Oakwood Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Phoenix
Second Half: Storm 85, 74
After closing out this game, your Seattle Storm has become the 11th team in league history to win 20 games in consecutive years (including multiple appearances for both Houston and Los Angeles). It's a remarkable feat when you consider that no team in the WNBA had rookies play more minutes than the Storm, including 54 minutes tonight and double-figures scoring for both Tanisha Wright (career-high 17) and Suzy Batkovic (11). Sue Bird tied her season high with 20 points and added seven assists and the Storm overcame a brilliant performance from Diana Taurasi, who scored a career-high 31 points. It's been a great regular season, but now those 34 games are just a memory. It's time to defend a championship, folks. Enjoy the ride!
But wait! The largest round of applause all day comes after the game when David Locke reveals that Anne Donovan has signed a multi-year extension to stay in Seattle. Here's to many more wins with Anne for years to come!
Second Half: Storm 72, Phoenix 64
Phoenix isn't quite out of it just yet, but the main drama right now is how many points Diana Taurasi will finish with. She's tied her career already with 29. There's also a little matter of awards. During the last timeout, the KeyArena crowd chanted "MVP" for Lauren Jackson, who is on the bench right now. Several fans also worked together to print and distribute "MVP" signs many fans are holding.
Second Half: Storm 64, Phoenix 54
The Storm's rebounding has suffered since Seattle went to a zone defensively, but Phoenix is now shooting just 37.5% from the field. The Storm is on a 10-2 run to lead it 64-54 with 6:38 to play. You have to wonder where the extra level of effort is from the Mercury tonight. Phoenix, with the notable exceptions of Diana Taurasi (24 points) and Kamila Vodichkova (11 points, 10 rebounds), has not played like a team with its playoff hopes on the line.
Second Half: Storm 58, Phoenix 52
The rookies are carrying the Storm right now in Lauren Jackson's absence. A 7-2 run since the last timeout was all sparked by rookies. Two steals by Francesca Zara, a three-point play by Suzy Batkovic (off a Zara feed) and two scores by Tanisha Wright. Batkovic has eight points and a career-high five assists off the bench, while Tanisha Wright has 12 points on 6-for-7 shooting and is a point off her career high.
Second Half: Storm 51, Phoenix 50
We were just handed a Storm press release talking about the attendance records set by the team this season. This is the second consecutive lower-bowl sellout and the fifth of the season. For the season, the Storm goes to 150,760 fans, the first time the team has passed 150,000 in history. The 11% improvement in attendance is tops in the WNBA.
"This achievement is testament to the wonderful fan base that we have here in Seattle and something we're very proud of," Storm COO Karen Bryant said in the release. "I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to the Storm fans who continue to make KeyArena the best home-court advantage in the league."
Back and Forth
Second Half: Storm 45, Phoenix 41
Already some good stuff for both sides in the second half. Incredible pull-up 3 in transition for Diana Taurasi tied the game at 41, but the Storm answered with two straight scores to draw a Phoenix timeout. Taurasi now has 20, just nine shy of her career high.
Lauren Jackson is officially out for the game with lower back pain. Again, keep in mind that the relative lack of importance of this game played into that decision.
Halftime: Storm 34, Phoenix 31
Our halftime entertainment of the dunking ushers showed it is as dangerous as it looks when fans came out of the crowd to try their hand at dunking off of trampolines and went hard into the backboard (but was okay, fortunately).
89.5 Offensive Rating for the Storm in the first half, 83.8 for Phoenix. Surprisingly defensive battle in the first half.
Lauren Jackson has not come out for the second half yet and Suzy Batkovic will be in her place. We've been told not to make this into a bigger deal than it is. Obviously the Storm might treat things differently if playoff seeding as on the line in this game.
Storm Up 3 at the Half
Halftime: Storm 34, Phoenix 31
The Storm probably feeling okay about going into the locker room with a three-point lead despite nobody, with the possible exception of Tanisha Wright, really having a great game. (Sue Bird also has six points and four assists.) Diana Taurasi and Kamila Vodichkova have 23 of Phoenix's 31 points thus far.
