Oakwood Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Sacramento
Final: Storm 74, Sacramento 67
It wasn't pretty, as the Storm as outscored 37-26 after halftime. But Seattle built a big enough cushion before the break to hang on to a 74-67 win, snapping their four-game losing streak. Add this win to ones over Connecticut and at Detroit as the best of the season for the Storm. Given the situation and the Storm's slump, this one is arguably more important. This game was mostly about Lauren Jackson, who had 31 points and 13 rebounds - a season high for points and her seventh time topping 30 in her career - to lead the Storm. But credit also has to go to her fellow member of the Great Barrier Reef, Suzy Batkovic, who had 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting. Other than Francesca Zara's layup, Batkovic and Jackson combined for the Storm's field goals in the last four minutes as Seattle hung on. And after the road trip, it was important to win a close game. Great win all around.
Storm Seals It
Second Half: Storm 74, Sacramento 67
Nicole Powell misses an open 3-pointer at the top of the key - she's just 3-for-10 on the evening - and Lauren Jackson (who else?) gets the rebound and fires ahead to Francesca Zara, who caps it with a layup. The Storm leads by seven with 5.0 seconds left to play and has this one well in hand.
Second Half: Storm 72, Sacramento 67
After a Kristin Haynie missed 3-pointer, Suzy Batkovic - who has an incredible 14 points tonight - splits two free throws to make it a five-point game with 13.7 seconds left, 72-67. Sacramento needs points in a real hurry to keep themselves alive.
Second Half: Storm 71, Sacramento 67
Credit Storm rookie Suzy Batkovic with some play beyond her years. Two big buckets late by Batkovic with the Storm desperate for offense. They were followed by a Lauren Jackson jumper in the late to make it71-66. DeMya Walker splits two free throws to get it within four.
Second Half: Storm 63, Sacramento 59
With 3:42 to play, it's a four-point game with Ticha Penicheiro headed for the free-throw line. Usually, when a team has never held the lead in a game - the Monarchs have, but it was 3-2 - there's a certain element of frustration. Instead, all the pressure in this building right now is on the Storm. Seattle needs this win and has to come up with a big final run.
Second Half: Storm 58, Sacramento 52
One of the joys of watching a game at KeyArena this season has been Betty Lennox's brother on the sidelines. Calling him a flamboyant dresser would be something of a gross understatement. Tonight, he has on a pink suit capped off with a pink cowboy hat. He's also his sister's biggest fan, trying to help her up when she went down with a back injury against Indiana last month. The Storm needs Betty's brother and all the fans at KeyArena tonight to bring the noise over the last seven minutes.
Second Half: Storm 58, Sacramento 49
How often are all three of the Storm's big three - Sue Bird, Lauren Jackson and Betty Lennox - on the bench together? That's the case right now. Big time for the Storm with Sacramento still on the run.
Second Half: Storm 55, Sacramento 47
Things looked good for the Storm when Lauren Jackson got the ball inside for a pair of free throws to extend the lead back to 14, but it's been a 6-0 Sacramento run since then to get back within eight points, their closest since 18-10 early in the first half. Francesca Zara in for the Storm; can she have the same impact she had in the first half?
Second Half: Storm 53, Sacramento 41
Slow start to the second half for the Storm, who have only five points n a little more than five minutes and haven't been getting great offensive movement. The Monarchs have closed to within 12 and are no strangers to these kind of comebacks. The Storm needs to come out of this timeout with more life at both ends of the court.
Second Half: Storm 48, Sacramento 34
Watching DeMya Walker's, ahem, tendency to end up on the ground (as well as her jawing with referees) is always a fun thing about matchups with Sacramento. Walker went down on Sacramento's first possession of the second half, but got no sympathy from referee Roy Gulbeyan, who told her to get up. Walker is playing with a strained right MCL, Sacramento Coach John Whisenant informed us before the game. She's wearing a specially designed brace on the knee, but the Monarchs got a scare when she was hit in the knee Friday in Detroit. She did not return but is playing tonight. She's limping a little bit, but has eight points.
