Live from Press Row - Storm vs. Atlanta (Game 1)
Storm Wins in Fabulous Finish
Final: Storm 79, Atlanta 77
Why should Game 1 of the WNBA Finals have been any different than the rest of the Storm's season? This wasn't a comeback, per se, but once again the Storm used every bit of the 40 minutes to pull out a 79-77 victory over the visiting Atlanta Dream. On its final possession, the Storm went to a Sue Bird-Lauren Jackson high pick-and-roll (the opposite of the play called last Sunday in Phoenix). Atlanta went under the screen and Bird pulled up for the game-winning jumper with 2.6 seconds left on the clock. That did leave the Dream time to attempt to win the game. Atlanta inbounded the ball to Angel McCoughtry, who tried a three-pointer over a pair of Storm defenders at the buzzer. It bounced off and the Storm secured a 1-0 lead in this best-of-five series.
The Storm can feel good about holding a potent Atlanta offense to 41.6 percent shooting and 4-of-15 from beyond the arc. Angel McCoughtry scored 19 points in just 21 minutes, but again her shooting percentage was very low (6-of-17). However, the Dream was nearly as effective at holding the Storm in check. The team shot 44.3 percent from the field and had 18 turnovers. Look for some adjustments on offense before Game 2, which will be played right here at KeyArena on Tuesday at 6 p.m. As Camille Little said in her postgame interview with Dick Fain, fans will be the key to winning that game. Get your tickets now and be here for Game 2 of the WNBA Finals!
Another Wild Finish
Fourth Quarter: Storm 77, Atlanta 77
The Storm and the Dream packed a while game's worth of excitement into the last five and a half minutes. An Atlanta run culminated in a steal and Iziane Castro Marques' layup plus the foul at the other end. The ensuing free throw tied the game at 77-all, which is where we're at now with 20.4 seconds left after the teams traded misses. The shot clock is off and the Storm can get the final shot, playing for a win at best and overtime at worst. Where have I heard that scenario before? We'll see what Brian Agler draws up in the timeout.
A Ballgame Again
Fourth Quarter: Storm 68, Atlanta 63
It looked like the Storm was on the verge of breaking this game open. The team pushed its lead to nine points with Swin Cash driving the lane. When she banked a shot in off glass through contract, it looked like a possible three-point play. Instead, Cash was called for contact with her off arm, her fifth foul. Atlanta took advantage, with a quick-release runner from Iziane Castro Marques and a putback by Armintie Price. All of a sudden, the Storm's lead is just five with 5:55 left.
The Dream has been playing without Angel McCoughtry , who went to the locker room after making the two foul shots she drew in her collision with Jana Veselá. McCoughtry may have a tough time getting back for meaningful action because we won't have another mandatory stoppage over the last six minutes after both teams called early timeouts.
Storm Finding Seams
Fourth Quarter: Storm 66, Atlanta 59
After slogging through quicksand on offense for much of this game, the Storm has found some openings over the last five or six minutes of game time. In particular, where the Storm has had success tonight is with off-the-ball movement. Atlanta overplays the ball so aggressively, looking to force turnovers, that the paint is open at times, and the Storm has taken advantage.
The Storm crowd continues to keep the energy up and enjoyed the Doppler Train during the last timeout. In addition to the legends we mentioned earlier, a couple of other NBA players with Seattle ties are in the house - Atlanta's Jamal Crawford and former Sonics forward Jeff Green, now in Oklahoma City. Green is wearing the biggest Sue Bird jersey that could be found, and it still doesn't quite cover his 6-10 frame.
Fourth Quarter: Storm 59, Atlanta 55
Both Jana Veselá and Angel McCoughtry ended up on the ground after a painful collision shortly into the fourth quarter. McCoughtry upfaked and moved forward to create contract, causing her to bump heads with the oncoming Veselá. Veselá was able to get up fairly quickly, though she has checked out of the game. McCoughtry was down long enough that Atlanta had to call timeout, but it appears she will stay in the game after briefly applying an icepack to the area above her right eye.
The KeyArena crowd uses the timeout to get an impromptu "Let's Go Storm!" chant going.
