Live from Press Row - Storm vs. Washington
Storm Moves to 4-0
Final: Storm 82, Washington 76
The fourth quarter belongs to the Seattle Storm right now. For the third time in as many home games, the Storm rallied from a deficit after three quarters to claim victory. This time, the Storm trailed by as many as 15 points and was down 11 at halftime, but erased that entire deficit by outscoring the Washington Mystics 26-10 over the first seven minutes of the final period. It's the first time in franchise history that the Storm has started 4-0.
Once again, balance was the theme for the Storm. All five starters scored double-figures, with nobody scoring more than 16 points. Le'coe Willingham nearly gave the Storm a sixth player in double-figures, finishing with eight points and six rebounds off the bench. Svetlana Abrosimova's stat line (three points, one rebound, one assist) might not reflect it, but she really played a key role in the comeback and the Storm was +6 when she was on the floor.
Even though they ultimately fell short, the Mystics really impressed me tonight with their disciplined play - exactly the sort of thing Storm Head Coach Brian Agler has been praising leading up to this game. Washington has the chance to have an excellent season.
For the Storm, there's little chance to enjoy this win. The team leaves for Chicago early tomorrow morning and will face the Sky Thursday afternoon. On Sunday, it's on to San Antonio to take on the Silver Stars, who currently stand second in the Western Conference. You can follow both of those games on 1150 AM KKNW and with LiveAccess right here at stormbasketball.com. The Storm will return to KeyArena a week from tonight, hosting the league's other 4-0 team, the Atlanta Dream. You won't want to miss that battle of the league's fastest-starting teams, which will be televised nationally on ESPN2. Get your tickets now.
Storm Hanging On
Fourth Quarter: Storm 80, Washington 76
The Storm has gotten the ball to Sue Bird and seen her make her free throws, keeping the Mystics at bay. It's still a four-point game with 15.3 seconds left and the Storm in possession after calling a timeout to move the ball to the frontcourt and avoid the possibility of Washington coming up with a steal in scoring position.
Making Things Interesting
Fourth Quarter: Storm 76, Washington 71
Give the Washington Mystics credit: They came out of the huddle for that last timeout with renewed determination and have been relentlessly attacking the basket on offense, scoring 10 points in a little over two minutes to get as close as three at 74-71 before the Storm's last possession. The Storm answered by calmly working the ball to a wide-open Swin Cash for a three-pointer (pending video review to determine whether her foot was on the line) that makes it a two-possession game once again. The Mystics will take another timeout with 47.3 seconds left on the clock.
Update: Upon further review, Cash's jumper was a two, but the Storm still has a five-point lead.
Storm Rolling Now
Fourth Quarter: Storm 72, Washington 61
It is possible that a game the Storm trailed for virtually the entire first three quarters might not even end up being all that close. On the strength of a 12-2 run since the last timeout, the Storm has extended its lead to double-digits at 72-61 with 3:07 to play. Everything is working for the Storm on offense. The team has scored 26 points in just under seven minutes - nearly as many as the team had in the entire first half (27).
At the other end of the floor, the Storm's execution has really frustrated the Mystics, who have been unable to get anything easy down the stretch. Julie Plank will try to take that by calling a timeout.
Storm Takes the Lead
Fourth Quarter: Storm 60, Washington 59
As children storm the floor for the Doppler Train, they do so with the Storm holding a one-point lead, 60-59. The home team has outscored the visitors 14-8 during the first 4:12 of the final period, getting outstanding offensive execution. Svetlana Abrosimova has been a big factor off the bench, knocking down the tying three-pointer (and pumping her first after hitting it) and setting up teammates with her excellent passing ability for a player her size. Abrosimova and Le'coe Willingham remain on the floor.
A big advantage for the Storm as we enter the stretch run. Washington just picked up its fourth team foul (sending Lauren Jackson to the charity stripe), while the Storm has been called for one just foul thus far. The Storm should be able to get to the line the rest of the way.
Storm Looking for Another Comeback
End Third Quarter: Washington 51, Storm 46
Each of the Storm's first two home victories of the 2010 season has featured a fourth-quarter comeback. To improve to 4-0, the Storm will need another one, but that's realistic now that the Storm has cut Washington's lead to five with a strong third quarter of play. That's the same amount by which the Storm trailed the Minnesota Lynx to start the fourth a week ago.
The Storm's players are also relatively well-rested, with only Swin Cash having played more than 25 minutes, so we should see a lot of the starters in the fourth quarter. Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Lauren Jackson are all on the floor to start the period along with Svetlana Abrosimova and Le'coe Willingham.
We've Got a Ballgame
Third Quarter: Washington 47, Storm 41
Coming out of the locker room, the Storm has made a few key adjustments to change the tenor of this game. The Storm is doing a much better job of playing off of Lauren Jackson in the post, allowing her to draw the double-team and then find a teammate. Usually, that's been Camille Little. Little did not scratch and played just eight minutes in the first half, but she's scored 9 points on 3-of-3 shooting since the break.
Jackson finally got a much-needed shot to go in the basket when she knocked down a wide-open three in transition after briefly hesitating. It's her second field goal of the night, giving her five points to go along with four rebounds. At the other end, the Storm has taken away the easy scores, and Washington is not playing with as much confidence - especially after Monique Currie picked up her third foul and left the game. Katie Smith still has a good sense of the moment, drilling a huge three-pointer for her first points of the evening just as the Storm had all the momentum.
