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February 8, 2008 10:36 PM

Final thoughts

Posted by Percy Allen

The Sonics will have two days off to sulk over this debacle. They return to practice Monday and play Wednesday at KeyArena against Utah, which is their last outing before the All-Star break.

The rest comes at an awful time because they need to get out on the court as quickly as they can to forget this defeat.

This is one of those games that can splinter a team.

Wally Szczerbiak will deservedly get much of the blame for the 103-99 loss and he took the heat afterwards. He said it was his fault. He said he should have known the Sonics didn't have any timeouts. But he also deflected some of the criticism.

"We win as a team, we lose as a team," Szczerbiak said.

He's right and he's wrong. This is one of those times that you take the bullet. And Wally World didn't stand in front of the firing line for very long. He's played more NBA games than anybody on the team except Kurt Thomas and he makes a rookie mistake, which is inexcusable.

After most games, Szczerbiak recites the stat line for everbody on both teams so it's surprising he didn't know that critical bit of information at the most important time of the game. Even if the coaches didn't tell, I'm surprised he didn't ask somebody or glance up at the scoreboard before inbounding the ball.

To their credit, no one in the locker room threw Wally beneath the bus. Most players gave hurried explanations of the final turnover and different versions of "He didn't know how many timeouts we had."

Critics of P.J. Carlesimo will no doubt point to this game as an example that the team is tuning out their bombastic coach. In this case, Szczebiak wasn't listening.

When asked afterwards if he reminded the playes they were out of timeouts, he wasn't affirmative in his answer and said: "I think we did." The Sonics called three timeouts in the fourth quarter and used their last one with 28.3 seconds left.

Szczerbiak and Johan Petro said the coaching staff didn't say anything about not having a timeout during the final huddle on the sideline, which contradicts Carlesimo's explanation.

Still Carlesimo declined to pin the loss on Wally Z. He talked about the two missed shots in the final 28 seconds (actually it was three missed shots) and he lamented Phoenix's perfect 32 of 32 free throw shooting. He said the Sonics should have gotten a critical rebound that fell to Boris Diaw seconds before Grant Hill nailed a game-winning jumper.

If not for the timeout blunder, the Sonics might have pulled off a dramatic comeback victory and Carlesimo would be called a genius for his defensive manuverings in the fourth quarter. In the final period, he switched Kevin Durant on Steve Nash and the rookie locked up the two-time MVP. Carlesimo also gambled on Johan Petro and played the reserve 10 minutes in the fourth quarter instead of Kurt Thomas who almost always finishes games.

Petro rewarded Carlesimo with impressive defense and three blocked shots and Durant looked as if he will win the Defensive MVP award in the very near future. The Sonics held Phoenix to 39.5 percent shooting and 3 for 15 on three pointers. Seattle had more rebounds (54-47) and each team scored 50 points in the second half.

It was a great game for the Sonics, but the only thing that will be remembered is Szczerbiak calling a timeout that didn't exist.

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