Halftime: Storm 48, Sacramento 30
The Storm's offensive rating in the first half? It's a sizzling 133.0 points per 100 possessions. That even bests the 128.4 offensive rating Seattle posted the last time out at KeyArena against the Connecticut Sun. Sacramento, meanwhile, is down at 83.3 points per 100 possessions. The Storm has been brilliant at the offensive end of the court but very good on defense as well.
To the Half
Halftime: Storm 48, Sacramento 30
Instant replay confirms that Suzy Batkovic's buzzer-beater is good, giving the Storm a 48-30 lead as we head to halftime. It's far too early to bury the Monarchs, who rallied to within six from a 26-point halftime deficit at Los Angeles a few weeks ago, but you've got to love this start for the Storm. In addition to Lauren Jackson's 17 points, the Storm has also gotten nine points apiece from Suzy Batkovic off the bench and Iziane Castro Marques. No Sacramento player has nine points; in fact, Yolanda Griffith (8) is the only one with more than five. So it's all Storm through one half.
First Half: Storm 44, Sacramento 28
We're six days away from the All-Star Game next Saturday in Connecticut, and this is the Storm's final home game before the break. As a result, the Storm is saluting All-Stars on and off the court tonight. That includes UW guard Kayla Burt, recently nominated for an ESPY Award for her comeback from a nearly fatal heart condition. The Storm's Lauren Jackson is also an ESPY Nominee. Before the game, the Storm also saluted forward Alicia Thompson as this year's Off-Season Community Assist winner.
First Half: Storm 40, Sacramento 20
On the broadcast, Elise Woodward effectively summarizes the game thus far: Total Storm dominance in every facet of the game. Seattle has doubled up the Monarchs most of this first half and currently holds its largest lead, 20 points, with 3:57 left in the first half. After a tough road trip, Lauren Jackson will not be denied tonight. She's got 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting as well as five rebounds. The Storm is still shooting 66.7% from the field.
First Half: Storm 28, Sacramento 15
If you read today's Insider Preview (link above), you know that the Monarchs defensive performance this season, evaluated on a per-possession basis and compared to league average, is the second best in WNBA history. Not tonight, however. The Storm has 28 points just 12 minutes in and is cruising with the same efficiency it had the last time we were at KeyArena, when Seattle dropped a franchise-record 95 points on the Connecticut Sun. This game is too slow-paced to produce those kind of numbers, but the Storm is shooting an unreal 71.4% from the field thus far. Great job by the bench, and a special shoutout to Francesca Zara, who is really developing nicely as a backup to Sue Bird.
First Half: Storm 19, Sacramento 8
A couple of really great signs in the early going for the Storm, besides the obvious (the 19-8 lead Seattle holds with Suzy Batkovic going to the free-throw line). One is Lauren Jackson hitting her first two 3-pointers, showing accuracy from long distance she hasn't yet found this season. The second is the Storm successfully finding Batkovic down low on a pair of lobs from Iziane Castro Marques. Batkovic has drawn a pair of fouls and scored one of the baskets.
First Half: Storm 10, Sacramento 3
With an early 8-0 run, the Storm takes a 10-3 lead into the first timeout of the evening. That's important. I asked Anne Donovan yesterday about how the Storm has been playing from behind regularly recently and how much that has taken out of the team. Donovan made the point that not only was the Storm expending extra energy trying to come back, those comebacks had been unsuccessful, producing some frustration. The good start is a very good sign.
On the eve of the Fourth of July, a good crowd is filing into KeyArena tonight to watch the Storm take on the Western Conference's best team thus far, the Sacramento Monarchs. It's also a rematch of last fall's Western Conference Finals, so no shortage of fun storylines in this one. The Storm is highly motivated coming off of an 0-4 road trip, and we should be in for an outstanding battle.