Although the Seattle SuperSonics didn't flop in the first round this time, the No. 7-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves made it more than interesting.
The Sonics, who trailed 2-1 in the best-of-5 playoff series, got 29 points from Gary Payton and moved into the Western Conference semifinals with a 97-84 victory Saturday.The Sonics, the No. 2 seed in the West, will next play the Los Angeles Lakers, a team they beat three of four times to win the Pacific Division during the regular season. The series opens here Monday and Wednesday nights.
"This whole series we were searching for our confidence," coach George Karl said. "Today, I think we found it. We feel awful good about coming back from 1-2."
"We learned tonight that you win a series with defense," Stephon Marbury of the Wolves said. "We had no rhythm and rushed our shots in the second half."
Upset by Denver in the first round in 1994 and by the Lakers in 1995, Seattle also got 24 points from Hersey Hawkins. Payton and Hawkins also were the heroes of its Game 4 in Minneapolis on Thursday night.
Anthony Peeler had 28 points for the Wolves, a ninth-year franchise in just its second playoff series. His 28 points tied a Minnesota playoff record.
Peeler had 17 of his points in the first half and shot 6-for-8 from 3-point range.
Payton, Seattle's All-Star point guard, played the entire 48 minutes and had four assists and four steals while committing one turnover.
"Coach kept asking me if I could go all the way," Payton said. "If coach wanted me to play 48 minutes, I was willing to play 48."
Said Wolves coach Flip Saunders: "After the game, I told Gary Payton, `I love you because you're so competitive.' He might be one of the two most competitive players in the NBA. Gary and Michael Jordan."
Detlef Schrempf had 16 points and 11 rebounds for Seattle, while Sam Mitchell added 16 points and Terry Porter 14 for Minnesota.