Storm Tracker (July 14-20)

Jackson - 23.5
Vodichkova - 11.8
Bird – 10.5
Lassiter – 5.5
Brondello - 5.0
Jackson - 6.5
Vodichkova – 5.8
Edwards - 5.3
Lassiter - 4.3
Bird - 3.0
Bird - 4.5
Williams - 3.0
Jackson - 2.5

July 14-20
Record for the week: 2-2
Overall Record: 11-9
Standing: tied 3rd, Western Conference

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Houston 21 34 55
at Storm 31 38 69
The Storm opened the second half of its 2003 season with a clash for second place in the Western Conference. Houston took a half-game lead over the Storm into the game, with the victorious team emerging in second. The Storm got off to a quick start behind the play of center Kamila Vodichkova, who had 10 of the team’s 12 points in the early going. Despite Vodichkova’s effort, Houston stayed close most of the half before the Storm went on a run to take a double-digit lead to the break. In the second half, Seattle continued building the lead to as large as 42-25 at the 15:35 mark. The Comets immediately responded with a 9-0 run as the Storm began turning the ball over repeatedly. They regained their composure and finished off Houston with an 8-0 run of their own in the closing minutes, producing a 69-55 final. Lauren Jackson and Vodichkova finished with 18 points apiece, while Sue Bird came close to a triple-double, setting for a double-double of 13 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds. Amanda Lassiter, making her first start of the season, held former teammate Sheryl Swoopes to just 7-for-22 shooting, and without either of Houston’s other All-Stars (Cynthia Cooper and Tina Thompson) in the lineup, the Comets lacked enough offensive punch to keep up with the Storm despite 16 points from Janeth Arcain. Houston’s 55 points were a season low.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Storm 28 39 67
at Sun 18 47 65
The Storm started its three-game road trip back East with a homecoming for Bird. A sellout crowd packed Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena to see Bird play basketball in the state where she earned her fame as a star at UConn. The fans didn’t see the best-played WNBA game, but they certainly got an exciting finish. The Sun was inept offensively in the first half, allowing the Storm to claim an early lead of 11-0. Connecticut got the lead within single-digits late in the half, but the Storm led by 10 at halftime. The Sun came out of the locker room a different team and began firing on all cylinders offensively despite the poor shooting of All-Stars Nykesha Sales and Shannon Johnson. Behind the surprisingly play of reserve Jessie Hicks and veteran center Taj McWilliams-Franklin, the Sun dominated the offensive glass and turned what had once looked like a laugher into a nail-biter. After the teams traded baskets down the stretch, Seattle seemed to have the game in hand after Lassiter made two free throws to put the Storm up 64-60 with 23 seconds left. McWilliams-Franklin responded with a three, and when Lassiter missed both free-throw ties on the ensuing possession, the Sun had a chance to take the lead. They did just that, with Adrienne Johnson following a McWilliams-Franklin miss. The Storm failed to call timeout until after inbounding the ball, forcing them to go 2/3 of the court for the score with just seven seconds to do it in. Jackson did that, taking the inbounds pass and going hard to the hoop to score over McWilliams-Franklin. Connecticut, out of timeouts, hurried to inbound the ball, but Bird stole the entry pass and was fouled. She split two free throws, giving the Storm a two-point advantage. Still, the game wasn’t over yet, with the Sun having a little over two seconds to try to tie or win. McWilliams-Franklin drove the lane, where she, Rita Williams and Lassiter converged. McWilliams-Franklin knocked over Williams while being hit from behind by Lassiter, leaving the game’s outcome in the hands of referees. Offensive foul, game over, or defensive foul, two shots for McWilliams-Franklin? Fortuitously for the Storm, the referees chose to call McWilliams-Franklin for the charge, allowing Seattle to emerge with a 67-65 victory and precipitating a lusty round of booing from the sellout crowd. Jackson led the Storm with 20 and Bird had 15 and 7 assists in her return. McWilliams-Franklin had 19 for the Sun and Katie Douglas 18.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Storm 31 30 61
at Detroit 34 40 74
Looking at the schedule with foresight, an argument could be made that the Storm’s game at Detroit was their most difficult of the season. It involved travel all the way from Connecticut to Detroit to play the second of a back-to-back against one of the top teams in the WNBA. Things got even worse when the Storm’s flight out of Connecticut was delayed for two hours, but the crushing blow came during the game when Bird aggravated the patellar chondromalacia in her left knee and was knocked out of the game. After starting the game slowly, the Storm had crawled back to within 34-31 at halftime and continued to stay close early in the second half. But when Bird left the game with 14:17 to play, the Shock went on a 13-3 and the Storm looked shell-shocked on offense. Bird tried to give it another go, but found she was unable to play through the injury and left for good with a little over five minutes remaining. The Storm’s other star, Jackson, hit back-to-back threes to spark a run that got Seattle to within as close as four points, but the offense went cold again and scored just five points the remainder of the game as Detroit won going away, 74-61. Jackson finished with 23 points, seven boards and five blocks, but Bird (14) was the only other Storm player in double-figures. Elaine Powell led four Shock players in double-figures with 16 points.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Storm 34 24 58
at Minnesota 33 36 69
Two days later, Bird’s knee was little better as the Storm completed its road trip with an early-evening matchup in Minnesota. Gamely, she tried to play on it and started the game, but after three minutes Bird gave up the charade and was finished for the day. With a little more experience playing without Bird, the Storm’s offense was productive in the first half. Led by the frontcourt of Jackson and Vodichkova, which combined for 16 points, the Storm led 34-33 at the break. Foul trouble to the inside players and the inability of any of the Storm’s supporting players on the perimeter to step up led the offense to go ice cold to start the second half. Nearly halfway through the period, the Storm had scored just four points to the Lynx’s 21 and trailed by 16 points. At that point, Jackson entered the elusive haven of basketball known only as “The Zone”. She scored 18 of the Storm’s next 20 points over a stretch of just over six minutes as Seattle pulled within one with three and a half minutes to play. Minnesota’s Katie Smith, held in check most of the night, responded with a three, and again the Storm offense went away. Seattle did not score in the final 3:38 as the Lynx went on a 10-0 run to, like the Shock, win going away, 69-58. Jackson finished with a career-high 30 points. Smith had 19 despite shooting just 4-for-11 and Sheri Sam had 16 points and 8 assists for Minnesota.

