and it appeared as if they'd fight hard until the finish before Tony Parker decided to resume his most valuable player campaign and take over the game with a series of dribble-drive layups that rendered defenders helpless.

The San Antonio guard scored 12 of his team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter, including four consecutive baskets that pushed the Spurs' 79-73 lead to 87-73 with 4:59 left. The Sonics also had difficultly stopping Tim Duncan (18 points and 16 rebounds), Fabricio Oberto (16 points), Brent Barry (12 points) and Michael Finley (10).

Three minutes after Parker's basket, Hill conceded defeat, which dropped Seattle to 6-9, and emptied his bench.

Aside from Nick Collison, who finished with 15 points, the reserves scored 10 points.

"As soon as we go to the bench, it's just a struggle to score points," Hill said. "We're going to have to go back to the drawing board."

San Antonio, which improved to 11-3, figured out early how to defeat the Sonics. They allowed Ray Allen to shoot as much as he wanted, while cutting off Rashard Lewis in the post.

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Allen finished with a game-high 21 points, but he took 20 shots. Lewis drew a double-team nearly every time he touched the ball. He attempted just seven shots — making three — for a season-low eight points, the first time in 33 games he hasn't been in double figures.

"They doubled him and it's a learning experience for a lot of the players around him," Allen said. "They're keeping me away from the ball and forcing the other guys to step up and make plays for us."

The other starters, besides Lewis, combined for 25 points with Luke Ridnour scoring 11, Chris Wilcox eight and Johan Petro six.

While Hill and Watson have been at odds from the start of the season, the Sonics coach is beginning to lose the faith of other reserves, notably Damien Wilkins. Wilkins refrained for nearly a month to criticize Hill, but took a few shots after a 14-minute outing in which he had six points and one rebound. "I think if he wants the bench to help out a little bit more he should develop a little more trust and confidence," Wilkins said. "I don't know how that happens. I have never coached a basketball game in my life. But you feel when you're not being trusted. You feel when the coach don't have no confidence in you. I don't know how you change that, but I wish he would. Maybe that will help us out, maybe it won't."

When asked why he was on the treadmill after the game, Watson said: "Because I need to stay in shape and 15 to 20 minutes just isn't doing it for me."

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

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