Jessie Kenlaw opines on the KJR broadcast that she expects to see Lauren Jackon back on the court during the second half. If LJ gets it going a little bit, the Storm is in good shape.
LJ to the Locker Room
First Half: Storm 34, Phoenix 31
Not the kind of thing the Storm wanted to see in today's regular-season finale. Lauren Jackson grabs a rebound but comes down funny and does something to her back. She's been replaced by Simone Edwards and has gone back to the locker room for further observation.
At the last timeout, the Storm introduced basketball legend Bill Russell, who is sitting courtside. Russell is a great admirer of the WNBA who has praised the fundamentals relative to the NBA.
Diana Taurasi Show
First Half: Phoenix 27, Storm 24
It's Diana Taurasi's world right now, and we're just living in it. Taurasi has 13 points on 6-for-10 shooting, and almost every one of those makes belongs on the highlight reel. She's had three turnaround jumpers that were made with a high degree of difficulty as well as a couple of great backdoor cuts for layups. Phoenix's offense is coming almost exclusively from Taurasi and Kamila Vodichkova (six points) right now. The Storm has gone cold with the exception of Tanisha Wright, who also has six points.
Phoenix Finding the Range
First Half: Storm 18, Phoenix 16
I'm going to apologize in advance for the poor quality of today's Live From Press Row effort. These teams just play too fast for me to get any typing done while the ball is in play. The Mercury, as expected, has found the touch on offense and has pulled about even with the Storm.
One of the things we're watching today is the possibility of some changes in stat leaders involving the Storm … well, it doesn't look like it's happening. Temeka Johnson would need 20 assists more than Sue Bird to win the assist title, while Lauren Jackson would need to have 25 more points than Sheryl Swoopes and 24 rebounds (as Cheryl Ford is not playing today) to win those categories.
First Half: Storm 7, Phoenix 0
Great start for the Storm in front of this large KeyArena crowd. Two threes for Janell Burse, a Lauren Jackson 3-pointer and a Betty Lennox transition jumper make it 7-0 Storm. Carrie Graf responds by taking a timeout.
Fan Appreciation Day activities kick off with prizes during timeouts as well as messages from Storm players and coaches, starting with Anne Donovan.
Kamila Gets Her Ring
Very emotional moment as Kamila Vodichkova received her 2004 championship ring before the game. Vodichkova got a great introduction from David Locke, who remembered two years ago when the fans saluted a then-injured Vodichkova. That was a key part of Vodichkova's decision to pass up playing for the Czech National Team in the Olympics and play for the Storm last season. Without her, the Storm doesn't win the championship.
"Kamila is just the heart of soul of this franchise," said Donovan.
After coming off the bench in her first two games back from a partially torn ligament in her left wrist, Betty Lennox makes her return to the starting lineup tonight. She got an extra-loud ovation from the KeyArena crowd when she was announced as a starter.
"Betty is more comfortable as a starter," explained Anne Donovan. "For me, I like her punch coming off the bench. But what's important right now is making sure we have the right chemistry going into the playoffs. If she feels more comfortable as a starter, that's what we're going to do. I've had the conversation with Tanisha, now she's that coming off the bench and probably our sixth man or first sub on the perimeter, she's got to be ready. She understands that now."
As Storm broadcaster David Locke just mentioned again to the KeyArena crowd, he's been saying for some time that there is a nice symbolism in today's game. The Storm today hands out the final 2004 championship ring to Kamila Vodichkova prior to the regular-season finale. Today we officially put an end to the 2004 team and go forward to try to win another one. There's also a symbolism in beginning and ending the season with Saturday afternoon games on national TV. There was so much unknown back then, especially after a resounding L.A. win. It's been a roller-coaster season for the Storm, but ultimately a successful one. There's 40 minutes left on Fan Appreciation Day, and I can't wait to see what happens.