Live from Press Row - Storm vs. Indiana
Storm Starts a New Streak
Final: Storm 68, Indiana 54
Sue Bird talked yesterday about wanting the chance to take out her frustrations about last week's loss to Minnesota against an opponent. That appeared to be just what the Storm did tonight, leading from wire to wire in an 68-54 victory over the Indiana Fever. Tonight was an example of championship-level defense. The 54 points allowed were the fewest since July 7, 2009, when the Storm defeated San Antonio 66-53. Indiana shot just 29.1 percent from the field and had one player (Katie Douglas, with 11) score double figures.
Offensively, balance was the key for the Storm. 16 of the team's 22 baskets were assisted, including five by Swin Cash. It was a well-rounded performance from Cash, who added 14 points and eight rebounds. Sue Bird scored 12 points and Le'coe Willingham was terrific off the bench with 10 points and seven boards. There were a couple of nice moments in the final minutes. Belinda Snell scored her first basket of the season, a three-pointer, and rookie Krystal Thomas checked in for her WNBA debut.
Now, the Storm heads out on the road for the first time in 2011. Sunday at 5:30 p.m., the Storm faces the Los Angeles Sparks and star Candace Parker. You can catch all that action on KONG 6/16, while Dick and Adia will call the game on AM 1090. The game will also be available via Live Access right here on StormBasketball.com. Stay tuned for preview coverage as the Storm continues the road trip Tuesday in Tulsa before returning home.
Looking Ahead to Next Friday
Fourth Quarter: Storm 63, Indiana 46
With 2:59 left to play, we can begin looking ahead to next Friday, when the Storm will be back at KeyArena for a rematch against the Minnesota Lynx. The special giveaway that night will be bobbleheads commemorating Lauren Jackson's three WNBA MVPs. Get your tickets now for that game and get here early to make sure you get your new LJ bobblehead.
Fever Making a Dent
Fourth Quarter: Storm 63, Indiana 44
Just like the Storm last week, the Indiana Fever has far too much pride to ever quit on a game. The Fever is still playing hard and has gotten the lead down to 19, though with five and a half minutes left time is Indiana's biggest foe at this point. The Fever has had some success playing zone against the Storm. Lin Dunn's teams are usually so good at man-to-man defense there's no need to play zone, so that's unusual to see. I'm not sure it's something the Storm anticipated in the scouting report.
All Storm Heading to Final Period
End Third Quarter: Storm 58, Indiana 33
This just hasn't been the Indiana Fever's night, as exemplified by the last play of the quarter. Tamika Catchings got a steal and headed toward the basket in the open court. When she was cut off, Catching fired to her teammate Erin Phillips and overthrew her by a few feet. Phillips was able to recover along the sideline and create a buzzer-beater, but the chance at an easy score was gone. The Storm's tough defense has made Indiana work for everything tonight, and now even the easy chances are difficult for the Fever. The Storm leads by 25, and given the difficulty Indiana has had scoring, that lead feels comfortable right now.
Tonight marks the debut of another new Storm mini-game, the Flap Jackson Flip. Teammates compete to flip pancakes with Lauren Jackson's likeness on them into hoops placed on top of bike helmets. In the debut, Brian Agler and Sue Bird defeated Swin Cash and Ashley Robinson. During the timeout break, two teams of dads and daughters competed against each other.
Back in Control
Third Quarter: Storm 50, Indiana 29
Timeouts by Storm Head Coach Brian Agler have a way of producing results, and this last one was no exception. The Storm has responded with a 10-4 surge to push the lead back to 21 points with 3:51 left in the third quarter. Indiana counterpart Lin Dunn, the Storm’s inaugural head coach and still a favorite in these parts, needs a timeout to keep things from getting out of hand in the Storm’s favor.
Fever Working Hard
Third Quarter: Storm 40, Indiana 25
The Indiana Fever has come out for the second half with the desperation needed from a team trailing by 18 points. The Fever’s hustle on the offensive glass has resulted in a pair of second chances early in the third quarter. Storm Head Coach Brian Agler, not happy with what he’s seeing, takes a quick timeout in order to refocus his team on boxing out.
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Bird Buzzer-Beater Caps Great Half
Halftime: Storm 37, Indiana 19
Everything else went right for the Storm in the first half, so no wonder Sue Bird banked in a three-pointer from nearly 30 feet just before the buzzer sounded for halftime. My man Nate Parham of SB Nation Seattle points out that was the first triple of the game for either side - they’d previously combined to miss all 16 attempts from beyond the arc. The shot extends the Storm’s lead to 18 going to the break, 37-19.
