Live from Press Row - Storm vs. Minnesota
Complete Storm Victory
Final: Storm 65, Minnesota 55
I'll admit feeling a bit skeptical about the Storm's chances coming into tonight's game. While the Storm has shown the ability to win without Lauren Jackson, the Minnesota Lynx are a difficult opponent playing well. After the Lynx snapped the Storm's home winning streak a couple of weeks ago, tonight the Storm ended Minnesota's five-game winning streak with a double-digit win that was paced by defense. Minnesota shot just 30.9 percent from the field and was held to eight points in the first quarter and 10 in the fourth - and just six before the final minute, by which point the Lynx had conceded. The Storm held Minnesota forwards Rebekkah Brunson and Maya Moore, both of whom average double figures, to a combined six points on 3-of-12 shooting.
The Storm offense missed Lauren Jackson at times, but 25 free throw attempts and timely scoring in the paint helped the team. Frontcourt starters Camille Little and Le'coe Willingham combined for 27 points on 11-of-19 shooting. Swin Cash just missed a double double with 13 points and nine rebounds. Sue Bird handed out eight assists. Then in the fourth quarter, it was Tanisha Wright who carried the Storm with seven key points early in the period. And Ashley Robinson came up big off the bench with four points and six rebounds in 16 minutes. Altogether, it was the kind of team effort the Storm will rely on with Jackson sidelined.
In addition to everything else, tonight was Storm Head Coach Brian Agler's 200th win as a professional coach between the ABL and the WNBA. The only other women's basketball coach to reach that milestone was former Houston Comets Head Coach Van Chancellor, who won 211. By the end of the season, Agler has a chance to be the winningest coach in women's professional basketball history.
It's going to be a while until we see the Storm at KeyArena again. The team heads out on the road next for a three-game East Coast trip that will include Wednesday's stop at the White House. The next home game will be July 9, when the Los Angeles Sparks visit on Team Poster Night presented by Bartell Drugs. Get your tickets now! Between now and then, get your Storm fix here at StormBasketball.com for complete coverage of the trip and the White House visit. You can also see the Dance Troupe and Force 10 Hoops, the Storm's ownership group, at Sunday's Pride Parade.
Storm Looking Good
Fourth Quarter: Storm 62, Minnesota 51
With 2:45 left, the Storm holds a double-digit lead of 11 points. The home team has controlled the final quarter, outscoring Minnesota 15-6. Tanisha Wright alone has more points than the Lynx as a team despite sitting with five personal fouls. Sue Bird is also up to eight assists tonight - as many as the Lynx have as a team. If the Storm keeps playing tough defensive over the last three minutes, there's no question that this will be a victory.
Key Storm Buckets
Fourth Quarter: Storm 54, Minnesota 45
If you're a Storm fan, this is almost exactly how you hoped the team would come out for the final period. The home team has scored the first seven points to open up a nine-point lead with 8:04 left to play as Cheryl Reeve takes timeout. Tanisha Wright had back-to-back buckets to start things off and the Storm has held Minnesota scoreless at the other end.
If you're a die-hard Storm fan with white knuckles during this fourth quarter, it's time to prove it and win an actual Storm championship ring. The Storm Championship Ring Contest presented by Blue Nile will provide one lucky winner a ring. All you have to do is show why you're the biggest Storm fan in the state of Washington through video, photos or an essay. Email your argument to firstname.lastname@example.org by July 9 to win and see here for more details, including rules.
Heading to a Decisive Final Quarter
End Third Quarter: Storm 47, Minnesota 45
The Lynx managed to tie the game briefly at 41-all, but the Storm has never trailed tonight. Still, it's going to be a thrilling, back-and-forth final 10 minutes as the Storm heads to the fourth quarter leading by just two. Minnesota still has yet to get much going offensively outside of Seimone Augustus, but the Lynx's defense has been equal to the task and has kept Minnesota in this game. The Lynx also evened up some of the gap in free throw attempts during the third quarter, helping them outscore the Storm 20-12 in the period.
Valuable Minutes from Robinson
Third Quarter: Storm 45, Minnesota 41
On a night the Storm has gone just seven players deep, everyone in the rotation has needed to log heavy minutes. Ashley Robinson has stepped up to the challenge, playing great defensive basketball. Robinson has six rebounds, one off of her 2010 season high, and had a monster block of Lindsay Whalen a moment ago. Robinson is helping Brian Agler rest Le'coe Willingham and Camille Little without having to go small at any point tonight.
Lynx Return from Locker Room Motivated
Third Quarter: Storm 41, Minnesota 37
The Minnesota Lynx have come back from halftime with their best sustained stretch of the game thus far. Executing on offense and relying on Lindsay Whalen's dribble penetration and Seimone Augustus' shooting, Minnesota has already scored more points than in the entire first quarter and has narrowed the deficit to just four points with Taj McWilliams headed to the free throw line.
I wanted to relay a story from before the game. As I was on my way to KeyArena, I noticed the streets were more crowded with parked cars than usual. I wondered what was going on - until I realized it was the Storm game. Now I arrive early enough that usually only a handful of die-hard fans are already outside the Key, but that's not the case when bobbleheads are being given away. More than a half hour before the doors opened, the lines on the West concourse already stretched out to First Avenue and beyond. If you are here tonight and reading after the fact, I hope you get your LJ MVP bobblehead courtesy of Virginia Mason to add to your collection. I already have mine proudly displayed on my desk at the Storm offices.
