Maybe it began to sink in when Morlon Wiley's prayer kissed the sky, then the glass to beat the third-quarter buzzer and allow his club to enter the final period with a three-point lead.
Or maybe the unfolding miracle didn't jolt 13,503 stunned spectators until rookie Jimmy Jackson rose in desperation and stuck a 22-foot jump shot in the face of Seattle's Ricky Pierce to put his team ahead by four with 4:35 left.
The Dallas Mavericks, the collection of CBA renegades and NBA castaways that has flirted with pro-basketball infamy all season, actually had a shot at winning.
If you were a SuperSonic, the possibility unfurled with each passing second like a sense of dread. The esophagus tightened. The eyes filled with panic.
The Mavericks know the feeling well.
"When the game stays close, the pressure switches over to the opposition," Dallas guard Derek Harper said after his club beat the Sonics 109-107 at the Coliseum last night. "You can see it happening, the longer we stick around. Nobody wants to lose to us."
If the Mavericks (8-64) do not win at least two of their remaining 10 games, Seattle - along with Atlanta, Detroit, Indiana, the Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando, Philadelphia and Washington - will be the answer to a trivia question. Who were the only teams beaten by the worst NBA team of all time?
The Mavericks showed they won't go into the record books without a fight, however. Dallas shot a season-high 57.3 percent and led for all but 30.6 seconds.
The Mavericks set the stage for the upset by taking the Sonics to the wire before succumbing 103-96 in Dallas last week.
Bolstered in the rematch by the additions of Harper and Terry Davis, they confidently zoomed out to a 13-2 lead. They then fended off the Sonics at the end with Jackson hitting seven of his 18 points and Harper adding four points and a steal during the final 4 1/2 minutes.
"We outplayed them," said interim Maverick Coach Garfield Heard, a former Sonic. "It was not that they weren't up for us. Everyone tries to say that when we win a game and that's bull. Every team in the league gets up to play us."
Make that almost every team in the league. The Sonics merely displayed their Achilles' heel - their arrogance and lack of professionalism - and the Mavericks preyed on it. Co-captain Nate McMillan, who subjected his teammates to a post-game, locker-room diatribe, says the team has regressed.
"We just lost by not giving the effort," McMillan said. "We've gone back to, `Which Sonic team is going to show up?' Is it going to be the team that plays aggressive defense, pushes the ball up the floor, and gets the ball to the shooters? Or is it the team where guys care about their own stats, pad their stats, care about the way people look at you, the way they think of you, the way you play, how cool you are or whatever?"
This loss has been a while in developing. Its genesis was in a March 18 game against Sacramento, when Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp tried to team for an off-the-backboard dunk late in the first half of a 131-111 victory. That proved the beginning of the Sonic Ice Age, which has been perpetrated mainly by the coolness of Kemp (six rebounds last night), Payton (10 assists in the past three games) and Derrick McKey (no rebounds or steals last night) - the three of whom were given the hook early last night by Coach George Karl.
With only nine games remaining, Karl has little time to coax his club out of what could be its self-destructive funk.
"All coaching is trying to coerce players to be responsible," Karl said. "You try to guide, but the players are the ones who have to make the commitment. You can't do it for them.
"Pro basketball, in many ways, has become a blackmail system of multimillion-dollar players with minutes and shots and individual egos. It makes coaching difficult. I don't like being blackmailed by players, and it happens. The teams who don't have that system are the teams that have success.
"I'm talking about attitude - when they're not playing well, they want to blame it on their teammates, they want to blame it on their coach, or they want to blame it on `He's not giving me good minutes,' or `He's playing me at the wrong place.' There are so many excuses out there that players have today.
"This isn't anybody's fault. This is all of our faults. We have gotten here together, and we will get out together. If we think we're going to do it any other way, then we're going to have an even bigger embarrassment somewhere along the way."
----------------------------------------. The victims.
Dallas beat Seattle last night for its eighth win of the season. The victories: . . Opp. Score Rec.. . Atlanta 113-104 1-3. . Lakers 102-95 2-15. . Detroit 113-103 3-30. . Indiana 105-104 4-38. . Orlando 102-96 5-57. . at Phil. 89-87 6-57. . at Wash. 101-98 7-59. . at Seattle 109-107 8-64.
------------------------------------- SONIC REPORT NOTES
`MOST IMPRESSIVE' VICTORY FOR DALLAS
Asked if last night's was his team's most impressive victory, Dallas Coach Garfield Heard said, "This is the most impressive game we've played this year. Every victory we get is impressive."
Heard pointed out that the victory put them "one step closer to Philadelphia's record," in reference to the Sixers' record of 9-73 in 1972-73, the worst in NBA history. He said the first and only time he discussed the record with his club was when he took over for Richie Adubato on Jan. 13. Then, he said the team set a goal of winning 10 or more games for the season.
-- The Mavericks were without forward Doug Smith, who suffered a broken blood vessel in his left eye during a game against Golden State last Friday. Smith is expected to be sidelined for another week or two.
-- Ricky Pierce, with 20 points, led the Sonics in scoring for the fifth straight game. He has averaged 25.2 points and shot 57.5 percent in the five games.
- GLENN NELSON