Live from Press Row - Storm vs. Los Angeles
Final: Storm 76, Los Angeles 75
History was in the balance when Marie Ferdinand-Harris fired a three-pointer that would have won the game for the Los Angeles Sparks. It bounced over the rim and into the hands of Lauren Jackson as time ran out. The Storm finished the regular season 17-0 at KeyArena, the most home wins ever in WNBA history. The team's 28 total wins tie the 2000 and 2001 Los Angeles Sparks for the most in league history. And the Storm's .824 winning percentage is the best in Seattle pro sports history, surpassing the 2005 Seattle Seahawks (13-3, .813).
It did not necessarily come easily all season long, and it certainly did not tonight. The Sparks gave the Storm a tremendous test. If indeed this was a preview of the Western Conference Semifinals, then it's clear that Los Angeles is going to be very tough to beat with veteran players picking up their games late in the season. The Storm overcame the Sparks thanks to a career-high 22 points from Camille Little, 21 from MVP candidate Lauren Jackson and nine assists from Sue Bird. That's not to mention Tanisha Wright, who came up with the biggest bucket of the night and the Storm's only score in the game's last 5:35, a fadeaway jumper that proved the game-winner.
The records are great, but now the Storm is back to 0-0, just like everyone else. Game 1 of the Storm's opening-round playoff series will be Wednesday at KeyArena at 8 p.m. Get your tickets now for that game! We still don't know which team the Storm will face. Minnesota was eliminated with the L.A. loss, but either the Sparks or the Silver Stars could still finish fourth depending on whether San Antonio wins tomorrow's season finale against Phoenix. You'll get that information and a complete first-round schedule first right here on stormbasketball.com (and via @seattlestorm on Twitter), so stay tuned.
Fourth Quarter: Storm 76, Los Angeles 75
With 6.1 seconds left on the clock, the Storm leads by one thanks to a Tanisha Wright fadeaway after a wild sequence. The teams traded stops and now L.A. will have a chance to win with 6.1 seconds left.
Fourth Quarter: Los Angeles 75, Storm 74
For the first time since the second quarter, the Los Angeles Sparks hold the lead in this game. Tina Thompson just stunned the KeyArena crowd into silence with one of her patented 25-foot three-pointers. The WNBA's all-time leading scorer has 20 points tonight. Meanwhile, the Storm can't get anything going on offense. The team has just two points - a Lauren Jackson triple - since the 8:49 mark of the fourth quarter. That's a 15-2 Sparks run to take the lead..
Fourth Quarter: Storm 72, Los Angeles 68
Again, all the credit in the world to the way Los Angeles has played tonight. After getting the starters back in the game, the Sparks have responded with the game's last eight points to cut the Storm's lead to a perilous four points with 5:51 left to play. A minute or two ago, you were thinking about extending the lead and getting the starters out of there. Now, the Storm will have to work just to win this game. Interesting note - with this timeout called by Brian Agler, there will be no mandatory stoppages the rest of the way. This could be a long extended period of basketball, which is unusual for players.
Is This the Run?
Fourth Quarter: Storm 72, Los Angeles 60
The Storm has scored the first six points of the fourth quarter, pushing the lead to 12, the largest it's been all night. Sensing momentum slipping away, Jennifer Gillom quickly called timeout. Still, this might be where the Storm puts this game away in front of a home crowd that is all too ready to get loud.
During the timeout, we saw a familiar face in the Doppler Train. Storm All-Decade Teamer Simone Edwards is in the house tonight, sitting courtside with Storm CEO Karen Bryant. Edwards, of course, never misses an opportunity to shake her groove thing when she's back at KeyArena. We also saw former Storm forward Barbara Turner in the house tonight, and Betty Lennox's brother Clarence is making his usual appearance behind the Los Angeles bench even though Lennox herself is not with the team after knee surgery.
End Third Quarter: Storm 66, Los Angeles 60
So far on Fan Appreciation Night, the Storm crowd is getting its money's worth. The Storm played a very exciting brand of basketball in that third quarter. It felt much of the way like the Storm was moments away from blowing the game open, though a series of circus shots from Noelle Quinn have kept L.A. within six points.
The Storm bench has been very effective. Leading the way has been Ashley Robinson, who continues to ball. Robinson hasn't scored tonight, but every other aspect of her game has been rock-solid, from her defense to her decision-making at the offensive end. Officially, Robinson has just one block, but I think I've written about four or five down on the unofficial stats I'm keeping. Robinson has really energized the team, which was very aggressive during the third quarter, coming up with five steals.
Little Taking Control
Third Quarter: Storm 54, Los Angeles 49
Lauren Jackson is playing like an MVP tonight, but in the third quarter the Storm's standout has been Camille Little. Little has nine of her 16 points in the period to help the Storm open up a five-point lead. She's 5-for-5 from the field tonight with five free throws.
