Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Detroit
Storm Beats League Leaders
Final: Storm 75, Detroit 67
I thought Brian Agler had a really apt comment to Dick Fain on the pregame show on 1150 AM KKNW. The Storm's head coach paid respect to Detroit, calling the Shock one of the league's best teams, but then noted that this is the kind of the team the Storm has to beat to accomplish what it wants to do this season. The Storm got off to a terrific start and never relinquished the lead, making all the plays that were necessary to hold the Shock at bay down the stretch. The defense was terrific, holding Detroit to 34.3% shooting, and the Storm got great shooting from downtown. Seattle had been last in the WNBA, making 27.0% from three-point range. Tonight, that number was 54.5% on 6-of-11.
The majority of the Storm's scoring came from three players: Lauren Jackson, with 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting; Sheryl Swoopes, with 15; and Sue Bird, who scored 14. The other two starters, Swin Cash and Yolanda Griffith, added a combined 15 points and the Storm got a couple of big buckets from the bench. Ball movement, again, was a major theme tonight. The Storm finished with 20 assists on 28 field goals. Everyone contributed at the defensive end to quiet Deanna Nolan, who scored five points on dismal 2-of-15 shooting.
If you missed the game, were here or just want a second look, FSN will be re-airing its broadcast on Monday at Noon.
The Storm will look to remain undefeated at KeyArena on Wednesday, when the defending WNBA champions come to town. The Phoenix Mercury started slowly but has played better recently, getting an impressive win last night at Los Angeles in the home opener for the Sparks. It's always a great contest when these two teams with all the friends on both sides get together. Diana Taurasi will be celebrating her 26th birthday, but the Storm wants to be rude hosts. It will also be Dads & Daughters Night presented by Fanhouse.com as the Storm celebrates Father's Day a little early. Get your tickets now for that game!
Clock is Storm's Ally
Fourth Quarter: Storm 69, Detroit 61
With 2:35 left, the clock can't run fast enough for the Storm. Tanisha Wright came up with a big jumper followed by a Swin Cash score to push the Storm's lead back to 10, but Katie Smith answered with a pullup in the early offense and now Kara Braxton is headed back to the free-throw line with a chance to pull Detroit within six.
If the Storm gets another big shot, it might come from Sheryl Swoopes. The veteran has made a couple of jumpers against Detroit's zone and two threes overall, giving her 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
Here Comes the Shock
Fourth Quarter: Storm 65, Detroit 58
The Storm has managed to withstand every Detroit run tonight, but the toughest test could be coming right now. After Doppler's Train concludes, Kara Braxton is headed to the free-throw line with the opportunity to bring the Shock within six points. It's been a very quick run; the Storm led by 13 and then 12 very recently, but a Katie Smith three and Braxton's score have come in quick succession.
Detroit has gone to a 2-3 zone defensively but hasn't had a great deal of success stopping the Storm, still shooting 53.3% from the field. However, the Shock has been much more efficient on offense in the second half. Smith is a big reason for that. 1-of-8 from the field in the first half, she's 4-of-8 since halftime with a couple of three-pointers.
Storm by 10 to the Fourth
End Third Quarter: Storm 57, Detroit 47
The Storm got a little out of control in a bad stretch of a couple of possessions, allowing Detroit to sneak within seven points, but an enormous Sheryl Swoopes three-pointer has the lead back to double-figures as we head to the final period. This could be a big stretch for the Storm's bench as it gets minutes early in the fourth. Other than foul trouble, the reserves have played well, but their minutes have been limited.
Lots of focus on athletic activities tonight as part of WNBA Fit Night. Earlier, youngsters competed at doing push-ups. During the quarter break, we had teams with one person on their hands and the other carrying them.
LJ is Feeling It
Third Quarter: Storm 54, Detroit 41
At times, there's a danger of taking the MVP, Lauren Jackson, for granted. She's so good on such a consistent basis that you occasionally forget how incredible she is. Tonight, Jackson hasn't necessarily been brilliant but she has been so steady for the Storm. She's made eight of her 10 shots to score 22 points and has done it in a variety of different fashions from all areas on the floor.
Weathering the Storm
Third Quarter: Storm 49, Detroit 38
There's a definite sense coming out of halftime that the Detroit Shock has turned up the intensity level, trying to overcome the sluggishness of playing a back-to-back and the third game in four nights. Detroit has been pounding the offensive glass with what I believe is the team's best lineup - a three-guard attack with Alexis Hornbuckle, Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith and Cheryl Ford and Plenette Pierson up front. Still, if Lauren Jackson is able to complete a three-point play coming out of this timeout, the Storm will have the same 12-point advantage the team had at the half. The longer the Storm can keep Detroit at bay, the more likely fatigue will become a factor.
Tonight is March of Dimes Night as well as WNBA Fit Night, and halftime featured a moving testimonial about March of Dimes from the Storm's spokesperson, CEO Karen Bryant. Bryant has a personal connection after her daughter was born prematurely in April. She's doing well and was in the video with Bryant.
