All the Sonics had Monday night was more to lose.
Phoenix owned just about everything else.The Suns possessed the most energy, speed and several more rested bodies from the start and finished with more points as well - something the Sonics had not seen from an opponent at KeyArena in six weeks.
A 102-92 loss to the Suns snapped the Sonics' 12-game home winning streak. For the moment, the defeat also severed them from controlling their own destiny.
Forget, for a moment, how they played. In fact, the message on the board in the Sonics' locker room after the loss read, "No tape." What is a team with a 57-19 record going to watch on film, anyway?
They know what has to be done from now until the playoffs begin later this month. All that matters is what Monday night's untimely stumble meant the Sonics.
"It was a big loss," Sonic reserve Nate McMillan said after trying to spark a fourth-quarter comeback. "Now, we have to get back and regain our focus."
Perhaps the first step is taking a peek at Utah's schedule. Even if the Sonics win their remaining six games, they would need help to claim the Western Conference title. All the Jazz (56-18) have to do is win their remaining eight contests to claim the conference outright.
This is a position the Sonics wanted to avoid down the stretch. Instead, they left Monday night with more to think about in a tight race for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
They have fallen behind Chicago by 1 1/2 games in a race for the NBA's best record. Phoenix's victory also was the first at KeyArena by a Pacific Division opponent. That helped the Los Angeles Lakers crawl to within 1 1/2 games of the Sonics in the division race.
"We knew that they played (Sunday) night and they could be a little tired," said Phoenix guard Rex Chapman, one of five Suns in double-digit scoring. "We tried to come out and set the tone, and not let up."
The Sonics played for the fourth time in five days after games against Golden State, Vancouver and Denver in succession. They never led in this one after 9:47 was left in the first quarter. The Sonics struggled all night to match the Suns' all-out fastbreak mentality and solid shooting.
Phoenix shot 52 percent from the floor. After drudging through 35-percent shooting in the first half, the Sonics finished the game shooting just 41 percent.
Detlef Schrempf led the Sonics with 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting. Vin Baker's 18-point performance and 8-of-11 shooting provided the only other consistent offense.
Gary Payton (22 points) struggled through a 6-of-16 night.
Dale Ellis' play off the bench is usually as grand as a $1,000 bill. But he scored just three points - nine below his season average. Ellis went 1-for-9 from the field. Ellis, Sam Perkins (0-for-4) and Hersey Hawkins (1-for-4) made just one 3-pointer between them.
The Sonics labored to make 3-point shots. The best 3-point shooting team in the league missed 20 of its 27 long-range attempts.
"If they go down, we didn't take too many of them," Baker said, responding to whether the Sonics hoisted too many 3-pointers. "If we knock them down, we come out with a win. We've shot the three all year. We have to live and die by that shot."
Knocking down a few 3-pointers was the only way the Sonics were going to compete. The Sonics lost their grip on the game in the second period. Even though the Sonics shot terribly, they trailed the Suns by just seven points with nine minutes left before halftime.
However, Phoenix used a 19-8 run and took a 52-36 lead at the break. Phoenix led by as many as 21 points in the third period.
"You can't predict those guys," McMillan said. "You don't know what they're going to do. They don't know what they're going to do. They react to what the defense is giving them. . . . They play a lot like we do, and in a sense, they may be quicker."
Give some credence to how difficult it is to erase a 21-point, third-quarter deficit. The Sonics used themselves up just trying to get back into a game against a Phoenix team that has beaten three straight playoff-bound teams.
"There's an energy pull on this basketball team that I have a concern about," Sonic coach George Karl said. "I don't know why we don't play with more energy at the beginning of games. I would rather see us play angry and intense, and we have a lot of good players who can play a lot of minutes.
"But, at times, we let the opposing team dictate to us what the level of intensity and attitude is. We're good enough to do that oubselves."