Live From Press Row - Storm vs. New York
Final: Storm 84, New York 53
With Katie Gearlds getting on the scoreboard inside the final minute (Anne Donovan drew up a play in a timeout to get the rookie a bucket), the Storm extends the final margin of victory to 31 points. That's easily the most lopsided win this year and also the seventh win by 30 or more in franchise history, six of them right here at KeyArena.
Lots of heroes tonight. Start that list with Iziane Castro Marques, who had 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Don't forget Betty Lennox, who grabbed a season-high 10 rebounds and handed out six assists despite Achilles tendinitis that left her questionable for the game. Lauren Jackson recorded her fourth double-double in the last five games with 12 points and 11 boards and Sue Bird ran it all from the point. Equally impressive was the Storm's defense, which limited New York to 32.8% shooting.
The Storm will be right back here at KeyArena on Tuesday to take on the Los Angeles Sparks. Even without Lisa Leslie in the lineup, the Sparks are still a serious rival for the Storm, not to mention a competitor in the battle for playoff spots in the Western Conference. It should be a great battle as we celebrate the Fourth of July a day early. Click here to get your tickets now!
Fourth Quarter: Storm 82, New York 53
The French-speaking trio for the Sonics - Frenchmen MickaŽl Gelabale and Johan Petro and Senegalese center Mouhamed Sene - has been courtside tonight and is enjoying this Storm clinic. The one disappointment is that Petro did not show off his dancing skills during "The Train," as he did at one point last season (see photo below). Petro and Gelabale currently seem to be taking some photos. I'm not sure how well Johan can see, given he is wearing sunglasses (at night).
Those three players will be joined by lottery picks Kevin Durant and Jeff Green starting tomorrow in Las Vegas as the Sonics prepare to play in the Rocky Mountain Revue Summer League starting Friday. SUPERSONICS.COM will have complete coverage of that action.
Fourth Quarter: Storm 68, New York 40
Tonight is the third straight game and fourth in the last five where Shyra Ely has played backup wing minutes for the Storm. I asked Anne Donovan before the game about where Ely and rookie Katie Gearlds stand in the rotation.
"I think Shyra's experience is definitely coming into play right now," explained Donovan. "As there's more pressure on us to execute in games and win games, I think that's where experience comes in a little more. And yet, against any type of zone coverage, I have total confidence that Katie can come in and spread that zone out."
My observation during training camp, one definitely shared by the coaching staff, was that the Ely we were seeing was an improved version of the one that played two seasons in San Antonio. That seems to be playing out. Ely hit a three-pointer early in this fourth quarter and is now 5-of-7 from downtown this season. That's very impressive when you consider Ely hit a combined 11 threes in 40 attempts while playing for the Silver Stars. Last year, the Storm's bench totaled only 20 three-pointers all season. We're not yet at the midway point, but this year's group already has 17, including 15 by Gearlds (10) and Ely.
All Storm Through Three Quarters
End Third Quarter: Storm 68, New York 40
The Storm outscored New York 23-12 in the third quarter to take a lead as large as 31 points. That is indeed the largest Storm lead of the season, previously 26 against Phoenix early in the season right here at KeyArena. A three-pointer gave Iziane Castro Marques 22 points. It's the fifth time in her career Castro Marques has scored 20-plus points and three of those have come against the New York Liberty.
Storm Pouring it On
Third Quarter: Storm 63, New York 35
All Storm right now. Seattle has outscored the Liberty 18-7 since halftime to open up a 28-point lead. That might be the Storm's largest lead of this season. Iziane Castro Marques is up to 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting, Betty Lennox has a season-high 10 rebounds, Lauren Jackson is two rebounds away from a double-double. It's just all working right now and it's a thing of beauty to behold.
Castro Marques Carries Storm to Half
Halftime: Storm 45, New York 28
There's just something about the Liberty. Iziane Castro Marques loves to play New York, scoring 20 points twice against them, once in each of 2005 and 2006. She's on her way to another one of those games, scoring five straight points and handing out an assist on the last three possessions of the first half. That gives her 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including three three-pointers, as of halftime. That's not bad given Castro Marques last scored double-figures on June 12 at Chicago.
The Storm ends the first half of play on a 13-2 run to take a 17-point lead to the break. It's the fourth time this season the Storm has led by double-figures at halftime, all of those games naturally wins. New York shot just 34.4% in the first half and had 10 turnovers. The Storm also did a great job holding the Liberty, the league's best team at shooting the three, to 4-of-14 (28.6%) from downtown.
