Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Houston
Final: Storm 82, Houston 69
We've seen a lot of remarkable things at KeyArena with the Seattle Storm over the last six seasons, from a 20-0 run in the Western Conference Finals to 40-point wins to, well, a WNBA Championship. But I don't think I can recall anything quite like a comeback from down 22 to win going away. The Storm held Houston to seven points in the fourth quarter and finished the game on a 44-9 run. To cap it off, Lauren Jackson, just throwing the ball up at the end of the game, hits from just beyond halfcourt to produce the final 82-69 margin.
Wow. How about that as a way to start the season?
Jackson scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Iziane Castro Marques had 25 (just one shy of her career high), Betty Lennox had 15 and Sue Bird had 11. After shooting 56.3% from the field in the first half, Houston hit just 8-for-29 from the field after halftime and 3-for-16 in the fourth quarter. Wow, wow, wow.
Let's enjoy this one for a little while, shall we? But after that, the Storm will return to KeyArena Wednesday to take on Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter and the much-improved Phoenix Mercury, easy winners tonight in their opener against San Antonio. Click here to get your tickets to what promises to be a great game.
Fourth Quarter: Storm 69, Houston 66
Is this remarkable or what? The Seattle Storm is on a 31-6 run, including 8-0 over the last three minutes, to take a three-point lead in this game. It was a Sue Bird layup with just under four minutes left that gave the Storm its first lead since the second quarter at 67-66. That was followed by a gorgeous backdoor play to Iziane Castro Marques that gave us our current 69-66 score as we take our last mandatory timeout.
We Have a Ballgame
Fourth Quarter: Houston 66, Storm 61
The Storm's run is now 23-6, pulling them within five. A moment ago, they had a chance to tie when Sue Bird missed a three-pointer in transition. Sheryl Swoopes followed with a score in the paint. The rest in the first half has allowed the Storm's starters to go almost the entire way here after halftime. The only reserve Anne Donovan has used has been Ashley Robinson, who has played very well, in place of Janell Burse.
The crowd, which has been incredible in the second half, includes Lenny Wilkens and Karen Bryant at courtside center court. Professional Basketball Club, LLC Chairman Clayton Bennett is also here, preferring to watch from a suite upstairs. It's time for the train at KeyArena, drawing kids from all corners of the Key.
Interesting Going to the Fourth
End Third Quarter: Houston 62, Storm 54
The Storm's run topped out at 14-0, but a Betty Lennox buzzer-beating layup has moved the Storm within eight as we head to the fourth quarter. That's close enough to make things very interesting and get this crowd going.
Ashley Shields has 18 points and is 8-for-9 from the free-throw line, but she found the going not quite so easy during the third quarter as the Storm really locked down defensively. It will be interesting to see how she responds to the pressure of the fourth quarter. Before tonight's game, I asked Karleen Thompson about Shields and she noted that the Comets were trying to change her decision-making, a difficult process. Shields made great decisions in the first two and a half quarters, but made some mistakes that aided the Storm's run, including failing to get the ball upcourt before drawing an eight-second violation.
Storm on the Run
Third Quarter: Houston 60, Storm 47
After falling behind by as many as 22 points, the Storm has answered with a 9-0 run, getting some big shots and stops to force Karleen Thompson to take a timeout and also to get the KeyArena crowd back into the game. Not to extend the Game 3 comparison too far - it remains a pretty painful memory to anyone who was there - but in that game the Storm had a run in the third quarter, but Dawn Staley quelled the uprising with an enormous triple. Without that veteran presence at guard, who will step up for Houston?
Houston Pouring it On
Third Quarter: Houston 58, Storm 38
It's now a 26-3 Comets run dating back to the midway portion of the second quarter. They lead by 20. If this feels familiar, it's because it is. The Comets did something similar in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals series between these two in 2005, then did it again in May 2006 the last time they visited KeyArena. No matter who's at guard, there's something about the Comets that has been kryptonite to the Storm.
Storm Down 14
Third Quarter: Houston 51, Storm 37
The absence of Sheryl Swoopes hasn't hurt the Comets early in this period. They've got the first five points, including an Ashley Shields triple, and have extended their lead to 14 - the largest it has been. Anne Donovan follows with a timeout. The Storm has not scored in three trips up the floor during the third quarter and the offense looks totally discombobulated.
The update on Swoopes is that she has leg cramps. She's getting worked on and is expected to return.
Third Quarter: Houston 46, Storm 37
Sheryl Swoopes is not on the floor for Houston to start the third quarter. The trainer was looking at her on the Comets bench at the end of the warm-up period. Ashley Shields has replaced her on the court. We'll have more as soon as we hear anything.
Houston Has Momentum at the Half
Halftime: Houston 46, Storm 37
The Comets held the Storm scoreless for over five minutes late in the second quarter and ended the period on a 14-2 run to take their largest lead, nine, to the break. Iziane Castro Marques has 18 and Lauren Jackson 11, but the rest of the Storm has combined for just eight points on 3-for-15 shooting. The Storm also has 10 turnovers at the break.
