Oakwood Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Washington

The Storm enjoys a home-court advantage at KeyArena unparalleled in the WNBA. Even if you don't live in Seattle, you can enjoy the electricity of the KeyArena experience thanks to storm.wnba.com's Oakwood Live From Press Row. All night and all season long, Kevin Pelton will be bringing you pregame quotes from coaches and players and observations from the game as it unfolds - on and off the court. Make sure to keep coming back
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Mystical Win
Final: Washington 78, Storm 71

The Storm again had great stretches, but it was Washington who executed better down the stretch to earn the victory and sweep the season series. The Storm dips to 8-10 on the season, and Friday's game vs. San Antonio is starting to look pretty important in terms of beginning some momentum during this stretch that sees the Storm primarily at KeyArena. Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson each had one great half offensively, while Iziane Castro Marques (who tied her career high with 19 points) was brilliant throughout. But Betty Lennox was quiet in the second half after sitting most of the first half because of fouls, and Janell Burse was forced into seven turnovers down low, while the bench was not particularly productive. Kudos to a dangerous-looking Washington team, but the Storm can't allow teams to shoot 58.8% from the field.

Little Player, Big Shot
Second Half: Washington 75, Storm 71

The Storm put themselves in a decent position, with Iziane Castro Marques hitting a jumper to cut the lead to two. Temeka Johnson isolated at the top of the key against Sue Bird, who forced Johnson to her left and into a jumper, but the likely Rookie of the Year nailed it in cold blood to likely put the game away. Johnson hasn't been phenomenal today - 12 points, four assists - but I'm sold.

Painful Play
Second Half: Washington 73, Storm 69

Trailing by two with just under two minutes left, the Storm get a mismatch with Sue Bird defended by Chasity Melvin on the perimeter. But the play was slow in developing and Melvin was able to knock the ball away while ending Bird to the ground, having received a shot in the nose. Washington went the other way for a Temeka Johnson layup, making this a two-possession game with time running out.

Second Half: Washington 69, Storm 66

Tensions beginning to flare up a little bit here at KeyArena. A bit of a hard foul by DeLisha Milton-Jones on Sue Bird going to the basket was followed by a Charlotte Smith-Taylor flagrant foul on Lauren Jackson. That was followed by a bit of jawing, with Smith-Taylor trying to explain herself and Richie Adubato chewing out referee Lamont Simpson. The Storm has to be tough in a tight game with 3:3 to play.

The Stretch
Second Half: Washington 61, Storm 60

Until earlier this year in Washington, the Storm and Mystics had never played a game decided by double-figures. This game will live up to that history, it appears, as neither team has been able to take control in the second half. We've had 13 lead changes in the game, with Izzy Castro Marques at the free-throw line with 7:19 left trying to make it 14.

Second Half: Storm 58, Washington 56

This game is up and down right now, with Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird visibly fatigued before this at timeout at the 10:57 mark. This is not the pace the Mystics like to play at; Washington is the third-slowest team in the WNBA in terms of possessions per game, and beats you down in the halfcourt, as Anne Donovan put it before the game. Perhaps the teams are inspired by the mascots, who are wreaking havoc during the timeout.

Hot Bird
Second Half: Storm 51, Washington 46

Watch out, Washington. After an 0-for-6 first half, Sue Bird has hit all four of her shots in the second half thus far, two of them 3s, propelling the Storm to a 13-2 lead and a 51-46 Storm lead. Richie Adubato took a timeout a moment ago, but it couldn't slow Bird, who came out of the break by hitting the fourth of her shots. Sue has 10 points, all in the last five minutes.

Halftime: Washington 41, Storm 38

Five WNBA mascots from around the league - B.B. Sting of Charlotte, Blaze of Connecticut, Zap of the Shock, Monty of the Monarchs and the San Antonio Fox - have joined Doppler today to celebrate Doppler's birthday. During halftime, the six mascots took on some YMCA kids in a game of Dodgeball, and it was a lot of fun for everyone watching. Maybe not so fun for the kids, as the mascots were doing some cruel taunting.

Strange First Half
Halftime: Washington 41, Storm 38

After the teams went back-and-forth scoring baskets in the first 10 minutes or so of this half, they became very turnover prone during the last four minutes, combining for nine turnovers (of the 19 committed combined in the first half). Great balance for Washington - DeLisha Milton-Jones, who played only five minutes because of foul trouble, was the only player not to score at least four points or the Mystics in the first half.

The Storm played better defense down the stretch. Can they put it all together with Betty Lennox back in the lineup?

Storm Struggling to Keep Up
First Half: Washington 37, Storm 32

Seattle's offense has slowed its pace a little bit, with the Storm down to (still outstanding) 46.4% shoting from the field. But with Washington at 65.2%, the Mystics have opened up a lead as large as seven points with a 5-0 run and then a 7-0 run recently. The Storm has gotten 19 points from forwards Iziane Castro Marques and Lauren Jackson, but the other three starters have combined for only four points. Betty Lennox's low output is all because of fouls, but Sue Bird is 0-for-5 and Janell Burse 1-for-3. Both players need to step it up.

Lennox Neutralized
First Half: Washington 12, Storm 10

Betty Lennox won't likely be a factor the rest of this first half. The Storm guard picked up a foul on the first possession of the game, a second foul a little before the 17 minute mark and a third with 16:06 still left in the first half. That sent Lennox to the sidelines (Tanisha Wright was already up to replace her before the third foul), and presumably she'll be there the rest of the half. Lennox also hobbled off the court after tumbling into a camera when she was called for the third foul, but she's still on the bench and should be okay. Tanisha Wright and Francesca Zara really need to come up big for the Storm in this first half.

Kids Day

With the noon start, today is Kids Day for the Storm, something that will be obvious to everyone at KeyArena when the camp kids get cheering. In addition to a Lauren Jackson poster giveaway, fun on the plaza before the game, and the presence of several other WNBA mascots for Doppler's birthday, several lucky kids have gotten the opportunity to serve as junior staffers alongside some Storm employees. Emily had to follow me around before the game, but don't feel too bad for her - she'll get to join David and Elise on the broadcast later in the day.

"It was cool to meet some of the players," Emily told me.

Emily got a chance to meet her favorite player, Sue Bird, and offered Alicia Thompson $20 if she could hit a shot while seated on the bench. (Fortunately for me, since I would probably have had to pay up, Chelle missed.)

Signing On

In our annual noon game, the Washington Mystics are in Seattle to take on your Storm this afternoon. The Storm is looking to avenge a 64-52 loss in D.C. earlier this season and open the second half of the 2005 season with a victory. With the Mystics hot lately, winning five of their last seven games, it should be a dandy.