Live from Press Row - Storm at Atlanta (Game 3)
Final: Storm 87, Atlanta 84
It took a wild ending, but the Seattle Storm is your 2010 WNBA champions. Angel McCoughtry got a really good look at a three-pointer, but it bounced off. Kelly Miller rebounded and may have gotten off another attempt - I'm not sure if it was in time - but it too was errant and the Storm had won Game 3 and this series in a 3-0 sweep.
It's the second championship in franchise history for the Storm, which defeated the Connecticut Sun 2-1 in 2004. The Storm becomes the fourth team in WNBA history to sweep through the playoffs unbeaten, and the first team ever to go 7-0 since the WNBA Finals were expanded to best-of-five games.
What a final game. The Storm showed its heart as well as the team unity that has been key all season long. It's impossible to pick an MVP. Swin Cash hit huge shots. Lauren Jackson was tough on the glass on a night when she was limited as a scorer. Sue Bird was the leader all night long and hit the big shot at the end. Camille Little hit two clutch free throws and made big plays. The bench also played a big role, especially Le'coe Willingham. What a victory. What a testament to an amazing 2010 season for the Storm. I'm overwhelmed.
Storm Needs a Score
Fourth Quarter: Storm 85, Atlanta 82
Well, it wasn't exactly what I was envisioning, but the Dream is in a position of not needing to foul now. Angel McCoughtry was fouled in the act of shooting a three, giving her three free throws. She made two to make this a one-possession game with well over 24 seconds - 31.7, to be exact - left on the clock. The Storm will have to execute on offense here.
Storm Needs to Make Its Free Throws
Fourth Quarter: Storm 85, Atlanta 80
A huge bucket by Sue Bird pushed the Storm's lead to eight with just over a minute left, but still this game is not over. Angel McCoughtry answered with a three-point play and Tanisha Wright missed two free throws, giving the Dream the ball down just five with 35.2 seconds left. The Storm will have to make its foul shots down the stretch - something the team has done all year, except uncharacteristic misses late in the last two games. Actually, if Atlanta scores quickly on this possession, the Dream may not need to foul.
Storm Executing at Both Ends
Fourth Quarter: Storm 82, Atlanta 73
There was a really long stretch of basketball there because Atlanta called an early timeout, exacerbated by both teams reaching the bonus and shooting a bunch of free throws. Finally, we've reached the last media timeout with 2:42 left on the clock and the Storm holding a nine-point lead. Camille Little is headed to the free throw line after the break.
The Storm's composure in the fourth quarter has been off the charts. With Camille Little and Swin Cash helping out with ballhandling, the Storm has beaten Atlanta's trap and worked the clock to get scores or draw fouls. At the other end, the Dream is getting nothing easy. Sue Bird's transition defense tonight has been nothing short of amazing.
Fan Dance during this timeout. "This is Atlanta; we don't do the Stanky Legg," intones the PA announcers. "That's oooooold." Instead, fans at Philips Arena did the Dougie. But the loudest fans in the arena were the 100 or so clad in green right behind the Storm's bench.
Good Stretch for Storm
Fourth Quarter: Storm 71, Atlanta 62
It was only 1:11, but it might prove critical for the Seattle Storm. With Sue Bird on the bench resting, the Storm extended its lead to nine points before the Dream took a timeout. Atlanta fell asleep defensively, giving Le'coe Willingham a wide-open layup and prompting the timeout.
Bird will still be on the bench after this timeout, but she just jumped in the Storm's huddle and offered some words of encouragement to her teammates on the floor.
Storm Takes Control
End Third Quarter: Storm 67, Atlanta 60
We've talked a lot about the resiliency of the Atlanta Dream, but there are two resilient teams in this series. The Seattle Storm made a statement to that effect over the final three minutes of the third period. Trailing 59-53, the Storm responded with a 14-1 run that has given the team a seven-point lead with 10 minutes left to play in this game.
Swin Cash sparked the Storm with a pair of three-pointers, then Sue Bird added another triple. The Storm was due beyond the arc after starting the game 3-of-15 on threes. With tough defense and composed play on offense, the Storm has opened up its largest lead of the second half. However, it would be a stretch to call this advantage comfortable given the way both teams have gone back and forth all night long.
The Storm will start the final period with Tanisha Wright and Svetlana Abrosimova at guard, Swin Cash and Le'coe Willingham at forward and Lauren Jackson in the middle. This is a big stretch for the Storm with Sue Bird resting. Seattle needs to maintain the lead.
Dream Takes Control
Third Quarter: Atlanta 56, Storm 51
The Storm came out of the locker room playing very well, but Atlanta has taken control of this game over the last minute and a half with a 7-0 run that has Philips Arena rocking. The Dream has turned up the pressure to 11, and the Storm has not responded well. After turning the ball over just five times in the entire first half, the Storm has five so far during the third quarter. Atlanta is turning those miscues into easy buckets, scoring six fast-break points in the period.
Storm Head Coach Brian Agler took timeout after the last score. Sue Bird is taking control of a player huddle after Agler has finished his message. This is the time for Bird to step up, especially with Lauren Jackson on the bench right now. The Storm can't afford to let the Dream build this lead much larger.
Atlanta Takes Advantage to the Break
Halftime: Atlanta 44, Storm 43
This series has been just as close at halftime as at the final buzzer, and tonight is no exception. After a tie in Game 1 and a two-point Storm lead in Game 2, the Dream has its first halftime lead by one point thanks to Angel McCoughtry's three-pointer late in the second quarter. McCoughtry finished the first half with 19 points on just 11 shot attempts, exactly the kind of efficiency the Dream wants from its leading scorer. Iziane Castro Marques made all four of her shot attempts, scoring 11 points.