Let's also make sure to note the efforts of Betty Lennox, who struggled with her shot (2-for-8) in the first half but is on her way to a triple-double with six points, eight rebounds and six assists at the half.
Second Quarter: Storm 34, New York 26
Before tonight's game, one of the topics of discussion was how the New York has gone from an also-ran at 13-21 to a contender in the East at 8-7 despite trading star player Becky Hammon.
"I was (surprised)," said Anne Donovan. "I thought they made great moves but I didn't know the impact that Becky Hammon's experience leaving would have."
I'm not sure Donovan's New York counterpart, Pat Coyle, totally expected her team to play this well easy. She pointed to the fact that, as young as her team is (especially after losing Erin Thorn for the time being to a sprained right ankle), they are competitive.
"We may not win every night," said Coyle, "but they compete every night. I'm happy with that."
Second Quarter: Storm 28, New York 24
The Storm managed to roll up a big first-quarter lead despite the fact that Lauren Jackson was very quiet, going scoreless in the period. She's now up to four points on 1-for-4 shooting but has mostly contributed at the defensive end with a pair of blocks officially plus another swat that I say but went uncounted. The Storm got lots of other production in the first quarter but has gone cold in this period, hitting just one of 10 shots.
At the other end, back-to-back threes from Lisa Willis and Cathrine Kraayeveld briefly got New York back within two. I've long been a big Willis fan, but she could not find playing time in Los Angeles before being traded to the Liberty for Sherill Baker a little over a week ago. Willis has two triples and a game-high eight points.
Bird Gets 1,000
End First Quarter: Storm 24, New York 16
Sue Bird fed Wendy Palmer in the post for a layup with 1:08 left in the first quarter and it was a historic pass - the 1,000th of Bird's WNBA career. The Storm All-Star is the fifth player in WNBA history to hand out 1,000 assists, joining Ticha Penicheiro, Teresa Weatherspoon, Dawn Staley and Shannon Johnson. She's also the youngest to hit the mark, doing so at 26 years, 255 days. It took 179 games for Bird to get 1,000 assists, putting her third in WNBA history.
The Storm leads by eight points after one quarter, but it feels like it could be a lot more. The Storm was much more energetic during that period, outrebounding New York 12-6 and hitting four three-pointers. A wild end to the quarter favored the Storm, which went on a 9-2 run to close the period.
First Quarter: Storm 13, New York 9
After Sue Bird attempted just four shots and was held scoreless in Thursday's loss in Houston, Anne Donovan was asked before tonight's game how many shots Bird would ideally take per game. Donovan went with 10-15, which is, alas, a lot more than four. So far, Bird is on a much higher pace. She's taken three shots, all of them from beyond the arc, and hit two of them for a game-high six points as the Storm holds the early four-point lead.
It's interesting the different perspective watching a team in person offers. I've seen the Liberty play on TV a ton - virtually every New York game is on MSG and, therefore, NBA TV. Yet I hadn't really picked up how much pressure the Liberty puts on opponents in the passing lanes. Loree Moore is very active, taking advantage of her length., That's part of why New York has been so good on defense.
The Storm will start its usual five of Sue Bird, Betty Lennox, Iziane Castro Marques, Lauren Jackson and Janell Burse for the 14th time in 15 games this season, but there were question marks about a couple of the players. Guard Betty Lennox was officially questionable after undergoing an MRI on her right Achilles tendon, which has been sore for some time, but will play after the MRI showed nothing different from the tendinitis Lennox has had.
"She's been managing it as best she could," said Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan. "We talked a long time ago about her sitting out and she didn't want to do that. She just wants to keep playing through it. We'll just continue to deal with it day by day."
Janell Burse ran off the KeyArena court this morning at shootaround after injuring her finger and Donovan feared the worst - a fracture or ligament damage. Fortunately, tests showed merely a dislocation and Burse will give it a go.
"She had some pain medication injected today to help them try to set it again," said Donovan. "I think that will probably still be helping her this evening."
The New York Liberty visits KeyArena tonight to face the Seattle Storm in our first Sunday home game of a season that is no longer so young. The Storm comes in .500 at 7-7, while the Liberty is a half-game better at 8-7. That makes New York one of the season's biggest surprises. The Liberty had lost three in a row before winning Friday night in Los Angeles. The Storm is looking to win for the third time in its last four games. Stay with us all night long for the latest.