Jackson's first bucket of the second half, a three-pointer, produced a bit of a milestone. With 19 points tonight, Jackson has surpassed Katie Smith for third place in WNBA all-time scoring with 5,755 points. The Mystics play tomorrow, so Smith will likely retake third place depending on how big of an advantage Jackson can build. Still, with Jackson scoring more points than Smith at this point in their respective careers, she's likely to pass her for good early next season.
Untied at the Half
Halftime: Storm 38, Los Angeles 36
We knew Svetlana Abrosimova's jumper just before halftime gave the Storm the lead. For a long time, we just didn't know whether it would be a two or a three. After a lengthy video replay, officials ruled it was indeed a triple and it's a three-point Storm lead. This feels like one of those games where the Storm has controlled things more than the scoreboard would indicate. Sometimes, the visiting team is able to hang around in those games and steal a win. We'll have a much better idea of whether L.A. can do that after the third quarter.
Part of the reason the Storm feels more dominant is that the crowd has been so loud in the team's favor. The Sparks really deserve a lot of credit for playing so well in a hostile environment.
Sparks Hanging Tough
Second Quarter: Los Angeles 36, Storm 34
For a while early in this second quarter, it looks like the Storm might be ready to open things up. Lauren Jackson was dominating, the crowd was getting into it and the Sparks looked rattled. To their credit, they've hung tough and have reclaimed the lead at 36-34. Kristi Toliver has gotten hot lately, scoring six points in the last couple of minutes. Los Angeles has gotten scoring from a variety of different sources tonight, which is a good sign for the Sparks chances.
On the other end, the Storm is shooting 52.2 percent against what is almost exclusively a zone defense from L.A. The issue has been eight turnovers, while the Storm hasn't dominated the glass as you'd expect yet.
Second Quarter: Storm 31, Los Angeles 30
Great battle during this second quarter between Lauren Jackson and Tina Thompson. Two of the WNBA's four all-time leading scorers, they have 12 points apiece tonight, and 15 of them have come in the first five and a half minutes of the period. Jackson and Thompson have gone back and forth, as have their respective teams. The Storm is currently holding a one-point lead.
Speaking of good battles, there will be a terrific competition for this year's Stormy Award. The nominees were shown on StormVision during the timeout, and fans will have until Wednesday to vote for your favorite before we announce the winner during Game 1 of the Storm's opening-round playoff series. Check out all the videos and cast your vote!
Storm Rallies for the Tie
End First Quarter: Los Angeles 20, Storm 20
Los Angeles extended its lead to seven points at 20-13, but the Storm answered with seven straight points to tie the game at the conclusion of the first quarter. Both teams went deeper into the bench than usual. The Sparks finished the quarter with four reserves on the floor, including little-used rookie Chanel Mokango, and were not as sharp with that lineup.
It's Fan Appreciation Night at the Key. During this quarter, Storm players thanked fans on StormVision and we had the first of many prize giveaways to randomly selected seats that will continue throughout the game.
Sparks Shooting Sharp Early
First Quarter: Los Angeles 12, Storm 10
The KeyArena crowd is ready to erupt, but the Los Angeles Sparks haven't given fans a lot of opportunities to get crazy just yet. The Sparks have shot the ball very well in the first five-plus minutes of the game, hitting five shots in eight attempts to take an early 12-10 lead with Tina Thompson headed to the free throw line. All five L.A. starters have scored. On the other side, the Storm has not been sharp, with three early turnovers.
A couple of subs at the timeout. As usual, Svetlana Abrosimova is in, but she's joined by Ashley Robinson and not Le'coe Willingham. Willingham will play after tweaking her ankle last night in Phoenix, an injury she could have returned from if necessary, but we might see her minutes limited. This also could be strategic. Brian Agler has historically liked Ashley Robinson's lengthy against the Sparks, so this could be an audition for Robinson's role should the teams match up in the postseason.
Storm Playing to Win
Last night, the Storm balanced the goals of winning in Phoenix and resting starters. Tonight, the singular goal is to win.
"We're trying to gear up," said Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. "It's the last game of the season. We've got playoffs coming up in a few days. I would envision everyone playing at some point, but I also would envision our top-tier players getting more minutes than they did last night."
There is more incentive to win on the other side. Though Los Angeles clinched a playoff spot last night, the Sparks still can help their chances of moving up to third with a win tonight. Head Coach Jennifer Gillom made it clear she'd rather finish third, both because it's natural to want to finish as well as possible but also because she'd like to avoid the Storm in the first round.
For the last time in the 2010 regular season, hell from KeyArena. We finish up the regular season tonight the same way we started it just a little over three months ago - with a matchup against the archrival Los Angeles Sparks. Before tonight's game, Los Angeles Head Coach Jennifer Gillom - relatively new to the rivalry in her first year coaching the Sparks, though she did play for L.A. in 2003 - observed how surprised she was this year at the strength of the rivalry between the two teams. KeyArena is just about ready to go for this special 8 p.m. tipoff with many fans sporting the "I Am Home Court Advantage" T-shirts they received on the way in. If you're watching at home, you can easily spot those T-shirts, which are bright green.