Complete First Half for Storm
Halftime: Storm 40, Detroit 28
The Storm takes a 12-point lead to the locker room after a terrific first-half performance, particularly on the defensive end of the floor. The Storm limited Detroit to 26.3% shooting. Katie Smith and Deanna Nolan, both so hot for the Shock recently, have shot a combined 2-of-15 from the field. I think fatigue has played a factor in that; Detroit is playing its third game in the last four nights. However, the Storm has also forced Smith and Nolan into a number of difficult shots. The lack of production from the Shock's starting five, which has combined for but six points, is really remarkable.
On the offensive end, the Storm has been sharing the ball very well. Out of the team's 14 field goals, 10 have been assisted - including five assists for Sue Bird. Lauren Jackson was feeling it in the first half, scoring 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting. After turnovers were an issue on the road trip, the Storm has coughed it up just five times tonight.
Storm Maintaining Lead
Second Quarter: Storm 34, Detroit 26
We've seen a couple of runs by the Detroit Shock in this first half, but the Storm has managed to counter each time. Detroit has never gotten much closer than the five-point margin a moment ago before Sue Bird knocked down a big three-pointer. The longer the Storm can force the Shock to play from behind, the better.
We've seen a number of important local politicians in attendance at Storm games this season, and that continues tonight. Washington Governor Chris Gregoire is sitting courtside with Anne Levinson and Ginny Gilder of Force 10 Hoops L.L.C., as is Justice Mary Fairhurst from the Washington State Supreme Court.
Storm Overcoming Foul Trouble
Second Quarter: Storm 31, Detroit 22
We've talked lately about foul trouble for Storm center Yolanda Griffith, who has averaged five fouls a game over the last five games. Tonight has been more of the same for Griffith, who had two fouls in the first quarter and picked up her third early here in the second. This time, she has company. Backup center Ashley Robinson, who has given the Storm some good minutes, also picked up her third foul a moment ago, while Tanisha Wright had three fouls in the first quarter alone.
Kara Braxton has been a foul-drawing machine for the Shock. She's gotten to the free-throw line six times in the early going, accounting for all five of her points. The Detroit bench has outscored the team's starting lineup 18-4 thus far.
Smith Faces Mentors
End First Quarter: Storm 19, Detroit 13
When Katie Smith looks at the Storm's bench, it's like a version of "This Is Your Life." Not only did Smith play for Storm Head Coach Brian Agler with the Columbus Quest of the ABL and the Minnesota Lynx, Storm Assistant Coach Nancy Darsch was Smith's head coach at Ohio State University.
"Obviously they're trying to win and trying to strategize," Smith said before the game. "You're trying to go out and do what you do. We spent a lot of hours in the gym together. They've both added to my game over the years. We have a mutual respect. I appreciate and respect what they do - had a lot of good years with them and won with them. I'm just glad they're still doing things and still helping players and still doing their job."
Getting After It Defensively
First Quarter: Storm 11, Detroit 2
We've seen great defense from the Seattle Storm in the early going, holding the Shock to 9.1% (1-11) shooting so far and taking a big lead with a 9-0 run. As Brian Agler wanted, the Storm has been aggressive at both ends of the floor. Defensively, they're making life difficult for the Shock. At the offensive end, the Storm has been able to get to the free-throw line. Also, Sheryl Swoopes has given the Storm a nice lift, knocking down a three-pointer and going end-to-end after a steal for a layup.
Where the Storm still needs to clean things up is on the defensive glass. Detroit has four possessions with multiple looks at the basket. The Storm only holds a 5-4 rebounding edge despite the fact that most of the misses have come at the Shock's end of the floor.
Smith had 33 points against the Storm Wednesday in Detroit on her birthday and followed it up with 30 points last night in Sacramento. So how does the Storm stop her?
"Her birthday's not today, so maybe it plays in," said Agler. "And she had 30 last night. I don't know - how many times has someone hit three straight games of 30 points?"
Presumably Agler meant that rhetorically, but it was a challenge for me. I looked it up and that's only happened once in league history - Cynthia Cooper did it for the Houston Comets during the WNBA's first season. So far tonight, the Storm has done an excellent job on Smith, holding her to 1-of-5 shooting and making her shoot very difficult shots.
Making the Adjustment
One thing we've learned about Brian Agler during his first season as Storm head coach is that Agler likes to play things close to the vest and doesn't offer a lot of specifics to the media. So, when he was asked about adjustments before tonight's game, he wondered if he had to share with the media. Don't expect anything in terms of Xs and Os, but Agler did offer his hope that the team will approach this game with a slightly different mentality.
"I think we have to come out and be a little bit more assertive at both ends of the floor," he said. "Not that I felt like we played poorly - I don't if you consider all the circumstances, but I do think they hurt us on the offensive glass and obviously we gave Katie Smith too much room."
The Storm will be healthy for tonight's game. Guard Kimberly Beck missed yesterday's practice because of an eye issue and Ashley Robinson was limited by a sore right Achilles, but both players went through shootaround this morning and are dressed and ready to go tonight.
Welcome back to KeyArena. The Storm is happy to be back in the friendly confines of the Key after dropping a pair of games on the road this week at New York and Detroit. Those same Shock will oppose the Storm tonight, but instead of the Storm playing the second half of a back-to-back on the road it is Detroit that faces that scenario against a better-rested Storm team. The Storm has already managed to turn around the result of one home-and-home set this season (against San Antonio) and will look to do so again tonight.