Storm Tracker (May 26-June 1)

Bird - 22.0
Jackson - 15.0
Brondello – 11.0
Barnes – 10.0
Burras - 4.0
Jackson - 8.0
Vodichkova - 8.0
Brondello - 6.0
Lassiter - 6.0
Barnes - 5.0
Bird - 7.0
Jackson - 4.0
Brondello - 2.0

May 26-June 1
Record for the week: 0-1
Overall Record: 0-3
Standing: 7th, Western Conference

Friday, May 30, 2003

Los Angeles 31 37 6 74
at Storm 39 29 9 77
After five days off, the Storm returned to action on Friday in their home opener against the defending WNBA champion Los Angeles Sparks. Backed by a selllout crowd, the Storm got off to a quick start, using an 8-0 run to take an early 12-5 lead. The Sparks closed to within 32-29 later in the first half, but the Storm finished the half on a 7-2 run. The Storm maintained a lead of around eight points most of the second half as well, but the Sparks cut the lead to 59-57 at the 4:27 mark on an 8-0 run. Again, the Storm had the answer, with a Sandy Brondello three and three free throws pushing the lead to a seemingly safe eight. The lead was four at the 1:12 mark when Kamila Vodichkova went to the free throw line and Sue Bird, leading the team with 22 points, was pulled because her left knee was bothering her. Vodichkova split the free throws and Los Angeles’ Mwadi Mabika scored a layup in transition to cut the lead to three. With 58 seconds left, the Storm took possession needing a score to ice the game, but Sandy Brondello had the ball stripped by DeLisha Milton in the corner with 37 seconds left, giving the Sparks a chance to tie. Three attempts by Nikki Teasley and Mabika fell off, but the Sparks got two critical offensive rebounds and worked the ball back to an open Teasley. This time, she didn’t miss and the Sparks tied the game at 68. Bird checked back into the game for the final play of regulation and Anne Donovan called her number, with Bird forced way outside into a missed three. That meant overtime, and while Bird gamely tried to play on, she was removed less than a minute into the extra session. Without Bird, the Storm struggled to create offense as the Sparks held a four-point lead most of the way. Still, Mabika gave the Storm an opportunity when the career 78.8% free throw shooter split two attempts, leaving the score 77-74 with just under 30 seconds left. The Sparks clamped down defensively, and with the clock running down Lauren Jackson tried to get to the basket, but her shot and a Brondello follow missed, though they would have only cut the lead to one anyway. Despite trailing for most of the game, the Sparks emerged with their fourth straight road victory to start the season. Bird led the Storm with 22 points and seven assists, while Jackson added 15 points and eight rebounds but shot just 3-for-15 from the field. Lisa Leslie had a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Sparks, while Mabika and Teasley scored 19 apiece.

Player of the Week

G Sue Bird
22 points, 7 assists, 9-18 fg, 4-10 threes, two steals

The Storm’s offensive struggles without Bird in overtime illustrated just how important the second-year guard is to her team. They were predictable, however, given what an important role Bird plays in the offense. Her assist totals – 7.3 apg during the first three games – are remarkable considering she scores about 30% of the Storm’s field goals, ones she obviously can’t assist on. During the minutes she played in the Los Angeles game, the Storm scored 21 field goals. Bird herself made nine of those, assisting on seven others, meaning she had a hand in nearly 80% of the team’s scores. What made Bird’s injury particularly disappointing was how well she was playing on Friday, hitting several pull-up jumpers in transition and making a career-high-tying four three-pointers.

Weekly Happenings

Struggling with her shot, Jackson contributed eight rebounds and four assists.
D. Clarke Evans/WNBAE/Getty
Storm Improving
Friday night’s game with the Sparks completed the Storm’s tour of last season’s Western Conference playoffs, as they played all three other playoff teams to start the season. Coach Donovan said before Friday’s game that to her, seeing improvement was as important as the outcome on the scoreboard. “We played so much better against San Antonio than we did against Houston, which is a good feeling for a coach because at least you’re moving in the right direction, there’s progress there,” Donovan explained. “As long as I see that same progression tonight, then I can rest easier.” Clearly, the Storm played its best game of the season against the Sparks, despite not ending up with a victory. Especially important was getting production from the rest of the starting five besides Bird and Jackson. While Vodichkova’s shot was off, Brondello and Adia Barnes – who, after hitting two threes for the second time in three games is rapidly becoming a long-distance specialist – both scored double-figures for the Storm. The Storm also played much better defensively, holding the high-powered Sparks to 40.6% shooting and forcing four turnovers apiece by Leslie, Teasley and Mabika.

Rebounding Questions Answered
One of Donovan’s biggest concerns entering Friday’s game was the Storm’s rebounding. During the two-game road trip in Texas, opponents outrebounded the Storm 66-50. “We struggled in Houston with (Alisa) Burras as our starting post player, and she didn’t rebound the ball,” Donovan said. “We changed it up with Kamila and she didn’t rebound the ball in San Antonio, so we’re not getting anything from that position.” Vodichkova answered Donovan’s challenge with eight rebounds and Jackson also added eight as the Storm played the Sparks even on the boards, 41 apiece – impressive considering the Sparks were the best rebounding team in the WNBA last season, in terms of rebound percentage. The Storm grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, many of them early in the game to help build the lead.

Home-Court Advantage
After playing in front of crowds averaging over 10,000 in the state of Texas, the Storm was happy to be back in the friendly confines of KeyArena to start a five-game homestand. The Storm’s sellout crowd was its fifth straight, dating back to last July 20. “It’s nice to be home,” Donovan said. “It’s just a good feeling, you can relax, it’s much more of an advantage to have your own people behind you.”

Injury Report
Bird’s knee injury was diagnosed over the weekend as patellar chondromalacia in her left knee, a condition that affects the cartilage in the knee. Bird told the Tacoma News-Tribune she plans to play on Tuesday, but her availability for the game is still unknown. Forward Jung Sun-Min missed the Sparks game because of her sprained right ankle, but did participate in that morning’s shootaround and Saturday’s practice and could return for Tuesday. Amanda Lassiter returned from her hyperextended knee against the Sparks, playing 18 minutes off the bench, scoring three points and grabbing six rebounds.

The Week Ahead

Tue, June 3 Sacramento Monarchs 7:00 p.m. KeyArena (Tickets) 950 KJR AM
Sat, June 7 Phoenix Mercury 7:00 p.m. KeyArena (Tickets) 950 KJR AM

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