Gary Payton simply refused to let Seattle lose Tuesday night, allowing the SuperSonics to get the first-round playoff matchup they wanted.
Payton had 33 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists for his 10th career triple-double as Seattle clinched seventh place in the Western Conference with a 119-112 overtime victory over the Sacramento Kings.
Seattle, 2-2 against Sacramento this season, secured the playoff spot with one game left in the season by having a better conference record than the eighth-place Kings. The SuperSonics are 31-20 against the West, while the Kings are 25-26.
Payton scored eight of his points in overtime, when Seattle scored eight straight to take a nine-point lead with 33 seconds to play.
"It was a game we really wanted to win. It had nothing to do with not wanting to meet the Lakers," said Payton, who scored a career-high 43 points in his previous game.
"We were in their place. I know I need to come ready to play in situations like this."
Payton made 13-of-28 shots and also played his usual strong defensive game, getting three steals.
"I don't know what else to say about Gary Payton, he's almost like one of those old-time gladiators," Seattle coach Paul Westphal said. "He has such a great will to win."
The Sonics split four games this year with Utah and lost three of four to the Lakers.
"It's no bargain getting to play Utah, but I think even Utah would have to admit it's more wise to put off playing the Lakers as long as possible," Westphal said.
The Kings played the Lakers tough in all four games this year, but beat them only once.
"They (the Lakers) are obviously better than Utah, but we have full confidence against them," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "We played them close, but we will need to step up."
Stojakovic made a jumper from the baseline with 0.5 left, tying the score 107-107 and sending the game into overtime.
"After he made that shot I thought, 'this isn't going to be easy,"' Westphal said. "He had to make a great shot under pressure to force overtime."
After Williams made his seventh 3-pointer to cut Seattle's lead to 104-103, Payton made a turnaround jumper with 18 seconds left. Williams' layup cut the lead to one point, setting the stage for Stojakovic.
"There's no question we never lose confidence," Williams said. "It's obvious we are going to have to pick it up against the Lakers."
Trailing 97-92, the Sonics scored six straight, with the final basket coming on a baseline jumper from Baker, putting Seattle ahead 98-97 with 2:48 left.
The Sonics closed the third quarter with 15-6 run, assuming an 81-75 lead. Sacramento made one field goal in the final seven minutes and didn't score in the last 3:19 of the period.
In a wild second quarter, Williams made four 3-pointers over a 2:59 span as the Kings rallied to take a 57-56 halftime lead.
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