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Originally published March 10, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 10, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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Lewis erupts after Sonics loss

It's becoming an annual tradition. Invariably, the Sonics are embarrassed in a road game late in the season, and Rashard Lewis explodes...

Seattle Times staff reporter

BOSTON — It's becoming an annual tradition. Invariably, the Sonics are embarrassed in a road game late in the season, and Rashard Lewis explodes.

He did it in 2004 in Dallas. He did it last season in Miami.

On Friday night, after the visiting locker room at TD Banknorth Garden had cleared and the Sonics had finished explaining how they botched defensive assignments and played porous defense in a 118-103 loss to Boston, Lewis was the last man standing.

While everyone else spoke in hushed tones and doled out inane responses that made little sense, an emotional Lewis questioned the heart and desire of his teammates. He wondered if the Sonics are really serious when they talk about the playoffs or if it's just lip service. And he questioned why he wasn't a bigger part of the offense.

"I only had 11 shots tonight, and when you look at the stat sheet, everybody took more shots than me except for Damien [Wilkins]," said Lewis, who finished with 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting. "I thought we pretty much [played poorly] the whole first half even though we had the lead by 12. I knew we were going to go into the second half not playing hard, and all it took was for them to get their little run. And they did and they got the momentum."

The Sonics were instructed to double-team Al Jefferson in the low post, but he finished with 31 points and 16 rebounds, both game highs.

They were supposed to deny Paul Pierce on the pick-and-rolls, but the Celtics forward had 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

And they failed to account for Rajon Rondo (20 points) and Gerald Green (19 points), who repeatedly got behind the defense for easy baskets.

"We were lackadaisical on the game plan," Lewis said. "We just didn't do nothing that was on that board tonight."

Maybe someday the Sonics will be able to win these types of games, when it's more important to push, pull and fight for rebounds beneath the glass than shoot jumpers from the perimeter. But they aren't a down-and-dirty kind of team. Their center, Nick Collison, is 6-9 and their power forward, Chris Wilcox, is a marginal rebounder.

So when it comes to a test of wills against a plodding, low-post-oriented team like Boston, the smaller, fleet-footed Sonics (25-37) were unable to match the Celtics (18-43) force for force, and the outcome was almost predictable. Seattle scored enough points — six players were in double figures, and Ray Allen had a team-high 22 — but its post defense was its undoing.

In the second half, the Celtics scored 36 of their 61 points in the paint. Almost everything Boston did offensively began and ended beneath the rim, and the Sonics were powerless to stop them.

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"Jefferson got it going in the second half," said Collison, who had 17 points and eight rebounds. "First half, we did a good job doubling him, keeping the ball out of his hands, and they were having a hard time getting him the ball. Second half, for whatever reason, we couldn't do it."

Once the Sonics' shots stopped falling, they had no other options. They hit 66 percent in the first half, but converted just 27.3 percent (6 of 23) in the third quarter. The poor shooting, combined with a 17-0 Boston run midway through the third, gave the Celtics an 84-79 lead and momentum heading into the fourth.

The Sonics never regained their shooting touch — they shot 35 percent in the final period — and fell behind by 101-90 midway through the quarter. Inexplicably, coach Bob Hill tried a small, three-guard lineup that failed to create any pace against the bigger Celtics.

"It's frustrating," Lewis said. "You're not going to make the playoffs losing to the worst teams in the league. If we're going to continue to do this, we might as well hang it up and get ready to go home."

Lewis, a co-captain, said he had no plans to organize a players-only meeting.

"If they don't know by now, then they got a problem," he said. "I was frustrated at halftime. I told them on the bench in the third quarter. I screamed and yelled a bit, but it didn't seem to work.

"If you don't know what the problem is after this game, after we just lost to a team that's probably worse then us, then you have to check yourself. Everybody has to look in the mirror."

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

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