Oakwood Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Houston (Game 2)
Final: Houston 67, Storm 64
The Storm all over the place on the final possession, throwing the ball inside the 3-point line and then having it dribble nearly out of bounds. Betty Lennox heaves the ball towards the basket, but it's nowhere close and the Comets have earned a 67-64 win. I hope you didn't think this was going to be easy, that the Storm was just going to waltz in here and win because of KeyArena. Not these two teams, not this series. You can't question the Storm's intensity, but their execution as not at championship level tonight. So that means we'll be back here this time on Saturday for a winner-take-all Game 3, the third of those in Storm franchise history (Seattle is 2-0, as you might guess). Tickets for that game are on sale now, so make sure you don't miss the game of the year so far!
One Last Chance
Second Half: Houston 67, Storm 64
Sue Bird's lengthy 3 attempt is off, but the Storm will get another chance as the ball went out off of Houston with 2.3 seconds left.
Need a 3
Second Half: Houston 67, Storm 64
Two free throws by Janeth Arcain and it's a three-point game. The Storm needs a long ball to tie it and is out of timeouts.
Second Half: Houston 65, Storm 64
I'm not sure I'm going to be able to understand what I just saw until I see a replay. First, Dawn Staley throws away an inbounds pass, an inexcusable mistake for a three-time Olympian). The Storm nearly turns it over, gets it to Betty Lennox, who forces a shot and misses. Janell Burse momentarily grabs the rebound, but has it ripped away.
Second Half: Houston 65, Storm 64
The Storm gets a Betty Lennox layup to get within one. With 30.2 seconds left, they'll have to foul if they are unable to force a turnover after Houston's 20-second TO.
Storm Needs a Play
Second Half: Houston 65, Storm 62
Two Sheryl Swoopes free throws make it 65-62 Houston. Lauren Jackson got a look at a tying 3, but missed everything. The Storm forced a Tina Thompson miss and tried to tie again with Lennox. She missed, but Jackson came up with the rebound before the ball was knocked out of bounds by Houston. Anne Donovan takes timeout with 35.4 left on the clock and her team down three.
Comets Pull Ahead
Second Half: Houston 63, Storm 62
After responding great to the situation and taking a 62-59 lead on a Janell Burse layup, the Storm with a minute-long lapse. That's not fair; Michelle Snow's layup was simply a great play by Snow against tough defense. But then Sheryl Swoopes overplayed a a pass, stole it and went the other direction for a layup and the lead. Then Betty Lennox is called for charging, giving Houston the ball back with a chance to add to the lead.
It's Betty Time
Second Half: Storm 59, Houston 57
The Storm offense stagnant, here comes Betty Lennox to save the day. After a long jumper, Lennox splitís the defense for a score off glass from the left side plus the foul to give the Storm back the lead. Van Chancellor responds with a timeout, not wanting to see a repeat of Tuesday's game in Houston. Anne Donovan is giving a quick blow to Sue Bird, and it is critical the Storm plays well with their point guard on the bench.
Eight Minutes Left
Second Half: Storm 55, Houston 53
Okay, 7:56 to be technical as we go to our penultimate media timeout. The teams are separated b y just two points. In eight minutes of game time, we'll know whether we're back here Saturday night or whether the Storm will be moving on while the Comets head back to Houston. Who will want it more? Who will come through in the clutch? It does not get much better than this.
Free Throw Differential
Second Half: Storm 53, Houston 49
The difference in free throws between these teams tonight just remarkable. NBA TV's feed shows the graphic that indicates the Storm is 4-for-4, Houston 19-for-22. Sheryl Swoopes just went to the free throw on a call that was highly questionable, as it appeared there was no contact from Iziane Castro Marques and that Swoopes just badly missed the shot. Anne Donovan had about as dramatic a reaction as she's capable of, bending over in shock.
But the free throws have nothing to do with the Storm falling apart against Houston's full-court pressure, first needing to take a 20-second timeout and then turning the ball over in backcourt. Sue Bird checks back into the game, but not before another Storm turnover.
If the Storm wins this game, it's going to be on Lauren Jackson's (sore) back. She has 14.
Second Half: Storm 49, Houston 43
Never underestimate the heart of a champion. That phrase was uttered about another Houston basketball team, but there's no question it applies to the Comets as well. Every time the Storm crowd gets really going, Houston answers with a score.
Second Half: Storm 47, Houston 39
Was Lauren Jackson's block the best I've ever seen? It was pretty special.
Second Half: Storm 47, Houston 37
Here's your update on Iziane Castro Marques - she's back in the game and appears to be moving normally. Great news for the Storm, who played even without her. On her first possession back in the game, Castro Marques drills a 3. Outstanding! Sue Bird finally hitís a 3 and it's 47-37 Storm and the roof is about to come off KeyArena.
Castro Marques Down
Second Half: Storm 35, Houston 31
Absolutely not the start the Storm wanted to this second half, as Iziane Castro Marques went down right in front of me while guarding Sheryl Swoopes and collapsed, holding her right foot or heel. She's walking off the court and to the bench with some assistance, not putting a lot of weight on the foot. She'll be replaced by Tanisha Wright. How much more can you ask of this rookie?
Looking at a replay, it appears Castro Marques went down after planting. We'll let you know if we hear anything.
Halftime: Storm 35, Houston 31
Storm's offensive rating: 89.7. Houston is all the way down at 81.7, so not great offense for either side. Not great offensive rebounding either, as just two for each side. Anne Donovan likes the defense, but the key is to get the win.