Despite Bird’s stat, the real story of the first half was the Storm’s defense. Indiana made just four field goals in 20 minutes, shooting 19.0 percent from the field. The Fever had far more turnovers - 10 in all, and only 11-of-14 free throw shooting gave Indiana any semblance of an offense. The Storm has been moving its feet defensively on the perimeter and battling in the post, keeping the Fever from getting any open looks all half. Keep it up and the Storm will start a new streak at KeyArena.
Storm Opening Up Lead
Second Quarter: Storm 31, Indiana 18
So much for the notion that Camille Little’s foul trouble might be a problem for the Storm. Le’coe Willingham has been excellent, scoring eight points during the second quarter alone as the Storm has built its largest lead at 13 points, 31-18. The Storm continues to stifle Indiana defensively. The Fever is shooting just 20.0 percent from the field and has played deep into the shot clock with little success. No Indiana player has scored more than four points. As long as the Storm can keep the Fever off the line after getting into the penalty early, this should be a solid halftime lead.
During the last timeout, Storm mascot Doppler cast the ceremonial first ballot for WNBA All-Star starters. Assuredly, Doppler’s ballot featured all five Storm starters – Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Lauren Jackson, Little and Tanisha Wright. Remember that although there are no paper ballots at games, you can vote online daily at WNBA.com to help send the Storm to San Antonio.
Second Quarter: Storm 18, Indiana 13
For the first time this regular season, Belinda Snell took the floor late in the first quarter. Snell has been working back from a sprained left ankle sustained in the preseason against the Los Angeles Sparks. She played a couple of minutes, helping her develop a rhythm. In time, I expect Snell to be a big contributor off the Storm bench.
Right now, the Storm is dealing with foul trouble to starting forward Camille Little. Little picked up a couple of fouls quickly here in the second quarter on block-charge calls that went against her to the crowd’s displeasure. She has three fouls, and though Brian Agler has never been afraid to play players in foul trouble, we may have seen the last of her for this half – especially if Le’coe Willingham continues to play well in her stead.
Defense Carrying Storm
End First Quarter: Storm 15, Indiana 10
One of the interesting points Storm Head Coach Brian Agler made about last Thursday's game is that the Storm's defense actually wasn't bad in the half court. The problem was Minnesota got so many transition points early in the game that the Storm never had a chance to get stops. Still, we've seen the defense improve from where it has been in the first two games. Indiana shot just 3-of-14 from the field in the first quarter (21.4 percent). The Fever's 10 first-quarter points were the team's low for a period this season. The Storm shot just 33.3 percent, but still has the early lead thanks to the impressive defense.
Continuing the Dads & Daughters theme tonight, fathers of members of the Storm Dance Troupe performed a routine with their kids during the timeout. It's easy to see where some of the Dance Troupers got their moves!
Better Start for Storm
First Quarter: Storm 12, Indiana 6
In truth, it would have been about impossible for the Storm not to improve on the start against the Minnesota Lynx. By any standard, however, the team's play over the game's first five minutes and change has been impressive. The Storm leads it 12-6 with Swin Cash headed to the free throw line to try to complete a three-point play. I made a point of asking Storm Head Coach Brian Agler before the game whether he scripts plays to start the game, not unlike in football. He said he definitely has plays he wants to run early to see how defenses react. Tonight's goal was obvious: Get the ball to Lauren Jackson. Jackson scored on a turnaround on the Storm's very first possession and already has four points.
In-arena emcee Shellie Hart has a special assistant tonight - young Storm fan Eva, who encouraged all the other kids in the crowd to give their dad a big hug this Father's Day. One of the city's tallest dads is sitting courtside for Dads & Daughters Night. Former Sonics center Nick Collison is here with his daughter, who's decked out in a Storm jersey.
Welcome back to KeyArena, where the Storm is ready to get back in action to remove the taste of last week's disappointing loss to the Minnesota Lynx from players' mouths. That won't be easy tonight, however. The Storm faces an Indiana Fever team that is two years removed from a trip to the WNBA Finals and is one of the strongest contenders in the Eastern Conference this year. It's a matchup of two of the league's top players in Tamika Catchings and Lauren Jackson, so stay with us all night long for the latest.