Storm Tracker (Aug. 18-25)

Jackson - 19.5
Bird – 10.0
Brondello - 8.5
Lassiter – 7.3
Edwards - 5.8
Jackson - 11.5
Lassiter – 5.8
Edwards - 4.0
Burras - 2.5
Bird - 2.3
Bird - 5.8
Brondello - 2.0
Lassiter - 2.0

August 18-25
Record for the week: 2-2
Overall Record: 18-16
Standing: 5th, Western Conference

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Storm 28 19 47
at Houston 24 28 52
The Storm traveled to Texas for a two-game road trip hoping to snap a three-game losing streak and get much-needed victories with the playoffs approaching. First up – the Comets on Tuesday in the final regular-season game played at the Compaq Center. The Storm got off to a strong start despite the hostile crowd, and took a four-point lead to halftime. The Comets came back from the locker room scorching hot, going on an 18-5 run to take an early nine-point lead. After a Tina Thompson three-point play at the six-minute mark, however, the Comets went dry offensively, going over four minutes without a score as the Storm got back into the game. Sue Bird got the Storm within two, 49-47, with a score with 18 seconds left. Seattle fouled Sheryl Swoopes and got a break when she split two free throws, leaving the Storm just one score down. Bird had an open look at a three on the next possession, but passed it up to drive the line. Her runner was blocked by Michelle Snow and the Comets recovered. Two Swoopes free throws sealed a 52-47 win for the Comets. Lauren Jackson led the Storm with 16 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. Bird, with 12, was the only other Storm player in double-figures, but she shot just 5-for-16. Swoopes led the Comets with 17 points but also shot just 5-for-16, while Snow had 12 rebounds.

Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2003

Storm 33 31 6 70
at San Antonio 36 28 14 78
24 hours after losing to the Comets, the Storm was in San Antonio to take on the Silver Stars with little margin for error. San Antonio came out as hot as it had been the previous Tuesday in Seattle (scoring 87 points), leading 12-2 before the under-16-minutes timeout. The teams then traded runs, with the Storm crawling within two before the Silver Stars extended back out to a 26-17 advantage. The Storm had the last run of the first half, getting within three on an Amanda Lassiter score. While the first half was marked by runs, the second half saw the teams largely trade scores as the game stayed close. Seattle briefly took one-point leads twice, but San Antonio seemed to have the game in hand leading by six with 1:35 left. A Bird three cut the lead to one possession, and after a Storm stop Sandy Brondello followed with a cold-blooded dagger in transition to tie the game at 64 with 42 seconds left. A Jackson block forced a Silver Stars shot-clock violation, giving the Storm a chance to win. Just as at Houston, Bird drove the lane and was denied, her floater finding nothing but air. Marie Ferdinand missed for the Silver Stars at the buzzer, forcing overtime. In the extra session, Ferdinand (25 points) and Adrienne Goodson (26) were dominant, scoring 10 of their team’s 14 points. The Storm could not keep up and was no closer than four points in the final two minutes of a 78-70 loss.

Saturday, Aug. 23, 2003

Houston 37 58 95
at Storm 45 41 86
Four days after playing in Houston, the Storm and Comets rematched at KeyArena. Again, the Storm got off to a quick start, with Bird hitting a pair of shots to open the game. Quickly, the Comets got the game under their control with a 9-0 and took a four-point lead to the half. Seattle stormed out of the locker room to tie the game shortly into the second half, and the Storm took the lead midway through the period. Behind strong bench play from Tonya Massaline and ex-Comets guard Rita Williams, the Storm took a 58-52 lead with 6:33 to play. The Comets had the answer, with Swoopes concluding a 10-4 run by tying the game at 62. Just outside the two-minute mark, Simone Edwards broke the tie with a three-point play. After another Swoopes score, Jackson got the ball off of a jump ball and delivered a three-point play of her own to give the Storm a four-point lead. Edwards hit again to put the game out of reach, and the Storm finished off a 71-64 victory. Jackson led the Storm with 22 points and eight rebounds, while Edwards added 14. Thompson led the Comets with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Monday, Aug. 25, 2003

