Live from Press Row - Storm vs. San Antonio
Wright Way to Replace Bird
Final: Storm 86, San Antonio 72
The Storm didn't need Sue Bird tonight against the San Antonio Silver Stars. With the All-Star point guard watching from the bench, the Storm executed the offense to the tune of just five assists in the first three quarters and trailed just once all night - 2-0 - en route to an 86-72 win. The victory maintained several streaks. The Storm is 3-0 against San Antonio this season and has won the last five head-to-head meetings. It's the second Western Conference rival the Storm has already beaten in the season series as the team is 10-0 against the rest of the West. And the Storm moves to 9-0 at home.
Lauren Jackson was as brilliant as ever tonight, putting up a 31-15 line. It was her second time this season with 30-plus points, as well as a season high on the glass. Tanisha Wright delivered a great performance replacing Bird at the point with a career-high 12 assists and her second double-double in as many games. Swin Cash added 16 points and Svetlana Abrosimova and Le'coe Willingham joined them in double-figures.
On Saturday, the Storm will try to keep the winning streak going in a nationally televised game at Los Angeles. You can catch that on ESPN2 at 2 p.m. Stay tuned between now and then for updates on Sue Bird's condition and more. The Storm returns to KeyArena a week from today. It's Kids Day and Doppler's Birthday as the Storm hosts Head Coach Anne Donovan and the New York Liberty. That should be an entertaining game against a high-scoring Liberty team with new star Cappie Pondexter, so get your tickets now!
Minutes for the Storm Bench
Fourth Quarter: Storm 84, San Antonio 65
Just after the last timeout, Brian Agler pulled four of his five starters to get the extended bench some action. Lauren Jackson got a standing ovation for her 31-point, 15-rebound effort. KeyArena is also excited to see some of the younger players get more minutes, including rookies Abby "The Crocodile Hunter" Bishop (blame Adia Barnes and Dick Fain for that nickname) and Alison Lacey.
Storm Pulls Away
Fourth Quarter: Storm 82, San Antonio 62
As young Storm fans rush the court for the Doppler Train, the Storm has just about put this one in the refrigerator. With 5:49 to play, it's a 20-point Storm lead, 82-62. After a slow start, the Storm is now shooting better than 50 percent from the field. Everything is working right now, especially Lauren Jackson. Jackson has a season-high 15 rebounds and is one away from her season high in scoring with 31 points. Meanwhile, Tanisha Wright has handed out two more assists to give her a career-high 11 for the game. What a phenomenal effort from Wright playing the point in place of Sue Bird.
Storm Extends Lead
End Third Quarter: Storm 69, San Antonio 56
Becky Hammon got it going during the third quarter, scoring 16 points after she had just five at halftime. Led by Hammon, the Silver Stars scored more points in the quarter (29) than in the first half (27). Still, the Storm extended its lead with extremely efficient offense, scoring 33 points. Tanisha Wright capped the period with a bank three-pointer just before the buzzer, moving her within an assist of her second consecutive double-double. Lauren Jackson has been dominant in the paint. She's got 27 points and 13 rebounds, one away from her season high on the glass.
Storm Stars Recognized
Third Quarter: Storm 42, San Antonio 32
Good news for the Storm earlier tonight, as the WNBA revealed that three of the Storm's starters - Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Lauren Jackson - were among the top 10 vote-getters in balloting for WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Stars at the Sun. All three players are guaranteed spots in the game, with Bird and Cash playing for the U.S. National Team while Jackson will lead the WNBA stars, coached by Storm Head Coach Brian Agler by virtue of the Storm clinching the best record in the league as of July 1. Bird actually led all players in the balloting.
There is still a chance for the Storm to get more players in the game. On Thursday, USA Basketball will fill its roster with players from the National Team pool. Then the WNBA's head coaches will vote for the remaining spots on the roster - six by my count. Camille Little and Tanisha Wright have to be candidates for those spots given the Storm's league-leading record.
