Sonics Win What Could be Last Game in Seattle

The Sonics beat the Mavericks in a tight and emotional game at KeyArena tonight.

For Dallas it was a game with playoff implications -- the Mavericks can still be caught by the Nuggets.

For Seattle it was a game with historic implications -- the Sonics might never play a home game in Seattle again.

People who just got home from the game have been emailing to say the mood in the building tonight (you can see some of it in the highlights at the link above, and photos here) was like 1996, when the Sonics were last in the Finals.

Gregg Bell of the Associated Press:

When the public address announcer introduced [Gary] Payton during the next time out, it was like 1996 again. Every one -- fans, police officers, equipment men, ushers, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban -- stood and delivered the loudest, most sustained joy KeyArena has heard in years. [Sonics Chairman Clay] Bennett has said the place isn't viable, but at that moment, it was rocking.

"It will be a disaster if they move them after 41 years," Payton said before halftime. "I don't think these fans deserve that.

"But anything is possible. Everybody just needs to keep their hopes up and it will work out."

Unless a Seattle judge rules in June that the Sonics must occupy the arena for the final two seasons of their lease, Bennett will take them to his hometown of Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 season.

But nobody's convinced Sonics forward Nick Collison this was the end, either.

"I'm still optimistic something will happen to keep us here," Collison said an hour before the game.

Collison just bought a house up the hill from KeyArena. The former star at Kansas is married and wants the family he is just starting to grow up in Seattle.

"It will be a sad, sad day if that happens," Collison said of moving to Oklahoma. "It would be a tough thing for a city that has been so good to the NBA.

"There's not a lot of positive things we can say as players about this situation. But I'm still optimistic."