Sacramento 25 32 57
at Storm 28 42 70
For a while, it seemed like the Storm and Monarchs were destined to play one of the lowest-scoring games in WNBA history in the regular-season finale for both teams. The Storm had turnovers on its first six possessions, going until its seventh try before Bird put the team on the board with a jumper. The Monarchs were hardly lighting up the scoreboard during that time, putting up one field goal. The Storm found its offense but stayed tough defensively, taking a 15-9 lead midway through the first half. Sacramento responded, however, and an 8-0 run put the Monarchs on top. The Storm finished the half strong despite a Yolanda Griffith buzzer-beater, taking a three-point lead to the locker room. The lead was still three, 43-40, when the Storm went on a 15-2 run to take a commanding lead. Already locked into third position in the West, Monarchs Coach John Whisenant chose to rest his players down the stretch. The Storm cruised to a 70-57 victory and then engaged in a lovefest with the KeyArena faithful post game, with fans and players appreciating each other on fan appreciation night. Jackson finished with 18 points and 9 rebounds to lead the Storm, while the bench came up big with 23 points – all in the second half. The Monarchs got a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) in limited minutes from Griffith. Tully Bevilaqua’s role in the Storm’s run was not readily apparent from the box score, but during her 13 minutes of action, the Storm was +20 (outscoring Sacramento by 20 points), surely not a coincidence.

Player of the Week

F Tonya Massaline
5.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 56.3% fg, 50.0% threes

Signed near the end of July, Massaline – who started the season with the Washington Mystics with the last name Washington – was thrown almost immediately into the Storm’s rotation. She struggled with her shot, making just four of her first 17 attempts with the Storm. Last week, however, Massaline found her role in the rotation and made it her own, coming up big off the bench with a combined 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting against Houston and Sacramento, both wins. Massaline also did a great job defensively, helping hold Swoopes to just seven points at KeyArena while playing heavy minutes in the second half. Storm Coach Anne Donovan singled out Massaline for her play after the Sacramento game, saying, “Tonya Massaline came in and hit some big shots for us. When you look at that late free-agent pickup for us, that’s a tremendous pickup.” Adia Barnes will be back next year to team with Lassiter at the small forward position, but Massaline could still be a part of next year’s Storm squad.

Weekly Happenings

Bird held off a late charge from L.A.'s Nikki Teasley to finish second in the WNBA in assists per game.
Jeff Reinking/WNBAE/Getty
Strong finish
By winning the final two home games, the Storm finished above .500 for the second straight season and set a franchise record for most wins in a year with 18. Those games may not have meant anything in the context of the playoffs, but don’t call them meaningless to the Storm. “I never look at those games as meaningless games, because we won those games,” said General Manager Billy McKinney. “We wanted to go out on a positive note. Our players understood not only were they playing those two games from a pride standpoint, as the General Manager I’m looking at who’s showing signs of pride or who’s packing it in.” Bird was conflicted after Monday’s game. “We’re above .500 and we won our last two games so it makes a little bit easier,” she said, “but at the same time we’ll be sitting home watching the playoffs and knowing we should be there. It’s bittersweet. I think everyone needs to think about how they feel right now and how they felt after that five-game losing streak.” Don’t tell Seattle fans the games were meaningless either; they came out 15,081 strong between the two games and provided the Storm the home-court advantage that allowed it to finish the season 13-4 at home, tied for second-best in the WNBA behind the 14-3 Houston Comets.

No Playoffs for Storm
With the Storm’s losses to Houston and San Antonio and Sacramento’s victory over the Comets, the Monarchs clinched a playoff spot and eliminated the Storm from playoff contention on Thursday. The Storm did finish tied for the fourth-best record in the Western Conference with the Minnesota Lynx, but the Lynx held the tie-breaker because of a 3-1 advantage in the head-to-head season series. The Storm becomes just the fifth team in WNBA history and second from the Western Conference to miss the playoffs despite a winning record. With 18 wins, the Storm ties for the most ever by a non-playoff team. As well, the Storm and the 2000 Utah Starzz are the only winning teams to miss the playoffs since they expanded to four teams from each conference, and the Storm is the first team to miss the playoffs in a non-expansion year (including the inaugural 1997 season as ‘expansion’).

Cleveland 1997 15-13
Detroit 1998 17-13
New York 1998 18-12
Utah 2000 18-14
Storm 2003 18-16

What’s the Difference?
Amazingly, the Storm ended up second in the WNBA in the difference between points scored and points allowed, outscoring opponents on average by 3.4 points per game. Only the Detroit Shock, at 4.6 points per game, had a better mark this season. Usually in the WNBA, point differential has translated very well into wins – every WNBA champion to date has also led the league in point differential during the regular season. Based on the performance of previous runners-up in point differential, the Storm was clearly unlucky to miss the playoffs.

2002 Houston 24-8 2nd
2001 Cleveland 22-10 1st
2000 Los Angeles 28-4 1st
1999 Sacramento 19-13 3rd
1998 Phoenix 19-11 2nd
1997 Phoenix 16-12 1st

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