Strong First Half for Storm
Halftime: Storm 36, San Antonio 27
With Sue Bird looking on from the bench, the Storm has opened up a nine-point halftime lead over the visiting Silver Stars. The Storm managed to maintain that lead between about five and nine throughout the second quarter, reaching the final nine-point margin at the half with Le'coe Willingham's three-pointer that swished through the net just as the buzzer sounded.
Individually, Tanisha Wright and Lauren Jackson have really carried the Storm. Wright is on pace for another double-double with eight points and five assists at the half. Meanwhile, LJ has been doing the dirty work on the interior, scoring 13 points and grabbing nine rebounds. While the Storm hasn't been quite as dominant on the glass as the last meeting of these teams, San Antonio had just one offensive rebound in the entire first half. There were plenty of opportunities, too, with the Silver Stars shooting below 40 percent from the field.
Tough Going from Outside
Second Quarter: Storm 27, San Antonio 18
The defining feature of the first 17 minutes of tonight's game has to be poor three-point shooting. The Storm is 2-of-13 from beyond the arc, and that is actually far better than San Antonio's 10.0 percent shooting (1-of-10) on threes. The Silver Stars continue to shoot below 30 percent from the field tonight. The Storm is executing, but not getting the shots to go down. Even Lauren Jackson is just 4-of-10 in terms of shooting.
We are seeing a nice big rotation from Brian Agler tonight with Sue Bird out of the lineup. Nine players have seen action and Alison Lacey and Jana Veselá have gotten extended minutes in addition to the usual rotation.
WNBA President in the House
Second Quarter: Storm 22, San Antonio 13
WNBA President Donna Orender is making her first visit of 2010 to Seattle and to KeyArena. Orender popped into a WNBA officiating clinic before tonight's game featuring the WNBA's director of officiating, Dee Kantner. She also took some time out to speak to the media, including your humble author. We'll have more on that later this week on stormbasketball.com.
Orender, who will soon join Adia Barnes and Dick Fain on the Storm's broadcast on 1150 AM KKNW, is sitting at courtside with Storm CEO Karen Bryant. Off to their left is King County Executive Dow Constantine, who is sitting with Anne Levinson from Force 10 Hoops L.L.C., the Storm's ownership group.
Storm Winning with Defense
End First Quarter: Storm 14, San Antonio 8
Even though the Storm did a good job of taking care of the basketball with just two turnovers in the first quarter (almost one before a giveaway on the team's last possession), it wasn't a strong 10 minutes for the team on offense. That was largely because the outside shot betrayed the team, which missed all seven of its three-point attempts. Still, the Storm holds a six-point lead thanks to some stifling defense. San Antonio shot just 23.1 percent from the field and did not have a single offensive rebound. From the Storm's perspective, it's great to be able to play that well even without the offense clicking. That will serve the team very well with Sue Bird out of the lineup.
The Wright Stuff
First Quarter: Storm 10, San Antonio 4
Great start for Tanisha Wright, who is playing the point tonight in place of Sue Bird. Wright has been able to get to the paint off the dribble, creating layups for herself and an assist and a putback for her teammates. Wright's been involved in all five of the Storm's scores, putting in six points herself. Wright is still more comfortable playing alongside Bird, but we're seeing the strides she has made as a playmaker the last couple of games. Wright had back-to-back games of 10 assists, a career high, and also posted her first career double-double Sunday in Tulsa.
No Bird for Storm
Sue Bird is dressed and on the Storm's bench, but she is not expecting to play tonight. While Bird feels better than she did Sunday in Tulsa and was able to shoot yesterday and this morning, after a discussion with Storm Head Coach Brian Agler it was decided she'll sit out and get a little more rest.
"She wants to play," Agler said before the game. "I don't know if that's the best decision for us or for her."
The ultimate conclusion was that it would not be best for the Storm. Bird said she was heartened by reading Storm fans who wished her for to get some rest and make sure she was healthy before she played.
Welcome back to KeyArena, where the Storm is looking to improve to 9-0 this season by beating the San Antonio Silver Stars. San Antonio is second place in the Western Conference, but the Storm has had the number of the Silver Stars this season, winning both head-to-head matchups this season easily. Tonight could be a bit more of a challenge, though. Stay with us all night long for the latest news and analysis.