Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Minnesota
Storm Completes Comeback
Final: Storm 72, Minnesota 69
The Storm last lost three straight home games back in 2006. This team didn't want to match that after dropping two games at KeyArena last week. Things looked dire early in the fourth quarter, but the Storm responded down the stretch, holding Minnesota to one field goal over the final six minutes of the game and going on a 13-2 run to win it. The Storm allowed 53.1 percent shooting, but still did an excellent job defending one of the league's best scoring teams. Why? The Storm forced 21 turnovers - nine of them in the fourth quarter - and gave up just four offensive rebounds.
On offense, it was a night for unlikely heroes. Swin Cash scored 14 points after starting slowly, but the big three players for the Storm were Camille Little, Tanisha Wright and Janell Burse. Little scored a game-high 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting in addition to her critical defense down the stretch. Wright had 15 points, four assists and no turnovers and made the night's biggest shot. And Burse had 14 points in 19 minutes to keep the Storm in it in the early going.
The Storm now sits all alone in second place in the Western Conference. The team will finish out the first half of the 2009 season on Wednesday, hosting the Los Angeles Sparks at the Key. Be here and help Cram the Key for the archrival Sparks. Get your tickets now and be here to see the Storm take on the Sparks!
Camille Comes Up Huge
Fourth Quarter: Storm 70, Minnesota 69
Amazing defensive possession for Camille Little. Coming out of the huddle, she was able to get a kicksave on a pass on the perimeter, stopping the clock and forcing Minnesota to take timeout and set up another play. The Lynx got the ball to Candice Wiggins, who drove the right wing. She found Little waiting there for her, taking a game-saving charge (though Wiggins' shot was errant anyway).
Now, Minnesota will have to foul - twice - to put the Storm on the line and is out of timeouts to set up a play (thank Little's kick for that).
Fourth Quarter: Storm 70, Minnesota 69
With the game on the line, Brian Agler called No. 30, as in Tanisha Wright. Operating off of a high pick from Camille Little, Wright bulled her way to the basket against Candice Wiggins and knocked home the layup with 10.3 seconds left to give the Storm the lead. That's the good news. The bad news is Minnesota still has plenty of time to go back ahead. Jen Gillom called a full timeout to set things up.
Storm in Good Shape
Fourth Quarter: Minnesota 69, Storm 68
Charde Houston's driving layup with 1:37 to go seemed deflating for the Storm, pushing Minnesota's lead to five points with time running out. However, the Storm responded well. Camille Little followed a Tanisha Wright miss with a putback, then scored again when she got free in the paint for another layup. Little has a game-high 18 points tonight, helping replace a lot of Lauren Jackson's production.
After forcing a shot-clock vio, the Storm got a Charde Houston miss to take over possession down one with 18.1 seconds left. The team has plenty of timeouts, and Brian Agler took a full to set up the biggest play of the game.
Storm Stifles Lynx
Fourth Quarter: Minnesota 67, Storm 64
Here's the Storm defense we've been waiting to see. The Lynx has gone scoreless since the last timeout at the six-minute mark, allowing the Storm to work back within three points with 2:23 to play as Minnesota takes a 20-second timeout to set things up.
Fourth Quarter: Minnesota 67, Storm 59
After an offensive foul ran the Lynx to five straight possessions with a turnover to start the fourth quarter, the team has responded, led by rookie point guard Renee Montgomery. Montgomery nailed a clutch three-pointer to snap the Storm's run, then got to the free throw line and made both shots. After a Tasha Humphrey score, it's a 7-0 Minnesota run and the Storm trails by eight with 5:53 to go. There's not a lot of margin for error now.
One positive in the stretch: Sue Bird got the 1,337th assist of her career. That ties her with Dawn Staley for fourth place in WNBA history. Third isn't far away - Teresa Weatherspoon had 1,338 in her career. Bird is just two assists away from third place outright in league history in assists.
Fourth Quarter: Minnesota 60, Storm 57
The crowd has something to cheer as we start the nightly Doppler Train at KeyArena. The Storm has scored the fourth quarter's first four points, as Minnesota has yet to get up a shot attempt. While th e Storm's field-goal defense has been poor lately, the team has done a great job of putting pressure on the opposition and creating miscues (though, in this case, the young Lynx have contributed themselves). Minnesota has four straight turnovers and Tanisha Wright has steals on two of those plays as well as both scores for the Storm.
Storm Defense Falters
End Third Quarter: Minnesota 60, Storm 53
The Storm started out the third quarter playing excellent defense, holding Minnesota to seven points over the first five minutes and change. But after the timeout, the Lynx got back on track, getting in the bonus and making four of their final seven shots to score 13 points over the last 4:40 and open up a seven-point lead through three quarters. The Storm has yet to make a fourth-quarter comeback this season, going 0-5 in games the team trails heading to the final period. To change that tonight, the Storm will need to pick up the defensive intensity and continue to get balanced scoring.
