Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Los Angeles
Storm Beats L.A.
Final: Storm 70, Los Angeles 52
Driving to KeyArena tonight, what should come on my radio but Ice Cube's "It Was a Good Day." We'll have to amend that slightly - it was a good night (and maybe a great night) for your Seattle Storm, which beat the Los Angeles Sparks 70-52 to tie the largest loss of the season for the Sparks. It's the sixth straight win for the Storm, tying the longest in franchise history, previously done July 15-July 31, 2005 and June 3 through June 19, 2004. Neither of those streaks were quite like this one in that the Storm has won all six games by double-figures. The key has been terrific defense. Tonight the Storm held Los Angeles to 52 points, a season low by a mile. Previously, the low for the Sparks had been 69 points Thursday at Sacramento. Lisa Leslie was held to nine points on 2-of-11 shooting by Yolanda Griffith, Lauren Jackson and Ashley Robinson along with terrific Storm help defense.
On a night when Jackson was limited to less than 30 minutes by foul trouble and finished with 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting, the team got great balanced scoring. Sue Bird led the way with 18, but Sheryl Swoopes and Swin Cash were also both in double-figures. In addition to battling Leslie all night, Griffith grabbed a season-high 12 rebounds. Tanisha Wright had only five points, but this was maybe the best defensive game I've seen in her play in four years, featuring three steals.
It doesn't get any easier from here as the Storm prepares to start a four-game road trip Friday in Indiana. The team will be without Jackson for the last five games before the Olympic break, but the Storm enters that stretch with great confidence. The Storm returns here for one last game before the Olympics on July 27 against Sacramento. You won't want to miss that chance to send Sue Bird and Kelly Santos off to the Olympics on Breast Health Awareness Night. Make sure you get your tickets!
Fourth Quarter: Storm 70, Los Angeles 52
43.9 seconds away from victory, Brian Agler takes a 20-second timeout to get his bench in the game. Sheryl Swoopes is feeling it. She turns to the crowd and exhorts them to make even more noise before high-fiving her teammates. Great crowd tonight of 10,833, which beats Thursday's Kids Day for the second-largest crowd of the season after opening night.
Fourth Quarter: Storm 67, Los Angeles 49
With a little over two and a half minutes left, the Storm leads by 18 and I'm a little surprised Michael Cooper hasn't conceded. He still has Lisa Leslie and DeLisha Milton-Jones in the game, though Candace Parker is on the bench. This has been a frustrating night for all of those players and the Sparks as a team. Los Angeles has turned the ball over 18 times tonight and has been limited to 34.0 percent shooting.
The Storm has just controlled this game in the second half. Seattle has been faster to loose balls, has been the aggressor and has flat-out outplayed the Sparks even with Lauren Jackson on the bench a fair amount of that span. The reversal from June 24 in Los Angeles to tonight has been a complete 180.
Storm Up Big; LJ on Bench
Fourth Quarter: Storm 61, Los Angeles 46
It's a happy Doppler Train as we've got kids flooding the court with the Storm leading by 15, the largest margin of the night, with 5:31 left to play. The Storm is without Lauren Jackson, who picked up her fifth foul at the 6:52 mark. However, Ashley Robinson and Yolanda Griffith have been great for the Storm tonight. Robinson has been extremely active at both ends, blocking shots, defending Candace Parker and coming up with huge offensive rebound. That's huge going into this two-week stretch when she'll be called upon to play more minutes.
Storm Not Letting Up
Fourth Quarter: Storm 59, Los Angeles 45
The Storm has kept up the energy here in the fourth quarter, outscoring Los Angeles 7-2 in the period. The Storm is controlling this game. The team had two offensive rebounds on the last possession and ended up getting three points out of it on one Sheryl Swoopes free throw and a subsequent Swoopes turnaround. Michael Cooper responds with a 20-second TO. He's got one left.
Storm Even Without LJ
End Third Quarter: Storm 52, Los Angeles 43
Before tonight's game, Storm Head Coach Brian Agler talked about how this team so far compared to his The Storm had to play nearly the last three minutes without Lauren Jackson after the reigning MVP picked up her fourth foul. The two teams scored six points apiece in that span. That's great news for a Storm team that will be without Jackson for the next two weeks as she prepares for the Beijing Olympics. She'll miss five games, four of them on the road. The team is feeling more confident about playing without LJ on the strength of its play the last two weeks.
Tanisha Wright came up big for the Storm late in that third quarter with two straight scores. The bench has more than held its own tonight.
Storm Finds Range From Downtown
Third Quarter: Storm 44, Los Angeles 37
Before tonight's game, Storm Head Coach Brian Agler talked about how this team so far compared to his expectations and he noted that one area that hadn't quite been as good as he figured early in the season was three-point shooting.
"I envisioned us maybe being a little better three-point shooting team," he said, "which we've been getting better the last two weeks."
As I broke down early this week, the three-point shooting was basically a fluke that figured to even out. It has lately with Sue Bird and Katie Gearlds catching fire. The Storm started tonight 1-of-7 from downtown but has got consecutive triples from Bird and Lauren Jackson to take the largest lead of the night at 44-37. It's a 9-1 run and according to the stat board Michael Cooper just used his last full timeout of the game midway through the third quarter. Interesting.