We'll see what Sue Bird can do to turn things around in the second half. Bird did not play in the second quarter after picking up two first-quarter fouls. The Storm did not want Bird in further foul trouble.
Bowl-tossing unicylicst Red Panda is performing during tonight's halftime. "I can do that," said Adia Barnes during a radio break, quickly adding, "Not!"
This is funny, actually. Adia's been here dozens of times, but as a player, so she's not used to watching the halftime acts.
Storm Takes the Lead
Second Quarter: Houston 39, Storm 35
The Storm just gave back everything they had gained by allowing the Comets a 7-0 run of their own. The defensive rotations have been slow for the Storm tonight, and Anne Donovan cannot be pleased after emphasizing defense throughout training camp. Houston is still shooting 53.3% from the field and has nine assists on 16 field-goal attempts.
Surprisingly long run for Tanisha Wright here in this second quarter. She has played the entire period at the point with no sign of Sue Bird yet. Anne Donovan has really opened up her rotation. With Shyra Ely checking in at this timeout, all 11 Storm players will have seen action.
Storm Takes the Lead
Second Quarter: Storm 35, Houston 32
7-0 run for the Storm with Wendy Palmer on the floor for the first time tonight. Palmer quickly grabbed a rebound and had a score in the paint - using her posterior to clear space in a veteran move. I feel like I'm much more optimistic about Palmer's recovery than the coaching staff has been, but moves like that make me optimistic.
For Houston, Sheryl Swoopes has been on fire. Swoopes has 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting and beat Storm rookie Katie Gearlds a couple of times when they were matched up against each other. Anne Donovan had a great line about Swoopes before the game.
"Sheryl is like the Russians," said Donovan. "We play Russia in preliminary rounds, they just kind of dog it and lull us into thinking when we play them when it counts that they're not very good and then they bring it. That's Sheryl. In the three preseason games, she's been very under the radar, but when the lights come on tonight she'll be ready."
End First Quarter: Houston 27, Storm 26
So, just like you expected, the stars on either side in the first quarter have been Iziane Castro Marques and Ashley Shields. Castro Marques had 15 points and made four three-pointers in the first quarter, tying her career high. Shields scored eight points, including a triple and a three-point play. Wow. If Shields is really this good, the Comets might just have a steal on their hands.
The Storm needs to tighten up the defense after allowing 61.1% shooting in the first quarter. Katie Gearlds has made her WNBA debut, by the way, and drew the love of the crowd when she got two offensive boards before drawing a foul in the act of shooting.
First Quarter: Houston 18, Storm 16
Through the first six and a half minutes, this game has been played at an extremely fast pace. Shots at both ends up are going fast, particularly from downtown - already nine three-point attempts between the two teams. The Storm opened up with the first six points, but the Comets answered with a 7-0 run to immediately get right back in it. Iziane Castro Marques leads the Storm with nine points, hitting a pair of three-pointers and adding a three-point play.
After Erin Grant picked up three (3!) early fouls, Ashley Shields checked in at the point and the Comets first-round pick has acquitted herself quite nicely indeed. Shields hit both free throws after being fouled by Betty Lennox in the act of shooting. Then Shields hit a three-pointer with Sue Bird flying out at her.
Now we're really ready to go. Amidst a Storm-appropriate cloud of fog backlit by green and strobe lights, the entire Storm roster was introduced moments ago to huge applause from a very good crowd here at KeyArena. Sue Bird thanked the crowd for coming out and told the fans they can help the Storm make 2007 a memorable season. Let's tip this off.
Also part of the pregame was a ceremony honoring David Locke for his seven years as the Storm's play-by-play broadcaster. I know you're going to grow to love Alan Horton - if you haven't already based on The Horton Report, the preseason games and the events he's emceed - but David had a special relationship here as the first "Voice of the Storm" (and a high-pitched one it was) and he will be missed.
The Green Backcourt in Red
The Seattle Storm is wearing green warmups, but it is the Houston Comets who have the green backcourt tonight, featuring rookies Dee Davis, Erin Grant and Ashley Shields. When we talked to Houston Coach Karleen Thompson before tonight's game, she was sure she was going to start Grant - a third-round pick by the Storm in 2006 who did not make the team - at the point, but wasn't sure about shooting guard. She's opted for veteran Hamchétou Maïga-Ba - a small forward in Sacramento - over two-year vet Roneeka Hodges.
"Our mentality is really to put pressure on their backcourt and make them make mistakes," Storm Coach Anne Donovan said before the game. "Our idea is to really put the heat on them. It's the backcourt that we really want to take advantage of."
We'll be keeping a close watch on this group all night long.
Welcome to Opening Night. The Seattle Storm is back after a long off-season and a short training camp and will take on the Houston Comets to kick off the 2007 season. We're 20 minutes away from Storm basketball and the excitement is building in KeyArena. Alan Horton and Adia Barnes are to my left, ready for their inaugural regular-season broadcast on 1150 AM KKNW. The Comets bring two of the league's top superstars in Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson, but also a brand-new backcourt that is very young. It should be a good start to a great season, so stay with us all night long for the latest.