Third Quarter: Minnesota 47, Storm 46
The Storm scored on its two first possessions of the third quarter. Since then, the two teams have traded buckets. We've had no runs of any sort over the last five minutes or so. That's how evenly matched these two teams are tonight. The Storm has gotten great production in the quarter from Janell Burse, sealing and getting entry passes in the way the Storm normally feeds Lauren Jackson down low. She's scored 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting, tying Camille Little for game-high honors. However, Burse is resting now with four fouls, which have limited her minutes throughout the game. With scoring options limited, the Storm needs to have Burse on the floor down the stretch.
Halftime: Minnesota 40, Storm 37
Before the game, Lynx Head Coach Jennifer Gillom was discussing her team continuing to play well without Seimone Augustus and gave a lot of credit to her team's balance at the offensive end.
"That's I think why we're here, because everyone's picked up some slack," said Gillom. "We're not relying on one player like Seimone. It's hard to defend when you have a balanced attack."
That's been the case in the first half tonight. Four of the five Lynx starters have at least seven points, with Roneeka Hodges (Augustus' replacement in the lineup) leading the way with 10 points. Minnesota is shooting 58.6 percent from the field even after the Storm did a somewhat better job defensively during the second quarter. Simply put, it's going to be hard for the Storm to win allowing that kind of shooting - especially without Lauren Jackson.
On the Storm's side, give credit to the team's role players for stepping up. If you told me that at halftime Sue Bird and Swin Cash would combine for seven points on 2-of-12 shooting, I would figure the Storm would be in big trouble. However, the Storm trails by just three at the break because Camille Little, Tanisha Wright and Janell Burse have combined for 24 points.
Second Quarter: Minnesota 34, Storm 32
These two teams entered tonight's game second and third in the league in Offensive Ratings, and you'd know it from the way they've played on offense tonight. The offenses have been going back and forth without a ton of stops. Minnesota is still shooting 58.3 percent, though the Storm has forced eight turnovers. The Storm, meanwhile, has made up for relatively poor 42.9 percent shooting by getting on the offensive glass and to the free throw line. Right now, neither defense is doing a whole lot to take the other offense out of its game.
Second Quarter: Storm 27, Minnesota 25
Great second quarter for the Storm, which has outscored the Minnesota Lynx 11-3 to claim a 27-25 lead. The Lynx were scoreless the first 3:02 of the quarter and has three turnovers barely four minutes into the period. At the other end, the Storm is shooting 4-of-5 from the field. With Sue Bird on the bench and Lauren Jackson sidelined, Janell Burse, Shannon Johnson and Tanisha Wright have all supplied offense for the Storm. It's great to see the bench contributing with more extended minutes. Suzy Batkovic-Brown will get her first chance of the night after the break.
End First Quarter: Minnesota 22, Storm 16
For the third consecutive home game, the Storm has allowed hot early shooting to the opposition at KeyArena. The Lynx have made eight of their last nine attempts from the field and shot 75.0 percent overall during the first quarter, taking a six-point lead. Minnesota is also 7-of-8 from inside the arc, getting open looks and converting them.
On the other end, usual suspects Sue Bird and Swin Cash have combined to miss all seven of their shot attempts. The Storm has just two combined points from its All-Stars (with Lauren Jackson sidelined, of course). Camille Little has kept the Storm in the game, scoring the team's last nine points. She's shot 4-of-5 from the field and has already surpassed her season scoring average of 7.5 ppg.
No Ordinary Rookie
First Quarter: Minnesota 12, Storm 7
Renee Montgomery is still barely three months removed from leading her Connecticut team to an undefeated season and a national championship. I asked Minnesota Coach Jennifer Gillom about her development not knowing tonight would be Montgomery's first career start at the point. Having veteran Kelly Miller to share time with Montgomery has helped the rookie's development, Gillom noted, but tonight Montgomery will get the first crack at the Storm and fellow UConn alum Sue Bird.
If there are any nerves, Montgomery hasn't shown them thus far, getting to the free throw line and knocking down a long jumper. She's led the visiting Lynx to an early 12-7 lead on the strength of an 8-0 run. That's the kind of start a very young Minnesota team had to want on the road.
Jackson Sits Again
The Storm will be without All-Star center Lauren Jackson for a second consecutive game after Jackson suffered a mild strain of her left Achilles tendon during Wednesday's loss to Detroit. Jackson has been getting treatment and is making progress, but is still not ready to return to the court. She remains day-to-day, and there's a better chance of setting her Wednesday when the Storm hosts the Los Angeles Sparks. As valuable as Jackson is, the Storm continues to demonstrate the ability to win without her. Friday's win at Sacramento made the Storm 9-5 the last two regular season when Jackson is absent.
"I guess the best way to put it is we've got experience playing without her," said Head Coach Brian Agler. "I think when you get experience in just about anything, you learn from it. Last year, and then a couple of nights ago, we drew on that experience a little bit."
The Storm will look to do the same thing tonight against the Lynx.
Welcome to KeyArena, where the Storm is getting ready to take on the Minnesota Lynx. When last we met precisely a month ago, the Lynx were playing their first game without injured star Seimone Augustus, and it was a road-weary and shell-shocked Minnesota squad that the Storm blew out. Since then, the Lynx have accommodated Augustus' absence and been above .500, remaining in a tie for second place in the Western Conference with the Storm. This should be a much more competitive battle, so stay with us all night for the latest from the Key.