On the Storm side, definite balance on offense. In fact, the team's lowest-scoring starter is Lauren Jackson, who had just four points. I'm sure getting the ball inside to Jackson will be a halftime emphasis. While the Dream has been double-teaming Jackson in the post, you still want her more involved in the offense than she has been thus far. Sue Bird and Tanisha Wright lead the Storm with nine points apiece. Bird has also handed out four assists.
Foul trouble could be an issue on the Storm side. Swin Cash, Camille Little and Le'coe Willingham all have three at the break. Three Atlanta starters have two fouls, but no Dream players have three.
McCoughtry Leading Dream
Second Quarter: Storm 39, Atlanta 37
The night's second "It's a Breeze" trivia question (sponsored by Marta, the local transportation system) was considerably easier, as a fan was asked which WNBA player set a playoff record by scoring 42 points in the conference finals. Naturally, that was the Dream's Angel McCoughtry. While McCoughtry might not get to 42 tonight, she's certainly off to an excellent start after struggling in the series' first two games.
McCoughtry has followed Marynell Meadors' admonishment to take the ball to the hoop instead of settling for jumpers. She's got 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting and has nearly already made as field goals as she did in all of Game 2 - in 23 attempts. McCoughtry is headed to the free throw line after this timeout to try to complete a three-point play. If so, she'll cut the Storm's lead to just one point, and Atlanta fans are getting excited about the run.
Second Quarter: Storm 35, Atlanta 29
It's safe to say the action during the first two games of this series was uneven at times. In particular, we saw sloppy play manifest itself in the form of turnovers. The two teams combined for 41 giveaways in Game 2, which tied the WNBA Finals combined record. So far tonight, the two teams have just seven total turnovers just about midway through the second quarter. This game hasn't been played quite as quickly as Tuesday's matchup, which is something Marynell Meadors emphasized to her team.
"I thought that sometimes we needed to slow up just a little bit," she said, "but they never run out of energy."
We've seen a lot more half-court execution. When there have been points scored in transition, surprisingly, they've come from the Storm. Seattle holds a 6-2 advantage in fast-break points thus far.
Now, It's a Battle
End First Quarter: Storm 28, Atlanta 24
For the first time in this series, we saw the Storm be the more aggressive team at the start of this game. Seattle was really trying to force the action at both ends and the Dream appeared to be caught off guard. That didn't last for long, however. Atlanta recovered nicely and trails by just four points after one quarter. Marynell Meadors is looking prophetic right now. Before the game, she talked about her team's resiliency - a theme throughout this series - as well as the ability of the Dream's second unit to cut into a deficit.
On the Storm side, this is just the second time all series the team has scored more than 22 points in a quarter. The Storm is crashing the offensive glass - the three first-quarter offensive rebounds are one shy of what the Storm had in all of Game 2 - and getting to the free throw line.
Tensions seem to be running a little bit higher tonight with this series on the line. Angel McCoughtry drew the Dream's second technical foul of the quarter, while Swin Cash has also been very frustrated with the officiating.
Ideal Start for Storm
First Quarter: Storm 9, Atlanta 0
Talk about quieting the crowd. The Storm has come out to score the game's first nine points and draw an early Marynell Meadors timeout. This is the best offensive execution we've seen yet for the Storm, which has scored on four of its five possessions. Excellent ball movement just resulted in Tanisha Wright's second long jumper of the first 2:17 of this game. (Her first was originally called a three, but review changed it to a two-pointer.)
Atlanta already seems frustrated by the officiating and Assistant Coach Carol Ross drew a technical foul before the Dream took timeout.
Tough trivia here at Philips Arena. They asked two fans to guess what year the last No. 4 seed - the Charlotte Sting - made the WNBA Finals. Even I had to think for a second before remembering it was in 2001 that Anne Donovan guided the Sting to a pair of Eastern Conference upsets.
Fans are filling up the Philips Arena lower bowl and starting to make some noise with the introduction of starters on both sides. The Storm got some healthy boos. After the Storm played Dream-related music during Atlanta's intros in Games 1 and 2, the Dream retaliated tonight with "I Can See Clearly Now" for the Storm.
There was a player on each side questionable for tonight's game due to injuries, but everyone will be in uniform. On the Storm side, that means Abby Bishop is dressed after missing Game 2 following a concussion. Bishop is feeling better and went through pregame shootaround. Atlanta starter Armintie Price will play after rolling her left ankle during Tuesday's Game 2.
"I think she put it in the right words when she said her foot would have to be falling off for her to not play," joked Dream Head Coach Marynell Meadors
However, Price will not start. Atlanta has gone back to a more traditional lineup with Erika de Souza up front alongside Sancho Lyttle. Watch whether the Storm can get de Souza in early foul trouble.
ATLANTA - Stormbasketball.com is coming to you live from Philips Arena in Atlanta, where we're closing in on tipoff for Game 3 of the WNBA Finals. With a 2-0 lead in this series, the Seattle Storm is going for a sweep and the WNBA championship tonight. The Atlanta Dream is fighting to extend this series, and can feel good about having a legitimate chance to win the first two games on the road.
Now, Atlanta returns home to what is expected to be a sellout crowd of more than 10,000. It will include some Storm fans. Right behind us and the Storm bench are about 50 fans who have made the trip to support their team on the road.
"I know we have a lot of Seattle people here," said Storm Head Coach Brian Agler, "so we're glad to see green in the arena tonight."
That home atmosphere away from home helped the Storm to a victory in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals in Phoenix. Will it work the same magic tonight? We'll see. Stay with us all night long for updates and analysis.