With six days before their next game, the Seattle SuperSonics should have everybody back from injuries the next time they play.
But the way things are going now, they may not want to fiddle with their chemistry.
Using a solid team performance, the Sonics won their sixth consecutive game with a convincing 101-75 victory over the Vince Carter-less Toronto Raptors before a sellout crowd at KeyArena on Saturday night.
The Raptors lost Carter, one of the top five players in the league, when he strained his left shoulder in a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
"They did what they were supposed to do. They played well, they took advantage of us," Raptors coach Lenny Wilkens said. "It was like running in sand."
It was the 11th time this season the Sonics have played a team that was missing its star player, and they continued to take advantage of it, stringing together the current second-best winning streak in the league, behind Dallas' nine-gamer.
That does not take into account that every team that comes into KeyArena these days seems as if it has played the night before, or is on the end of a long road trip. Perhaps that is the reason that of the six victories, five have come by double digits, two by at least 20 points.
"That happened to us early in the year," guard Gary Payton said. "That's just basketball. We can't worry about that. We have to worry about when we go out on the floor, doing what we need to do to get us better. And that is what we have been doing."
The schedule continues to favor Seattle when the Sonics return from the New Year's break - Philadelphia comes to town to finish a six-game, 12-day trip.
That game concludes a stretch of games in which Seattle played six of seven games at home and with plenty of rest. After the Sixers game, the Sonics play nine of 13 games on the road in 26 days, a string of games that will go a long way in determining their fate in the race for a playoff berth.
"We don't want to settle for being mediocre," Sonics guard Brent Barry said. "We know January is going to be tough. We just have to regroup after New Year's, take some aspirin on the 1st and get ready for a tough month."
They should do it with the services of centers Calvin Booth and Jerome James, both of whom have been practicing and seem on pace to return.
But in improving to 16-15 and moving into a tie with the Utah Jazz for the eighth-best record in the Western Conference, the Sonics had more than enough firepower Saturday night.
Vin Baker helped spoil Wilkens' return to the city where he played and coached with 21 points on 10-of-15 shooting and six rebounds.
Ever since Baker suffered partially torn ligaments in his right thumb earlier this month, he has played extremely well.
He dominated the Raptors' Antonio Davis inside, and held Davis, an All-Star last season, to six points and five rebounds.
"He's played well," Sonics coach Nate McMillan said. "I think he has played his best basketball the last two weeks for this team probably since the first year he got here. He is getting low in the paint, and he is finishing."
Payton followed up his 43-point outburst Thursday with a solid 18-point, 11-assist, six-rebound effort in a season-low 32 minutes. And Rashard Lewis, whose lip is still fat after catching an elbow Thursday, had 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
The Raptors kept the game close through one quarter, riding the play of Morris Peterson and Keon Clark, trailing by four points after 12 minutes.
But the Sonics exploded thereafter, starting the second quarter with a 21-8 run that helped send Seattle to the locker room with a 57-36 lead, Toronto's largest halftime deficit of the season.
By the end of the game, Seattle's bench players were on the floor and its starters were on the bench, leading a throng of cheers for some unconventional showtime.
On one play, lumbering forward Predrag Drobnjak executed a reverse layup that brought the crowd to its feet.
Then, he grabbed a rebound at the other end, dribbled the length of the floor and dished off a no-look pass to Shammond Williams. Williams then threw a no-looker to Olumide Oyedeji, but the Nigerian had a nightmare, missing a point-blank layup.
It was about the only thing that went wrong all game.
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* Reach staff writer Frank Hughes at 253-597-8742, ext. 6120, or email@example.com
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Sonics 101, Raptors 75
Friday: vs. Philadelphia, 7 p.m., KONG, 950-AM
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SIDEBAR: Game in review
Sonics 101, Raptors 75
KEY STAT - While the Sonics shot 51 percent from the floor, the Raptors missed their first 14 3-point attempts. They finished 4-for-21 from behind the arc. Dell Curry, one of the best shooters in the league, missed all six of his 3s.
STAR OF THE GAME - Predrag Drobnjak may never again have the highlight reel stuff of Saturday night, when he made a reverse layup and then dribbled the length of the court and dished a no-look pass. His 11 points and six boards earn him the honor.
TURNING POINT - In the second quarter, with Toronto's Eric Montross and Carlos Arroyo on the floor, the Sonics went on a 21-8 run to take control of the game.
KEY OBSERVATION - With a free throw at the end of the first quarter, Gary Payton scored his 16,000th career point. He currently is in 70th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list, passing Kiki Vandeweghe. "I never thought about it when I first got to the NBA," Payton said. "When I retire, I'll probably look at it in a different way."
QUOTABLE - "I don't know much about what they have done lately. It's obvious they have a little thing going on offensively and little thing defensively." - Toronto's Keon Clark.
NEXT - Friday, 7 p.m., vs. Philadelphia 76ers, KeyArena.