Player of the Week

F Lauren Jackson
23.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.5 bpg, 22-25 free throws

When Bird was first injured against the Los Angeles Sparks in the Storm’s home opener, Jackson was unable to step up and lead the team in overtime. A lot has changed in the month and a half since that game, and Jackson has firmly established herself as one of the WNBA’s top scorers (and, after outscoring Smith 30-19 head-to-head, again the league leader this season). This time, Jackson was money without Bird, keeping the Storm in contention against both Detroit and Minnesota despite disappointing efforts from her teammates. Jackson shot a career-high 12 free throws against the Lynx, firmly establishing herself as a force in the post. Defensively, she had five blocks against Detroit and 10 for the week. Jackson is at the absolute top of her game right now, and it is a joy to watch – despite the unfortunate outcomes with Bird ailing.

Weekly Happenings

Jackson scores over Taj McWilliams-Franklin to beat the Sun.
Ray Amati/WNBAE/Getty
Injury Update
Bird continues to be listed as day-to-day because of her knee injury. “It's a day to day thing, some days it feels great, some days it feels 'eh,' some days I can't play,” she described the condition after the loss to Minnesota. Barnes underwent successful knee surgery last Thursday. Dr. James Andrews, a renowned sports surgeon, performed the surgery. With Bird ailing and Barnes out, the Storm is lacking the quality depth it possessed earlier in the season. In particular, the Storm needs a better effort from Sandy Brondello. She managed just two points between the Storm’s pair of losses, and with Williams and Tully Bevilaqua not big scorers in place of Bird, that has left the Storm short on offense from its backcourt. After going into their game with Connecticut tied for third in the league in scoring average at better than 71 points per game, the Storm managed an average of just 62 points per game on the road trip.

Whirlwind Week
Inserted into the starting lineup after Adia Barnes’ season-ending knee injury, Lassiter got her first four starts of the season this week. They were doozies, with Lassiter forced to try to stop an All-Star wing player in all four games –Swoopes against Houston; Sales against Connecticut; Swin Cash against Detroit and Smith against Minnesota. As the following table indicates, Lassiter did an excellent job against the group, holding all but one below their season scoring average and causing their field-goal percentages to plummet:

div align = "center"
PPG – SEASON 16.5 15.4 16.3 20.2 17.1
FG% - SEASON .415 .408 .435 .498 .439
PTS – GAME 17 8 15 19 14.8
FG% - GAME .318 .167 .500 .364 .314

Credit also has to go to the play of Mactabene Amachree off the bench. Amachree has played the kind of hard-nosed, aggressive basketball that the Storm’s reserves are becoming known for, doing a good job defensively and on the boards during her first four games. The Storm renewed her contract for another seven days, at which point they will have to decide whether to sign her for the remainder of the season or not.

Home Again
The Storm has concluded its final extended road trip of the season, and now has just one set of multiple road games left on the schedule. Nine of the Storm’s final 14 games will be played at KeyArena, where the Storm has gone 6-2 so far this season and has won three straight games. The Storm is also nearing the completion of its Eastern Conference schedule, with just three games against the East left, all at home.

Record Breakdown:

West East Total
Home 4-2 2-0 6-2
Road 2-5 3-2 5-7
Total 6-7 5-2 11-9

The Week Ahead

Wed, July 23 New York Liberty 12:00 p.m. KeyArena (tickets) 950 KJR AM
Fri, July 25 Phoenix Mercury 7:00 p.m. KeyArena (tickets) 950 KJR AM
Sat, July 26 Sacramento Monarchs 7:00 p.m. ARCO Arena 950 KJR AM

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