Not Dead Yet: Sonics Demolish Bulls

SEATTLE -- Inspired by the return of backup guard Nate McMillan, a new Seattle SuperSonics team showed up to rout the Chicago Bulls 107-86 and avoid being swept out of the NBA Finals.

"He was fantastic," Seattle coach George Karl said Wednesday about McMillan. "I think you see the confidence of our basketball team when he's out there on the floor."

Shawn Kemp scored a game-high 25 points, Gary Payton 21, Hersey Hawkins 18 and Sam Perkins 17 as the Sonics reduced Chicago's lead in the best-of-seven series to 3-1 heading into Friday's Game 5, also in Seattle.

"The last thing you want to do is make it to the championship and not win a game," Kemp said. "We just came out and played basketball for 48 minutes today. If you want to win the championship that's what you have to do, is play for 48 minutes.

"If we come back on Friday with the same type of intensity and energy, we'll get the same result."

Payton said, "This is the first time I think the Sonics played solid basketball in the whole series."

Michael Jordan led the Bulls with 23 points but shot only 6-for-19 from the floor. Toni Kukoc was next high with 14 points. The Sonics shot a sizzling 56 percent and Chicago only 40 percent as the Bulls' playoff winning streak stopped at nine.

"I didn't shoot the ball well, none of us shot the ball well, so just chalk it up to experience and move on," Jordan said. "We just didn't come out with the same intensity and things didn't click for us."

McMillan, plagued with a painful sciatic nerve, in 13 minutes provided eight points, three assists and three rebounds along with solid defense and on-court leadership -- and more than that, he relieved Payton of some of his demanding point-guard duties.

Payton had 11 assists, two steals and three rebounds.

"A lot of times your presence on the floor makes more difference than what you do out there," said McMillan.

Karl said, "Nate said he wanted to play and I should judge how he played out there."

Hawkins added, "Nate's minutes were huge. Nate's our inspirational leader."

Chicago coach Phil Jackson said, "I thought he was inspirational."

A Kemp basket with 7:13 to go in the first quarter gave the Sonics their first lead in nearly 6 1/2 quarters. Routed in Game 3, they last led the Bulls with 1:03 left in the second quarter of Game 2.

Seattle won the game in the second quarter, outscoring the Bulls 28-11 to take a 53-32 lead. Chicago's 11 points was the lowest total in NBA Finals history.

The Sonics repelled a Chicago charge in the third quarter that cut the lead as low as 13 points before retaking the 21-point lead going into the final period, when they led by as many as 27 points.

The Sonics started the second quarter with an 11-point run to take their lead from 25-21 to 36-21. Payton had five points and Detlef Schrempf, who finished with 14 points, four in the burst, while Jordan and Kukoc both threw the ball away.

In the third quarter, the Bulls came as close as 75-62 on a Jordan three-point play but a McMillan three-pointer immediately started a period-closing 9-1 run in which Jordan, of all people, committed a flagrant foul that turned into four Sonics points.

"I think everything went wrong," Jordan said. "We never really could catch a break."

The third quarter ended with Seattle up 84-63. The highest margin of the game came at 95-68 on a Kemp steal and assist to Hawkins for a fast-break lay-in.

"I think they were a step faster than we were tonight," said Scottie Pippen, held to just nine points (4-for-17, 1-for-8 from three-point range) with 11 rebounds and eight assists.

"On every decision we were aggressive," Kemp said, "and I think it paid off."

Kemp praised Payton, the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year. "His defense was tremendous tonight," Kemp said. "I think that's probably what won the game for us."

Chicago, seeking its fourth championship in six years, had its chance at a record 15-1 postseason ended by a Sonics team that felt belittled and under-rated despite a regular-season record of 64-18 that was second only to Chicago's record 72-10 and was the 10th best all-time.