Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Phoenix
Storm Stays Hot
Final: Storm 89, Phoenix 78
Kids Day is a success for the Storm, which records its fifth straight victory, all of them by double-figures. The five-game winning streak ties the third-longest in franchise history. It's just the fifth time ever that the Storm has won at least five games in a row. We saw the Storm win on a day when the team didn't have itís A-game. This wasn't a hot-shooting performance like some of the last couple games or even a dominant defensive effort, but the Storm gutted it out, held the Mercury's stars in check (Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter combined to shoot 12-of-34 from the field) and picked up the win. The Storm takes the season series with Phoenix and is now 3.5 games ahead of the Mercury in the Western Conference playoff picture.
Give Lauren Jackson a lot of credit for overcoming a rough start. She missed her first 11 shot attempts but was 6-of-8 thereafter and a perfect 12-of-12 from the line, adding up to a game-high 25 points. Swin Cash added 14 points and a season-high six assists along with six rebounds and six free throws. When Cash plays like that, the Storm is tough to beat. Yolanda Griffith had 10 points and eight boards. From the bench, Tanisha Wright scored 11 and Katie Gearlds came up with two critical three-pointers.
Now the Storm turns its attention to a showdown Saturday with the West-leading Los Angeles Sparks. It's the only visit this year by the Storm's fierce Western Conference rivals as well as the first trip to KeyArena by rookie phenom Candace Parker. With Parker, Lisa Leslie and DeLisha Milton-Jones, the Sparks have been dominant at times. The Storm is looking to avenge a loss in Los Angeles last month. Saturday is also Women of Inspiration Night at the Key. Only limited tickets are available, so make sure you look for yours now.
Storm Holding On
Fourth Quarter: Storm 85, Phoenix 72
With 2:09 left to play, the Storm's 13-point lead is starting to feel relatively safe. Looks like the kids in the house (and everyone else) are going to go home happy. The Storm got its first stop in nine possessions when Diana Taurasi slammed into Yolanda Griffith and was called for a charge just before the timeout. After her slow start, Lauren Jackson has really had a solid game. She's 12-of-12 from the free-throw line and has 25 points despite shooting 6-for-19 from the field.
Mercury Thinking Comeback
Fourth Quarter: Storm 79, Phoenix 66
The Storm looked to have things well in hand at the 6:43 mark. With three free throws from Swin Cash and Lauren Jackson (who rebounded Cash's second miss and was fouled again), the Storm pushed its lead to 19 points. The foul was also Tangela Smith's sixth, ending a frustrating afternoon of basketball. Earlier, Smith was called for a technical. She finishes the game 0-of-7 from the field with two points.
Since then, Phoenix is on a 9-3 run to slice the Storm's lead to 13. The Mercury scores so quickly as to keep that lead from being comfortable. Brian Agler takes a timeout to calm his players down for the stretch run.
Momentum, Score Favor Storm
End Third Quarter: Storm 62, Phoenix 51
This Kids Day crowd is as loud as it has been today with the Storm taking an 11-point lead to the fourth quarter. Phoenix pulled within four on a Barb Farris jumper with 1:36 left, but the Storm finished the quarter very strong, scoring the last seven points. The last bucket of the quarter was huge. With the shot clock running down and Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson resting on the bench, Sheryl Swoopes found Katie Gearlds for an off-balance three from the top of the key. The crowd went nuts for that shot, and rightfully so. If the Storm continues defending like that in the fourth quarter, Phoenix will be hard-pressed to come back.
Offense Picking Up
Third Quarter: Storm 50, Phoenix 43
Halfway through the third quarter, we have nearly as many points on the board as we got in entire quarters during the first half. The Storm has outscored the Mercury 13-12 to extend the lead to seven points. It looked like Phoenix was ready to seize momentum when Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter came out of the half with consecutive three-pointers to tie the game. However, the Storm followed with a little 6-0 run to get some breathing room.
After missing her first 11 shot attempts, Lauren Jackson has finally found some success from the field. An and-one moved her to 7-of-7 from the free-throw line and Jackson will continue her double-figures scoring streak. We continue to watch foul trouble. Tangela Smith and Le'Coe Willingham have four apiece and Willingham remains on the floor.
Dodgeball With Doppler
Halftime: Storm 37, Phoenix 31
It's a Kids Day tradition for Doppler and his mascot pals to take on a group of kids from Doppler's Kids Club in dodgeball at halftime. This year, it was all mascots. They won both games, though the second came down to the wire. Freddy Fever was outnumbered 2-1 before taking out one of the kids to even things up. The problem for the one girl remaining was that the only ball on her side of the court was right near the midway stripe, where Freddy stood, ball in hand. Showing little compassion, Freddy nailed her as soon as she decided to break for the ball to try to end the stalemate.
