Durant Sits, And Sonics Pay Against Suns

Friday, November 2nd 2007, 7:27 am
By: News On 6

SEATTLE (AP) _ SuperSonics coach P.J. Carlesimo knows he has to get Kevin Durant some rest during the game so the 19-year-old rookie can be strong at the end. Durant scored 27 points but sat for all but the final minute of Phoenix's decisive 19-8 run as the Suns debuted with a rally past Seattle 106-99 Thursday night, the home opener of the Sonics' 41st and most awkward season in Seattle.

``He played so many minutes last night (32) and he still ended up with 39 (Thursday),'' Carlesimo said of Durant. ``Sometimes you go back with him too soon and he's out of gas at the end. I was trying to get to a point to let him finish the game.''

Amare Stoudemire, playing for the third time since knee surgery a month ago, had 23 points and 11 rebounds for Phoenix, which feels it is more loaded offensively this season for a better title run. Steve Nash had 18 points, including the clinching 3-pointer, and 12 assists, while veteran Grant Hill added 13 points, six rebounds and five assists in his Suns debut.

``Just before the game, they said we'd lost seven of eight season openers,'' Hill said, correctly. ``It's seven out of nine now.

``They controlled the game. We just kind of locked down there for that three-, four-, five-minute stretch.''

That was while Durant, who played 39 minutes, sat on the bench for all but the final 1:07 of the Suns' spurt that turned their 72-69 deficit into an 88-84 lead. Stoudemire's third consecutive basket with 9:05 left punctuated the decisive swing.

``I'm a young man. I'm 19 years old,'' Durant said, smiling. ``I can't be tired. This is my job.''

In the only other NBA games, Detroit beat Miami 91-80, and Houston topped Utah 106-95.

Chris Wilcox had 23 points and 11 rebounds for Seattle, which blew a nine-point lead it had late in the third quarter one night after getting blown out late in its opener at Denver.

The Sonics took an 82-73 in the final minute of the third quarter on a 3-pointer by newcomer Wally Szczerbiak. But three consecutive 3-pointers by reserve Marcus Banks tied the game at 82 with 20 seconds gone in the final period.

Banks was 5-for-29 (17 percent) on 3-pointers last season.

``On this team, anyone can make the big plays,'' Banks said, echoing Nash's preseason mantra.

The Suns marveled afterward about how long the skinny, 6-foot-9 Durant is in arms, legs _ and fearlessness.

``Oh, he ain't shy to put that thing up,'' said Shawn Marion, who had 14 points, 11 rebounds and the good fortune of rarely guarding Durant until getting a key steal from him late. ``You shoot 23 times, you can get 27 points, easy.''

Durant, who said he is seeing fewer double-teams in the NBA than he saw last season as a freshman at Texas while becoming the national college player of the year, made a 14-foot jumper over Hill with 4:15 left to cut Phoenix's lead to 93-90. After Raja Bell made with a 3-pointer, Durant answered back with his own 3 to keep Seattle within 96-93 and the home crowd roaring.

But with the score 98-93, Durant had the ball stolen by Marion. Then he charged into Bell, his defender most of the night, for his sixth turnover with 2:11 left. Nash then made his third 3-pointer in three tries and Seattle never got closer.

Asked if he was surprised by his 27 points in his second pro game, following 18 the previous night, Durant sounded incredulous.

``I wouldn't say that,'' he said. ``I know my abilities.''

The night began with fireworks exploding beneath the scoreboard and fans flashing green-and-gold signs such as ``This City Needs the Sonics.'' The crowd, announced as a sellout of 17,072 though there were a few empty seats upstairs, erupted into chants of ``Save our Sonics!'' during play in the second, third and fourth quarters.

Team chairman Clay Bennett, who was to announce Friday his next move toward relocation to his native Oklahoma now that his deadline to get a Seattle-area arena deal passed Wednesday, watched it all from a suite. He talked most of the night with Hall of Fame center Bill Russell, a Sonics regular and resident of suburban Mercer Island, Wash.

Pistons 91, Heat 80

Tayshaun Prince scored a career-high 34 points and matched a career best with 12 rebounds, and visiting Detroit used a big second-half run to beat Miami in the season opener for both teams.

Chauncey Billups added 19 points and 11 assists for the Pistons, who used a 12-0 run over a 6-minute stretch midway through the second half to take control. Rasheed Wallace scored 11 points for Detroit.

Ricky Davis scored 23 points for Miami. Shaquille O'Neal didn't score in the first half and finished with nine points on 4-for-6 shooting from the floor.

Rockets 106, Jazz 95

Tracy McGrady scored 47 points and visiting Houston improved to 2-0 under new coach Rick Adelman.

Mike James added 15 points _ two more than the Jazz reserves combined _ and Chuck Hayes had 13 rebounds for the Rockets, who were beaten by Utah in the opening round of the playoffs last season.

Carlos Boozer had 30 points and 16 rebounds, and Mehmet Okur finished with 16 points and 10 boards for the Jazz. Deron Williams added 18 points and 13 assists.