Out of the Penalty
Halftime: Storm 35, Houston 31
The Storm escapes the penalty having surrendered an incredible 15 free throws (in 18 attempts) but still leading this game by four, 35-31. The Comets are shooting under 40% from the field and have not hit a 3, so almost all their offensive success has come at the foul line. If the Storm can make better defensive decisions in the second half and continue packing it in, Houston may struggle. (Then again, Sheryl Swoopes might get hot.)
On the other side o the court, the Comets have, as Anne Donovan predicted, used more full-court pressure. That's only forced six Storm turnovers, but Seattle has looked discombobulated at times. Only six shots for Lauren Jackson, who has hit four of them to score eight points. She needs more in the second half. Sue Bird continues to look for her shot in this series, as she shot 2-for-7 in the first half.
Not the Stars' Night
First Half: Storm 33, Houston 29
Sheryl Swoopes joins Lauren Jackson on the bench with three fouls. (Well, not literally - she's on the other bench, of course.) This is the second straight game she's drawn three fouls in the first half.
First Half: Storm 31, Houston 22
The free-throw line is truly keeping the Comets in the game right now. If Dominique Canty hitís the free throws she'll get after this timeout, half of Houston's points will have come on free throws. It's 10-2 Comets in terms of points at the foul line. The Storm has got to pull back a touch, as three players - Iziane Castro Marques, Lauren Jackson and Janell Burse - have two fouls.
Three members of the Sonics coaching staff - Head Coach Bob Weiss and assistants Bob Hill and Walt Rock - introduced in a suite at the last timeout. Also in attendance tonight are Bill Russell (for the second straight game), John Johnson and Slick Watts (usually a fixture at Storm games, though I can't recall seeing a lot of him this season).
As I type, LJ picks up an ill-advised third foul.
First Half: Storm 27, Houston 16
The Storm really daring the Comets to win this game from the perimeter with some aggressive double-teaming. Right now, Houston is not equal to that task.
That could, however, be changed by free throws. The Comets are in the penalty with 6:52 left in the first half, and with the Houston offense sputtering, the free-throw line is the last place Anne Donovan wants them.
Frustration From Swoopes
First Half: Storm 25, Houston 16
This is not the Sheryl Swoopes we're used to seeing - poised, in control. Unable to get through a Suzy Batkovic screen, she just pushes Batkovic backwards to draw a foul. Then, after getting to the basket for an easy layup that somehow falls out, Swoopes crashes into Betty Lennox on the sideline to draw her second foul (and plenty of boos from this Storm crowd, which gave her a hearty round of applause when the starting lineups were introduced. Van Chancellor has pulled her from the game. I can't say I'm particularly excited to see how she responds when she returns.
During the timeout, Doppler slips and "accidentally" spills cake on a Comets fan. Gotcha!
Houston Makes a Run
First Half: Storm 21, Houston 16
Six straight points for the Comets out of the timeout. Just as I'm about to write "Never underestimate the heart of a champion," however, Sheryl Swoopes doesn't go hard after a poor pass by Tina Thompson, then puts her head down and almost gives up on the play heading the other direction. I have never seen that before from Sheryl Swoopes. But the run continues.
On one play I think Dominique Canty was signaling she could not hear the play being called. It's that loud here. This is a true playoff crowd.
Some poor decision-making on both sides in the early part of this game. Very sloppy.
What Bad Back?
First Half: Storm 17, Houston 6
Forgive Houston Coach Van Chancellor if he's a little dubious about just how hurt Lauren Jackson is. The MVP looked awfully healthy as she picked off a pass intended for Tina Thompson and went the other direction, finishing with a layup off glass over All-Defense First Teamer Sheryl Swoopes. LJ has six points and the Storm has ridden the energy of the crowd to a 17-6 lead a little under six minutes in. Van Chancellor responds by taking timeout.
Burse Playing Big
First Half: Storm 9, Houston 4
New Orleans native Janell Burse obviously has a lot on her mind right now as she deals with not knowing about her family's long-term future while also trying to play the Comets. She had eight points and two rebounds in Game 1, which is okay production but not her Most Improved Player level. Through the first four minutes tonight, Burse has been brilliant, posting six points and three rebounds. She's made a couple of powerful moves around the basket for scores. If Burse can outplay Michelle Snow (no points), the Storm is in great shape. Anne Donovan reiterated before the game that the respective centers are the key matchup.
Lo and behold, Snow has been replaced by rookie Sancho Lyttle.
First Half: Houston 2, Storm 0
We have our first quarter of the WNBA Finals filled out. The Indiana Fever beats the New York Liberty 58-50 to sweep the series 2-0 and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Bird Dishes, Assists
One of the reasons Orender traveled to Seattle was to present Storm point guard Sue Bird with the Cascade Dish and Assist Award for leading the WNBA in assists per game at 5.9. It's Bird's first assist title, and she was all smiles as Orender and Storm COO Karen Bryant presented her the Tiffany trophy. This crowd is already raucous and gave Bird a huge ovation.
Orender in the House
WNBA President Donna Orender, making her tour of the league's playoffs, is in KeyArena tonight to watch the Storm and the Comets. Before the game, she spoke to the Seattle media about the status of the league. Some notable points:
At last, the WNBA Playoffs have returned to KeyArena. After a huge 75-67 win in Houston on Tuesday, the Storm returns home with a chance to end the series tonight in front of the home crowd. Of course, the Houston Comets want no part of that whatsoever, an we can expect a tremendous fight from the proud four-time champions. Van Chancellor has busted out the fuchsia shirt tonight, so you know it's a big game. It should be outstanding, so stay with us all night long for updates on the action.