It's not too late to join Doppler's Kids Club, by the way. Click here for more details.
Storm Takes Biggest Lead to Break
Halftime: Storm 37, Phoenix 31
With the shot clock running down (a phrase you won't hear a lot today), Tanisha Wright knocked down her fourth three-pointer of the season to give the Storm a six-point lead, the largest of the day for either side, at halftime. Quietly, Wright gave the Storm a huge lift off the bench, scoring nine points on 4-of-5 shooting in 10 minutes of action. She and Yolanda Griffith have helped pick up given poor shooting first halves for Storm stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, who have combined to miss 14 of their 15 shot attempts.
On the Phoenix side, Cappie Pondexter has scored a game-high 11 points but has needed 13 shots to get them. Diana Taurasi has been quiet, scoring six points on 2-of-8 shooting. Both teams figure to pick up their offense after halftime.
Kids in Charge Today
Second Quarter: Storm 28, Phoenix 27
On Kids Day, naturally today's in-game entertainment has been oriented toward youngsters. Before the game, we had a special young National Anthem singer, while young Gentry introduced the Storm's lineup. At the last timeout, the Storm Dance Troupe drew a very nice hand from the kids and everyone in attendance.
The Storm has taken advantage of the whistles in the first half. Phoenix has been called for 10 fouls to seven for the Storm. The distribution of the fouls has really been problematic for the Mercury - three for starting center Tangela Smith and two apiece for starters Diana Taurasi and Le'Coe Willingham. The Storm still has a 7-2 advantage from the free-throw line with Yolanda Griffith headed to the charity stripe after the timeout.
LJ Still Looking for Her Shot
Second Quarter: Storm 26, Phoenix 23
Midway through the second quarter, Lauren Jackson is still looking for her first field goal. Jackson has missed all eight of her shot attempts. For the most part, they haven't been bad looks, but Jackson looks a little tired. She's having to work hard for everything she gets tonight against the Mercury's rover defense, which usually puts Diana Taurasi on Jackson with help for the entirety of the shot clock. Jackson can't establish position in the paint the same way she can against man-to-man defense and get those easy layups.
The Storm continues to do a great job defensively. Le'Coe Willingham got loose for a couple of second-chance scores, but everything on the perimeter has been contested. This Phoenix team will take bad shots if nothing easy is there early.
Storm Leads After Defensive First Quarter
End First Quarter: Storm 20, Phoenix 15
Would you believe that a 20-15 game after one quarter is a defensive affair? Well, this has been, given the extremely fast pace - about 19 possessions a side. The Storm is shooting 38.9 percent, while Phoenix is down at 33.3 percent, including 1-of-8 from downtown. The nature of the Mercury is to take quick shots, but that's been exacerbated in the early going today. The one place the Storm has been hurt is with second-chance points, which is funny because the Storm was so excellent on the defensive glass against a much better offensive rebounding team Tuesday in Sacramento.
The Storm has had a tough time figuring out Phoenix's rover zone defense. Lauren Jackson has missed all four of her shots so far. The Storm has benefited from the free-throw line, outscoring the Mercury 5-0 there thus far.
Quick Start for Mercury
First Quarter: Phoenix 8, Storm 4
The Mercury has taken a quick 8-4 lead on the strength of 4-of-5 shooting and Brian Agler takes a timeout. I don't think the Storm has played poorly defensively. Cappie Pondexter has a pair of makes already and both of them were not what I would call good shots. The term "bad shot" isn't really in Phoenix's vocabulary. We'll see if this timeout has the same effect as the one Agler took with the Storm down 11-2 early against Minnesota last Saturday. The Storm dominated the rest of the way.
Doppler's Mascot friends - Connecticut's Blaze, Indiana's Freddy Fever, Phoenix's Scorch, the San Antonio Fox and Halley from Houston - have brought him a birthday card and a cake for this timeout. Now everybody is getting together to sign to Doppler.
Sheryl Swoopes will be back in the starting lineup for the Storm tonight after coming off the bench Tuesday because of a sore left knee. Swoopes said the knee felt better yesterday and it's good enough for her to be comfortable starting today. Swoopes has a brace on the left knee, having previously worn one on her right knee last week after injuring that knee in practice.
With the Storm at full strength, Kelly Santos will return to the inactive list tonight.
As tipoff nears, KeyArena is beginning to fill and you can see packs of brightly-colored T-shirts throughout the arena. These aren't fans of different teams; these are kids here with their camps ready to make a lot of noise at a high pitch as the Storm hosts the annual Kids Day game. There's nothing quite like this, between tons of kids and the mascots here to celebrate Doppler's Birthday. Besides the pageantry, this is a big game. The Storm has a chance to secure the season series against the Phoenix Mercury with a win today. Since started the season 2-6, Phoenix has been hot, winning seven of its last 10 games.