They were carrying out the bodies all night, or so it seemed. Tyson Chandler’s turf toe reasserted itself in the first quarter, and he withdrew; Desmond Mason caught an elbow under the eyeball in the second, sending him to the bench; Chris Wilcox, whose elbow it was, discovered shortly thereafter that he was in pain; Devin Brown took a pop to the ribs in the third, but returned. And, of course, Peja Stojakovic and Ray Allen are out for the duration.
After falling behind 21-19 at the 12-minute mark, the Hornets gradually built up a lead; they were up 78-65 after the third. The Sonics promptly went on an 11-2 run to pull within four; both teams went cold, and with 80 seconds left, it was 84-82 Hornets, which means that in 10:40 the Bees scored a whole six points. In the next minute, nobody scored anything. The Sonics got the ball back with 23 seconds left, used 21 seconds to score a bucket, and suddenly it was overtime which, of course, meant the Hornets’ troubles were over, since they hadn’t lost a game in overtime all season.
I kid, but not too much: there’s something about those little five-minute periods that concentrates the Bees’ minds in a way 12-minute quarters don’t. They rolled up a 10-point lead, courtesy of seven from Bobby Jackson (out of 18); the Sonics whittled it down to five; the final difference was nine, 101-92. Maybe sometime they’ll explain how the Hornets could score 17 points in five minutes after scoring six points in 12 minutes.
It was a good night for double-doubles: David West (18 points, 14 rebounds), Marc Jackson (13 points, 12 boards), and Chris Paul (11 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists, almost the triple) all shone. Still, none of them could touch the Sonics’ Rashard Lewis, a hard man to defend, who scored 27 points and grabbed 10 boards. And the radio guys, trying to see if it would work a second time, made fun of Rasual Butler’s shooting; Butler may or may not have heard them, but he scored 16 anyway.
So the Bees are now 35-40 with seven to play. (Last year they finished 38-44.) The first five playoff spots are filled: right now it’s the Lakers in sixth (39-35), the Nuggets in seventh (37-36) and the Clippers in eighth (36-37). The Lakers play the Clippers later tonight; last I looked, the Warriors, in 9th (35-39), were beating the Rockets. Assuming Golden State wins, they’ll remain one game in front of the Hornets, so both of them are hoping that the Battle of L.A. ends with the Lakers victorious. And, lest we forget, of those seven to play, two are against the Clippers.
Meanwhile, there’s another obstacle: the Suns, who will be here Friday.