Storm players celebrate at the conclusion of their triple-overtime win over the Los Angeles Sparks. Aaron Last/Storm Photos
Storm Outlasts Sparks in 3OTs: A Look Back
Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com | July 22, 2009
When did you know that Wednesday's game between the Seattle Storm and the Los Angeles Sparks was something special? Maybe it was when the Storm went on a 17-4 run in the third quarter to get a KeyArena crowd looking for something to cheer on its feet. Perhaps it was when the game first went to overtime - after all, the Storm had not played an OT game in nearly two years (July 24, 2007, to be exact) and last played an extra session at home in June 2005. Possibly it took until the game reached a third overtime, becoming the longest game in the WNBA season, for you to be convinced.
No matter the point, eventually everyone in KeyArena last night realized this was going to be one for the memory banks and the record books. For the Storm and its fans, those memories will be positive ones after Sue Bird's three-point barrage led a 16-0 run that spanned virtually the entirety of the third overtime session, allowing the Storm to claim a 98-87 victory in the second-longest game in franchise history and just the fifth in the WNBA's 13 seasons to go to at least three overtimes..
How to sum up a game so epic? Here are a few attempts.
THE UNEXPECTED HERO:
At the end of regulation, even Bird herself didn't envision the role she would ultimately play in the Storm's victory. Bird hadn't played poorly, per se, scoring 11 points and making three triples before the game headed to overtime. But she had been unable to connect on her biggest shot attempt of the night, misfiring on a three attempt she forced to beat the shot clock on the Storm's final possession of the fourth quarter.
"After that airball," said Bird, "I had to self-check and be like, 'What's your problem right now?' I let that slide."
Bird's role became more important when, midway through the second overtime, Lauren Jackson drew her second technical of the game and was ejected. With Tanisha Wright already on the bench having fouled out and Swin Cash struggling against the size of the L.A. frontline, that left Bird as the Storm's best option to create offense. Her three-pointer inside the final minute of the second overtime tied the game, and over the next five minutes she took control of the game.
"All of a sudden, it was sort of like the adrenaline kicked in," said Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. "She was the freshest of everybody on the floor at the end."
Bird finished with seven three-pointers, a new franchise record and one shy of the WNBA's record. Her 23 points were a season-high, and Bird handed out five assists without a turnover. Oh, and on her first two assists of the game, Bird passed first Dawn Staley and then Teresa Weatherspoon to move into third place amongst the WNBA's all-time leading career assisters. Not a bad night's work.
THE SATISFIED COACH:
Coaches are a nervous group. Until the final whistle blows, there is always something that could go wrong. The Storm's Agler is notoriously stoic on the sidelines, staying steady in the wake of ups and downs on the floor in front of him. Three overtimes in, all that apparently goes out the window. After the Storm went up double-digits, Agler walked to midcourt throwing his hands on the air to exhort fans to get on their feet and make more noise, one of the night's most indelible images. At the game's end, he hugged several players to show his appreciation for their effort.
"Just excited for them - happy for our team," Agler said afterwards.
For a coach, there's always room for improvement and time for learning lessons. Last night, Agler put that aside to take in the victory.
"I look at our team, and yeah, we've got a ways to go - we're evolving," he said. "But we also did a lot of things to get back in the game, to put in overtime, put it in a second overtime, put it in a third ... we stepped up. We played a lot of games here lately. I thought we would be the team that would be fatigued, but I thought in the end both teams looked about the same - both worn down."
THE HOME CROWD:
Part of the reason the Storm was able to match or surpass L.A.'s energy down the stretch despite playing three games in the same eight-day span in which the Sparks had been completely off was the influence of the crowd. After the Storm's third-quarter run brought fans back into the game, they never left even as the overtimes advanced deep into the night.
"I hate to think of playing in triple-overtime away, because I think they really energized our team," said Agler. "At times we got down and we'd make a play and then the energy got going in here. There's no question. I've been in the league a long time, and I used to hate coming to Seattle because of the support that the crowd gave the team. The energy definitely was in the building tonight."
The fans certainly inspired Bird.
"You get to a point in single-, double-, triple-overtime where if anything you want to win it for the fans because they stayed that long," she said. "You're exhausted, you're tired. I just remember saying to my teammates at one point, 'No matter what you feel like, I guarantee if you win you're not going to feel anything.'"
THE MAD SCRAMBLE:
If ever there isn't a time to play a triple-overtime game, it is the night before the All-Star break. Storm players and coaches are dispersing throughout the country to take advantage of the rare opportunity to spend a weekend at home. In some cases, those flights were as soon as last night. Wright was scrambling to get to Sea-Tac Airport last night to make her flight, having to interrupt Agler's postgame press conference as she ran back to the locker room to get her cellphone.
A scramble of a different sort was taking place in the Media Room, as I attempted to look up all the records broken in the win. A partial tally:
- Bird's seven three-pointers and 14 attempts were both new franchise records. Bird (8/8/06 at DET) and Sonja Henning (7/27/00 at LAS) previously shared the record with six threes.
- The Storm's 14 three-pointers were also a franchise record (previously 13 2x) and 32 attempts tied the Storm record (vs. L.A. 5/21/05).
- Tina Thompson played 51 minutes, a new franchise record (previously 50 by Nikki Teasley vs. PHO, 7/15/03) and the most by a WNBA player this season (previously 47 by Katie Douglas at IND, 6/6).
- L.A.'s 27 turnovers were the most ever forced by the Storm (previously 26 vs. UTA, 6/6/00).