Storm Opens Up a Lead
End Third Quarter: Storm 59, Atlanta 53
Nice finish to the third quarter by the Storm, which has built a six-point lead heading to the final period on the strength of a 12-4 run. Sue Bird capped the quarter with a driving runner, while Lauren Jackson has done a lot of work for the Storm. She dropped her fourth three-pointer of the game late in the third and has a game-high 23 points on 7-of-15 shooting.
KeyArena kept the energy going during the timeout with the Stanky Legg Fan Dance presented by EA Active. Even Nate Robinson got in the action, showing off his ability to do the Stanky Legg. Now the rally towels handed out to fans in the lower bowl are waving throughout the arena, creating the impression that it's snowing white on top of all the green shirts in the crowd. The fans have been terrific all afternoon long.
Third Quarter: Storm 47, Atlanta 47
You can't get much closer than the Storm and the Dream have been during the third quarter. Neither team has led by more than two points thus far, trading the lead back and forth. Right now, it's a tie game - just like it was at halftime. Angel McCoughtry came out with the intensity we expected, but has yet to be a big factor during the third quarter. She's scored two points on a difficult pull-up jumper, but missed her other attempt from the field. McCoughtry was unhappy when she got tangled up with the Storm's Svetlana Abrosimova just before the timeout, but cooler heads prevailed and players were separated.
The Storm continues to do a good job of slowing Atlanta, but can't get any kind of an offensive rhythm. I think we're seeing the effect of the unfamiliarity of these teams. The Storm doesn't know how to score against the Dream on a regular basis.
Enormous 20 Minutes
Halftime: Storm 39, Atlanta 39
After Doppler was unable to join the Dunking Ushers in throwing down at halftime, we're getting ready to start the second half. It goes without saying that the results of the next 20 minutes will play a key role in determining the outcome of this series. We'll see what adjustments Brian Agler makes coming out of the locker room. The Storm has been great in these situations all season long, but will be tested by a motivated and rested Angel McCoughtry.
All Square at the Half
Halftime: Storm 39, Atlanta 39
Iziane Castro Marques beat the halftime buzzer with a three-pointer and the visiting Atlanta Dream celebrated taking a tie score to the locker room. For the Storm, this has to feel like a blown opportunity. Angel McCoughtry did not play in the entire second quarter with three fouls, yet Atlanta still outscored the Storm 22-17 in the period, getting 10 points from Castro Marques, the former Storm starter.
The halftime box score is about as even as you'll see. The Storm is shooting 40.5 percent, Atlanta 41.0 percent. The Dream has four triples to the Storm's three. Both rebounding lines are precisely identical - six offensive boards and 14 defensive rebounds. The two teams also both have eight turnovers. If this holds up, we should be in for a fantastic finish. However, I suspect the fans at KeyArena would prefer an outcome that's a little less stressful.
Second Quarter: Storm 36, Atlanta 32
This second quarter has been played with a pickup style, and the Storm is starting to thrive in it. There have been some turnovers and missed shots, allowing Atlanta to briefly take the lead, but three-point plays by Camille Little and Tanisha Wright and a Lauren Jackson triple have put the Storm back up four. The Storm has gotten terrific production from its starting frontcourt. Jackson has nine points, while Little has been very tough against the bigger Dream frontline, scoring 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting and grabbing five rebounds.
For more coverage and analysis of today's game, check out the WNBA Finals Live on WNBA.com with tweets and comments from a variety of WNBA.com and ESPN.com personalities.
Atlanta Hanging Around
Second Quarter: Storm 27, Atlanta 24
A bit uneasy at KeyArena right now, as the Storm can't create any separation from the Dream midway through the second quarter. It's just a three-point game with 5:28 left in the second quarter. Atlanta has been very sloppy on the offensive end, but the Storm is struggling to score. The team is shooting 2-of-10 from the field in the period. Here's where I think you're seeing the difference between the Dream and the Phoenix Mercury. While both teams are fast-paced, Atlanta likes to force the action on defense while Phoenix's zone is much more passive. The Storm is rushing things right now and has been unable to get good shot attempts.
There are plenty of folks here at the Key tonight who know a thing or two about the Finals. Seattle native Nate Robinson, who was in the NBA Finals with Boston in June, is sitting courtside. We also have here Fred Brown and Head Coach Lenny Wilkens from the 1979 Sonics team that won the NBA title. There's also one of the greatest winners in basketball history, legendary former Boston Celtic Bill Russell. Russell also attended Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals and gave the Storm a motivational talk after practice earlier in this playoff run.