Back and Forth
Third Quarter: Storm 35, Los Angeles 34
The Storm and Sparks have traded the lead four times during the first three-plus minutes of the second half. The Storm currently holds a one-point lead. Michael Cooper isn't happy with the way his team is defending or hanging onto the ball, committing three straight turnovers at one point. He took a quick timeout, so we'll play the rest of the quarter straight unless someone else takes a timeout.
Women of Inspiration
Halftime: Storm 30, Los Angeles 28
We're all being inspired tonight by the performance of the great stars of the WNBA and some of the best women's professional basketball players in the world. During halftime, we got to be inspired by some influential women in the Seattle community. The third annual Storm Women of Inspiration Night honored four women:
For more on these inspiring women, past honorees and Women of Inspiration Night, check out the Women of Inspiration homepage.
Second Quarter Belongs to Storm
Halftime: Storm 30, Los Angeles 28
The first two quarters were mirror images. Where the Storm could get nothing going in the first quarter, the Sparks looked every bit as confused in the second period. Los Angeles was the aggressors in the early going but the Storm was dictating the tempo of the game in the second quarter. The scores in the two quarters were virtually identical: 17-11 L.A. in the first quarter, 19-11 Storm in the second quarter.
Lauren Jackson and Candace Parker waged an entertaining and largely even battle in the first half. Jackson had nine points, three rebounds and three blocks, shooting 3-for-9. Parker had eight points and three rebounds and was 3-of-8 from the field. Give the Storm credit for rebounding very well in the first half. That was a major point of emphasis for Head Coach Brian Agler. Los Angeles got only three offensive rebounds, while the Storm had nine second chances.
Second Quarter: Los Angeles 22, Storm 22
It's now a n 11-2 Storm run spanning virtually the entire second quarter, and that's been enough to pull the Storm even and force Michael Cooper to take a timeout. The KeyArena crowd is largely on its feet during the break as Doppler fires T-shirts into the crowd. We have a fun guest in attendance tonight - Betty Lennox's brother Clarence, a fixture during his sister's tenure with the Storm, is making his first appearance of the season. Clarence is resplendent as usual in all black pinstripes with some white trim.
Getting Into It
Second Quarter: Los Angeles 22, Storm 18
After the last Los Angeles game, Brian Agler made mention of the need to have players diving on the ground and selling out for loose balls. It has to be encouraging to the rest of the Storm to see three-time MVP Sheryl Swoopes doing just that. She went to the ground to collect a long rebound a moment ago and quickly called timeout before she could be tied up. After wearing a brace on her left knee and then ditching it for the second half Thursday, wearing only a sleeve, Swoopes has the knee bare today.
During this second quarter, the Storm has gone on a 7-2 run to get back within four points. That's given the KeyArena crowd a reason to make some noise. Give the reserves who have come in the game, particularly Tanisha Wright, credit for their defensive efforts.
Storm Offense Discombobulated
End First Quarter: Los Angeles 17, Storm 11
Throughout that first quarter, the Storm never managed to find any rhythm or flow on offense. The Storm shot 26.3 percent and went through a scoring drought of more than four minutes. Even when the Storm did score, it was often on difficult shots. Sue Bird, with five, was the only Storm player to make more than one field goal. Quite frankly, this looks a lot like the Storm offense we saw a few weeks ago before the team got going during the current five-game winning streak. The L.A. defense has the ability to do this to teams with their length, but I think Brian Agler expected more from the team's offense.
The crowd is ready to erupt, but right now it needs the Storm to give something to cheer about.
Defensive Affair Early
First Quarter: Los Angeles 7, Storm 4
Slow shooting start for the Storm, which has made 2-of-10 shots through the first five-plus minutes. Los Angeles has been contesting everything. Sue Bird has gotten a couple of good looks but has been unable to convert thus far. The Storm's offense has been very stout in the halfcourt, but Storm turnovers and misses have given the Sparks a chance to run. Brian Agler discussed the importance of keeping L.A. in the halfcourt.
"We have to do a better job of rebounding than we did the last time we played them," Agler said about keys to the game, "and make them play against our set defense - don't give them a lot of free-throw attempts, don't give them a lot of second shots and don't let them get out in transition."
This is a Big Game
Generally, coaches like to emphasize that every game is important. Brian Agler has been known to emphasize Western Conference games, but the focus has been one game at a time. Still, everyone on both sides recognizes that tonight is special.
"I think this is going to be a very good basketball game," said Michael Cooper. "There are playoff implications."
The fans don't need to be told. Before tonight's game, the Storm celebrated Women of Inspiration Night. At the end of the program, an impromptu "Beat L.A." chat broke out. In advance of the National Anthem, choir A Capella Joy Chorus changed "Go Storm." There figures to be a playoff atmosphere in KeyArena tonight.
With less than 10 minutes before tip-off, we've got a big crowd filing into KeyArena. The lower bowl is sold out while the three sections of the 200 level that are open tonight look to be nearing capacity as well, which should push us well over 10,000 fans in attendance. Fans got here early to catch a glimpse, take a photo and maybe try to get an autograph from Candace Parker. The No. 1 overall pick of the WNBA Draft is making her only regular-season visit to Seattle this year.