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Seattle's bid to clinch Northwest delayed

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Though the Sacramento Kings got a
whole lot grittier through trades this season, that new toughness
also led to their prettiest stretch of offense this season.

Peja Stojakovic scored 24 points, Cuttino Mobley had 21 and the
Kings emphatically avoided getting swept in their season series
with the SuperSonics, beating Seattle 122-101 Tuesday night.

Kenny Thomas scored 20 points, and Mike Bibby had 15 points and
10 assists as the Kings made a season-high 58.8 percent of their
shots to move 1½ games in front of Houston for fifth place in the
Western Conference standings. Golden State beat the Rockets

Only the Phoenix Suns average more points per game than
Sacramento this season, but the Kings' up-tempo attack and
spread-the-floor offense have been particularly impressive in
recent days. The Sonics were powerless to stop Sacramento, which
scored 70 points in the middle two quarters and produced a
season-high 36 assists.

"I knew we could shoot, but I hadn't seen us shoot like this
before," said center Brian Skinner, who does the dirty work in the
paint to allow Sacramento's perimeter shooters to dominate.
"Layups, 3-pointers, mid-range jumpers -- everything was going down

Stojakovic hit five 3-pointers, Mobley had four and Eddie House
added two more.

The Kings are racking up triple-digit final scores with a flair
they haven't shown since the first few years of their current
stretch of six straight playoff appearances. They have scored at
least 118 points three times in their last five games, including a
128-point effort at Cleveland on Friday.

Coach Rick Adelman suspected the Kings were in for a big night
on offense when he saw his team's defensive energy in their pursuit
of loose balls, tipped passes and rebounds. Sacramento surpassed
100 points against the Sonics on Darius Songaila's jumper in the
opening minute of the fourth quarter.

"We've been scoring, but we were much more active defensively
tonight," Adelman said. "I think it goes together. When you're
really working hard on defense, that tends to carry over to the
other end of the court."

The Kings also prevented the Sonics from clinching the Northwest
Division title while scoring more points than any of Seattle's
opponents this season. Sacramento lost its first three games
against the Sonics this season, but overwhelmed Seattle in the
first meeting since Chris Webber was traded to Philadelphia.

"Since Sacramento traded C-Webb, they basically went to a
spread-the-floor offense where the guards are the dominant players
on the floor," said Seattle center Jerome James, who had 13
points. "They're more run-and-gun, looking for the open shot and
trying to outscore teams. ... The best defense is offense. If you
try to score more points than your opponents, you don't have to
play defense."

Ray Allen scored 23 points and Damien Wilkins had 20 for the
Sonics, whose indifferent defense postponed their
division-clinching victory for the second time in three days.
Seattle also lost Sunday at Golden State, while the Denver Nuggets
have won 18 of 20 since the All-Star break to move within 7½ games
of the Sonics.

Wilkins finished one point shy of his career high, but Seattle
hit just four 3-pointers and had only 13 assists.

"Defensively, we couldn't stop anybody tonight, and they were
shooting the ball extremely well," Seattle coach Nate McMillan
said. "They were definitely coming out playing for playoff
position. You have to get closer when guys are shooting the ball
and they're hot. When we do that, we're breaking down and giving up

The Kings have been holding off Houston for the fifth seed for
nearly two weeks, but Sacramento actually might fare better in the
playoffs against the third-seeded Sonics, whose perimeter game and
poor defense could play into the Kings' strengths.

But don't tell that to Adelman.

"The seeding makes no difference, because you don't know who
you're going to face," he said. "You just play the games, and
whatever happens, happens."

Game notes
The Kings are playing without regulars Brad Miller (broken
leg) and Bobby Jackson (torn wrist ligament), while the Sonics are
without Rashard Lewis (bruised foot) and Vladimir Radmanovic
(broken leg). All four probably will be sidelined until the
playoffs. ... Danny Fortson played 15 minutes for Seattle despite a
sprained shoulder -- and the temperamental forward got yet another
technical foul for arguing in the third quarter, giving him five
T's and one ejection in the Sonics' four games against Sacramento
this season.