Vin Baker's confidence is finally back. The four-time All Star has struggled all season, but has begun to turn the corner.
Baker had 23 points and eight rebounds and Gary Payton added 28 points and 11 assists as the Seattle SuperSonics scored a season-high in beating the Los Angeles Clippers 108-89 Sunday.
"I think Vin (Baker) is all the way back," Sonics coach Paul Westphal said. "When he plays like that, he makes it a lot easier for everybody."
Baker had 18 points in a win at Chicago and continued his improved play against the Clippers.
"I feel good about my game now," Baker said. "I was eager to get to the free throw line."
Baker made seven of eight from the free throw line Sunday after starting the season 0-for-18,
The Sonics shot a season-best 57 percent from the field, just the second time this season they made more their half of their field goal attempts.
Eric Piatkowski led the Clippers with 21 points, 13 in the first half.
For Clippers coach Chris Ford, it was a replay of the scenario he has seen all too often this season.
"There was nothing wrong with three quarters, but they picked up the defense and we responded with jump shots that didn't fall," Ford said.
The Sonics won their second straight game and beat the Clippers for the sixth straight time overall and eighth straight time on their homecourt.
Dale Ellis added 17 points for the Sonics, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range.
"It's hard to lose when you shoot that well," Ellis said. "We've struggled offensively so it was nice to have a night when the ball is falling."
Seattle outscored the Clippers 31-14 in the final period to pull away. They opened with a 16-5 run in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter to take an 83-70 lead. The Clippers came no closer than nine pints the rest of the way.
The Clippers forced the Portland Trail Blazers into overtime Saturday , but they faded in the fourth quarter against the Sonics. Los Angeles is 1-19 on the season.
Olden Polynice's basket capped a 12-3 Sonics run over a 2:30 span in the fourth quarter as the Sonics opened a 93-80 lead with 6:28 left in the game.
Hersey Hawkins scored five points in a 30-second span on a 3-point shot and a layup as the Sonics opened up an 88-79 lead with 8:41 left in the game, their biggest lead of the game.
The Clippers played the Sonics tough for three quarters. Two free throws by Payton with 22 seconds in the third quarter gave Seattle a 77-75 lead after three quarters.
Both Payton and Baker were whistled for technical fouls in the third period. The technicals seemed to inspire the two Sonics All-Stars. Payton was whistled for a technical foul by Jim Kinsey for taunting Derrick Martin after posting up the 5-10 Clippers guard.
Later in the period, Baker was called for a technical foul for protesting a non-call by Jess Kersey. Baker missed a layup and was bumped from behind. He slammed his hand on the basket support in disgust and was called for the technical foul.
The Sonics led 52-48 at halftime.
Notes: The Sonics and Clippers both shot better than 60 percent from the field in the opening quarter. ...The Sonics were 13-for-20 and the Clippers 11-for 18. ...Polynice was 6-for-6 from the field ...Billy Owens did not dress because of a sore left knee. ...Dale Ellis replaced Owens and made his third start of the season.
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