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NUGGETS STICK WITH SAME `SONICS PLAN

SHARE NUGGETS STICK WITH SAME `SONICS PLAN

The Denver Nuggets learned last spring that the way to beat the Seattle SuperSonics is to control Shawn Kemp.

Last spring, that strategy enabled the Nuggets, seeded eighth, to eliminate top-seeded Seattle in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Denver used the same game plan Sunday in defeating Seattle 105-96 in the first meeting of the teams since the playoffs.Denver took the ball right at Kemp and got him into early foul trouble. He played only 20 minutes before fouling iout with 8:04 to play, scoring only 10 points.

"We neutralized him," Denver forward Tom Hammonds said. "He hit his first jumper, but after that, every time he tried to take it to the hole, Dikembe (Mutombo) was there to either hinder the shot or put a hand in his face."

Mutombo had 10 rebounds for Denver, which beat Seattle 51-41 on the boards.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf had 23 points, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range, and Rodney Rogers had 22, hitting 2-of-4 from long range.

The Nuggets took control with 10:35 left in the third quarter when Kemp sat down with his fourth foul. With Kemp out of the middle, Mutombo scored four points to begin a 19-6 run ended by Rogers' 3-pointer with 5:31 left in the quarter that pushed Denver's lead to 70-55.

"They frustrated us and when Denver gets us frustrated we don't hustle and Denver turns it up," Seattle coach George Karl said. "This was the best I've seen Denver play."

Abdul-Rauf opened the fourth period with a 3-pointer and Rogers's jump shot put Denver up 86-70 with 10:56 left. Detlef Schrempf, who finshed with 21 points, rallied the Sonics with 11 points over the next four minutes.

His layup and free throw drew Seattle to 90-85 with 7:05 left. Abdul-Rauf answered with seven down the stretch, including a 3-pointer.

Denver's early play was critical. Seattle hit its first four shots and made 55 percent in the first quarter to Denver's 36. Seattle led 24-23 on Sarunas Marciulionis's layup to close the quarter.

"I knew this was going to be an emotional game for them because they have a good memory of last April," Denver coach Dan Issel said. "I told the guys in the locker room that if we could play with them for the first five minutes, we'd be all right."

The Nuggets led 48-45 at halftime.

Kendall Gill also had 21 points for the Sonics, who are winless in 10 games played on Christmas Day. Denver had lost three of its last four games.

Denver was called for four technical fouls, including two for illegal defense.