As he changed into his David Stern-approved attire after the game, Rashard Lewis heard noise in the building. The game was long over. The home team had been beaten like a drum. By all accounts, the building should be quiet.
And yet, there was noise. A concert, perhaps, Lewis wondered.
Told that it was The Click Five, some boy band, Lewis shrugged. He had never heard of them. "Are they R&B?"
That was about the only miscue anyone wearing Seattle green and gold made last night. The Sonics took an easier-than-it-should-have-been, 113-100 victory over the Boston green and white, who did everything in their power to make the guests feel right at home.
All the exit polls in this one pointed to a Celtics victory. It's axiomatic in the NBA that the Sonics constituted the ideal opponent, a team finishing a nine-day, six-game road trip in which they'd won only once, in overtime, against winless Toronto (here tomorrow night). Teams like that are dying to get home; when the Sonics last saw Seattle, Maura Hennigan still believed she could be the mayor of Boston. The Sonics were five days removed from what forward Nick Collison called "one of the worst games in the history of the NBA" a 137-96 loss at Washington. They had played and lost in New Jersey the night before and, when you're in a situation like they were, the natural temptation is to start smelling the catered airplane food at halftime and getting that window seat for an early-morning shot of Mount Rainier and the Space Needle.
"I was a little worried about that, because it's human nature to want to get back home. I was even thinking that," Collison said. "But once the game started, we played hard and we moved the ball and won the game."
They didn't just win it. They ran away. The Celtics, who also played the night before, fell apart in the second quarter, trailed by 18 at the half, and never got closer than 10 the rest of the way. They never trailed by fewer than 9 points over the final 33 minutes 35 seconds.
"I don't think we provided them with a reason to go home," coach Doc Rivers said. "I think we provided them with a sense of urgency."
You need look no further than the defense: This is a team that shot 53 percent and scored 100 points Tuesday and then shot 52 percent and scored 100 points last night and lost both games.
"That's embarrassing to me," Rivers said. "You shoot the ball that well, you should win."
But not if you let the other guys shoot 51 percent, collect 17 offensive rebounds, and allow Collison (19 points, career-high 13 rebounds), Luke Ridnour (15 points, 13 assists after an 0 for 6 first half), and the redoubtable Ray Allen (32 points on 12 of 17, including four from international waters) to have their way. Lewis did his part, contributing 22 points. Seattle may not be as good as last year's 52-win ensemble, but the Sonics certainly are not as bad as the 2-5 group that arrived here last night, supposedly to play out the string and allow the Celtics to get back to .500.
"We know we're a better team than we've shown over the last week," Allen said.
"We know we're capable of playing really good. We've also seen we're capable of playing really bad," Collison said.
You could make a case that this was the first Official Stinkeroo of the season for the Celtics. There's no shame in getting beaten by the Spurs, or even getting beaten badly by the Spurs. There were two close losses (Detroit, Charlotte) and Tuesday's fourth-quarter collapse in the Palace.
But this was different. Danny Ainge says he's not really looking at W's and L's at this point of the season. He wants to see growth, effort, and togetherness. Last night, he saw a team start out hot (7-0) and then he saw a team relax, feeling that the Sonics would do what we all expected they'd do call in the dogs, put out the fire, and head for the airport.
"We're not that good," Rivers snapped. "We're not good enough to play like that, especially against a team that's struggling and ready to go home."
Doc lamented that the team moved away from Mark Blount, who was 5 for 5. But Blount played only 9:48 in the second half and not at all in the fourth quarter as the Celtics went small. Rivers said they did the same thing with Al Jefferson, who had 10 points and eight rebounds in 18 minutes. He lamented that the Sonics got "every loose ball, every tough play, made every effort play, and usually you win games when you do that and lose games when you don't."
And usually, those plays are made by the home team against the road-weary visitor eager to get back home and finishing up a brutal trip. But not last night. The Sonics made the plays, more than enough to win a game few thought they'd even be in position to compete. Hey, they probably didn't even mind that their plane was scheduled to stop in Minneapolis for refueling on the way back.