Dream Makes a Run, Commits Costly Foul
End First Quarter: Storm 22, Atlanta 17
With her team in danger of falling behind on the road by a large margin, Marynell Meadors had no choice but to get Angel McCoughtry back in the game with two fouls. McCoughtry helped spark the team with five points, including a three-point play, but then committed an unwise third foul while battling with Ashley Robinson for a loose ball with 3.2 seconds left in the quarter. McCoughtry may not be able to play the rest of the half. We'll see.
The Dream did get back within five points at the end of the first quarter. The Storm started to fall victim to the turnover bug late in the period, coughing it up four times in total. Atlanta is really trying to scramble this game and create a lot of chaos. The Storm has been able to play through that for the most part, but has gotten ahead of itself at times.
Interesting lineup for the Storm to start the second quarter - Ashley Robinson will stay in along with Le'coe Willingham and Jana Veselá. Svetlana Abrosimova is at guard, so there are four reserves in the Storm's lineup with starter Sue Bird.
Sensational Start by Storm
First Quarter: Storm 20, Atlanta 9
All Storm during the first six-plus minutes in the game. For all the talk about the Dream's transition game, it's the Storm that has been out and running in the early going, using turnovers and Atlanta misses to get easy looks at the other end of the floor. Sue Bird has been highly effective as a floor general, handing out four assists and scoring five points. The Storm is shooting 8-of-11 from the field (72.7 percent).
At the other end, the Storm has dealt with the Dream's athleticism. It helps that Angel McCoughtry picked up two quick fouls, with Camille Little drawing a charge to put Atlanta's leading scorer on the bench right now. The Dream has been rushing things a bit. It looks like the size of the stage has affected the young Dream more than the veteran Storm, with this raucous crowd potentially a factor as well.
First Quarter: Atlanta 5, Storm 2
One of the interesting questions entering today's game was how the teams would match up with their starting lineups on the floor because of the size differential. As expected, the Storm has Sue Bird on Coco Miller, Tanisha Wright on Iziane Castro Marques, Swin Cash on Angel McCoughtry, Camille Little on Armintie Price and Lauren Jackson on Sancho Lyttle. For Atlanta, it's Miller defending Wright, the bigger Price on Bird, Castro Marques on Cash, Lyttle on Jackson and the mismatch is McCoughtry dealing with the bigger Little.
In response, Wright has been bringing the ball up the floor for the Storm.
Ready to Go
My question to Storm Head Coach Brian Agler before today's game was this: Do you feel ready after a week's worth of preparation or are there any last-minute concerns?
"I don't think you ever feel totally prepared," said Agler. "Through experience, you know that you try to do certain things and prepare certain ways, but you also have to know that there's always an element of surprise. You're dealing with 10 individuals out there, two different teams and how they match up. There's always an element of understanding that you're going to have to make some adjustments. Not everything you plan is always going to work. You go in with an open mind, thinking this is the best way to get started. Hopefully you do. Sometimes it doesn't work that way."
Basically, the Storm has done what is possible in terms of preparation while staying fresh. How that plays out on the floor, however, is a different issue. Agler is expecting a bit of an uneven start because of nerves on both sides, similar to what we saw in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
"I know both teams are extremely excited about playing right now," he said. "It's probably going to be a little wild and wooly early in the game."
The good news is the Storm is completely healthy entering this game. Atlanta is getting close to full strength. Backup guard Kelly Miller has played less than a minute during the postseason so far due to a high ankle sprain suffered when the Dream played the Storm early in the month, but she has been practicing and Head Coach Marynell Meadors said she would feel comfortable putting Miller on the floor.
Welcome to the WNBA Finals. The Seattle Storm and the Atlanta Dream are going through their final pregame shooting and we're just minutes away from the start of Game 1. KeyArena was just moved to a frenzy by the National Anthem from long-time fan favorite Pat Wright. Of course, it might not take much to get that kind of reaction. In front of me in Section 114, everyone is standing in preparation for tipoff. The lower bowl is packed, while plenty of fans are in the 200 level. This crowd is sure to be loud and provide the Storm the home court advantage that has been KeyArena's trademark all year long.