Storm Spelling Bee
Halftime: Washington 38, Storm 27
Last year's Storm spelling bee provided one of the year's best memories, a youngster who spelled Sue Bird "S-U-P-E-R." (You bet she is.) This year, we didn't have any funny confusion like that, but we did have two contestants who spelled everything thrown at them (including D-O-P-P-L-E-R and C-H-A-M-P-I-O-N-S-H-I-P) and tied for the title. It was fitting to have a spelling bee tonight because the Storm is celebrating Educators Appreciation Night.
Storm Down 11 at the Break
Halftime: Washington 38, Storm 27
The Storm lost more ground in the second quarter and trails by 11 as the teams head to the locker room. Surely, we'll see some adjustments for the Storm. Defensively, the Mystics have been able to free their shooters for looks, and Lindsey Harding has created some issues with her penetration. At the other end of the floor, the Storm will be looking for ways to get Lauren Jackson going. She's missed five of her six shot attempts, scoring two points. Again, the Storm has relied on Swin Cash and Tanisha Wright, who have 11 points apiece on 4-of-6 shooting. The rest of the team has combined for just five on 2-of-11 from the field.
Give Washington credit. The Mystics have been very impressive at the defensive end, putting pressure on the basketball and crowding the paint. Still, the Storm can be a lot better than we saw in the first half, and we'll see if that will be enough to cut into this deficit.
Second Quarter: Washington 33, Storm 20
Tonight was the debut of the Starwood Hotel Half-court Shootout this season, but it didn't last very long. Contestant Annie knocked down her first shot, catching nothing but night. She won a free night's stay and breakfast for two at the Seattle Westin. Congrats, Annie!
On the court, Swin Cash is looking to spark the Storm like she did last Wednesday against Minnesota. Her tough take to the hole plus the foul gives her eight points. She and Tanisha Wright (nine) have proved almost the entire offense for the Storm.
Second Quarter: Washington 28, Storm 18
As Brian Agler continues to work to establish a rotation, the Storm both ended the first quarter and started the second with three reserves on the floor. Svetlana Abrosimova, Alison Lacey, Jana Veselá and Le'coe Willingham have all seen extended action, and Lacey will stay on the floor with four starters after this timeout.
Turnovers aren't really the problem right now for the Storm, but at the defensive end the team has been hurt by three-pointers (Washington is 4-of-5, getting two apiece from Marissa Coleman and Monique Currie) and fouls. With 5:17 left in the second quarter, the Mystics are already in the bonus.
Also worth noting: Washington has done a phenomenal job on the defensive glass, surrendering just one offensive board to a team that has been among the league's best in terms of creating second chances. It's one shot - if that - and out for the Storm right now.
Turnovers Still Tough for Storm
End First Quarter: Washington 17, Storm 11
Well, the turnovers continued to be an issue for the Storm throughout the rest of the first quarter, though there were fewer on entry passes. Instead, active hands helped Washington come up with five steals and nine turnovers in the quarter. The Storm was able to get the ball in to Lauren Jackson in the post at times, but the Mystics did an excellent job of bringing help and contesting Jackson's shot attempts. Given all the turnovers, the Storm has to feel lucky to be down just six.
During the timeout, Doppler cast the honorary first ballot for The Stars at the Sun, this year's pseudo-All-Star Game which will pit a team of WNBA stars against the U.S. National Team at Mohegan Sun Arena at midseason. Voting began in arenas on Sunday and kicks off online tomorrow, so be sure to vote at stormbasketball.com.
Sloppy Start for Storm
First Quarter: Storm 9, Washington 9
A reversal of the storyline about the Storm offense so far this season. What we saw in the first three games was the Storm making up for poor shooting in other ways, particularly by taking care of the basketball better than any other team in the WNBA. Tonight, the Storm has made three of its first five shots, but Washington has four more shot attempts largely because the Storm has turned it over five times.
Most of the turnovers have been similar - they've come on entry passes with the Mystics half-fronting the post, allowing them to get into the passing lane and deflect the ball away. The Storm had a little difficulty with similar passes against Minnesota before finding a rhythm after halftime. We'll see if the same settling-in effect shows up here tonight.
While the Storm faced three of the toughest teams in the West to start the season, playing the Washington Mystics tonight is certainly no break. Storm Head Coach Brian Agler is very respectful of what the Mystics have done during a 3-1 start, which includes a pair of road victories.
"Washington probably is playing at the offensive end about as efficient as you can play," Agler said, asked his keys to the game. "They're making their opposition guard them for a period of time. So it's going to be how disciplined we are defensively - we don't get too anxious, we stay in plays with people. Rebounding obviously is key to that. I don't know if they'll turn it over very much, so we've got to be disciplined.
"Defensively, they're going to be solid and sound. We've got to be prepared for them to change defensives. Hopefully we'll be disciplined ourselves."
With Alana Beard sidelined by ankle surgery, Washington has relied on balanced scoring.
"They've got four players - well, I can say five because (Matee) Ajavon had a big game against us last year - who can beat you," noted Agler. "(Lindsey) Harding is playing well, she's aggressive with the ball. Katie Smith, I don't think anybody is going to question what she's capable of doing on a given night. (Monique) Currie's playing with a ton of confidence, probably as aggressive and focused as I've seen her play. Then (Crystal) Langhorne is really their go-to player."
The Storm is back at KeyArena tonight, looking to stay undefeated and move to 4-0 early in the 2010 season with a win over the 3-1 Washington Mystics. It's the Storm's first game against an Eastern Conference foe after three wins over West rivals. We should be in for a great matchup, so stay with us all night long for the latest.