Halftime Goes to the Dogs
Halftime: Storm 35, Minnesota 25
Always one of my favorite halftime acts as the Jet City Jumpers race t heir canines up and down the KeyArena court. Fun to see so many people staying in their seats to watch during a break in the basketball action.
Storm Carries the First Half
Halftime: Storm 35, Minnesota 25
After the brief surge by the Lynx, the Storm managed to restore order by outscoring Minnesota 10-4 the rest of the half. Camille Little was key in that resurgence. A late three-point play helped Little finish the half with a game-high 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting. She's also got three rebounds, one of at five Storm players with at least that many. The Storm has done a terrific job of limiting the Lynx's second chances and easy points in general. Minnesota has been outscored 20-8 in the paint and 12-6 at the free throw line. Both statistics are dramatically different than they were the last time the Lynx visited.
Two players that the Storm took out of the game in the first half were Rebekkah Brunson and Maya Moore. Brunson was done in by foul trouble, which limited her to 9:30 of action, though she was scoreless when she was on the floor. Moore also has yet to score and missed her two shots in just eight and a half minutes of first action. Amber Harris (seven points) has given Minnesota a nice lift off the bench, but overall the Lynx have not had enough scoring.
Lots of Voting
Second Quarter: Storm 31, Minnesota 23
A quick timeout by the Minnesota Lynx here may provide you enough time to go on over to WNBA.com and get busy voting. Not only is voting still open for the All-Star Game, it's also under way for the Top 15 Players of all time. Three Storm players - Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Lauren Jackson - are common to both ballots. They're joined by fellow starters Camille Little and Tanisha Wright on the All-Star ballot and Katie Smith as a nominee for the Top 15 in WNBA history. In both cases, you can vote once every 24 hours, so make sure you remember to vote Storm daily!
Lynx Making a Run
Second Quarter: Storm 25, Minnesota 21
Minnesota is playing so well this season it seemed inevitable the Lynx would make a run at some point. That's happening right now, as Seimone Augustus has gotten hot from the perimeter and helped Minnesota run off seven consecutive points to cut the deficit to four points. At her best, Augustus is one of the most difficult players in the league to defend one-on-one. She's capable of crossing over and stepping back to drain a 20-footer with ease. Augustus also shook loose for a three during the run.
Storm Head Coach Brian Agler took timeout to try to quiet the Lynx and get the Storm back on track.
Go Green Night
Second Quarter: Storm 23, Minnesota 12
In addition to the LJ MVP bobblehead giveaway, tonight is also Go Green Night presented by Carter Subaru. That means the unusual sight of the Storm wearing their green road uniforms here at home. (Fun fact: both Seattle teams in action tonight are wearing road jerseys, since the Mariners are technically the road team at Safeco Field against the Florida Marlins). It also means themed entertainment throughout the night, including the message from our partners at Enterprise Rent a Car about their sustainability efforts during this timeout.
For more on what the Storm and our partners are doing to help the environment, check out our Go Green homepage. New to the initiative this year is that the Storm is a founding partner in the Green Sports Alliance, a coalition of Northwest sports teams and venues working to make sports greener. For a team that wears green, it's a natural fit. Two of the other teams in the Green Sports Alliance are the Seahawks and the Sounders, and their CEO, Peter McLoughlin, is sitting courtside tonight with Storm counterpart Karen Bryant.
End First Quarter: Storm 21, Minnesota 8
For the second time in as many Fridays, an opponent at KeyArena finds themselves in single-digit scoring after one quarter. Minnesota made just two field goals in 15 attempts during the first quarter, good for 13.3 percent from the field. The Lynx's starting five has combined to make one shot in nine attempts. Minnesota also has yet to record an assist.
The Storm's defense, always tough, gets a boost when Ashley Robinson plays extended minutes like she is right now. Robinson did not have a block but altered a couple of shots after coming in with about four minutes left in the first quarter. Also standing out is the way Camille Little defends on the perimeter after switching on to a smaller offensive player.
Plenty to Cheer
First Quarter: Storm 20, Minnesota 7
I don't know whether it's because it's the start of Pride Weekend tonight, or because everybody is so excited about their Lauren Jackson MVP Bobbleheads presented by Virginia Mason, or just because they're trying to give the Storm a lift with Jackson sitting out, but this crowd has been phenomenal so far tonight. They've had plenty to cheer about during the first quarter, as the Storm has opened up a 20-7 lead by holding the Lynx to 2-of-13 shooting from the field.
Sue Bird, as she often does when Jackson is on the bench, has picked up her scoring. She has a game-high seven points on 2-of-3 shooting, including a three-pointer a moment ago. Bird hasn't neglected her playmaking duties. She's got three assists. Maybe the loudest cheer so far came a moment ago when Ashley Robinson scored off a hard cut. It's great to see Robinson, who will play a much larger role in Jackson's absence, playing with such confidence and aggressiveness.
Storm Starts Well
First Quarter: Storm 10, Minnesota 4
The first five minutes of this game have been marked by Seattle Storm defense. Contesting every shot and keeping Minnesota off the offensive glass, the Storm has limited the Lynx to four points thus far in taking an early six-point lead. The Storm's energy at both ends of the floor has been terrific. On offense, Seattle is getting the ball in the paint to Camille Little and Le'coe Willingham, who have combined for eight of the team's 10 points and helped draw a pair of early fouls on Rebekkah Brunson. The league's leading rebounder is on the bench, having been replaced by Charde Houston.
Jackson to Miss Extended Period
After a couple of days' worth of tests, the Storm learned today that All-Star Lauren Jackson has a labral injury to her left hip. The hope is that Jackson's labrum will be able to heal with rest, which is possible depending on the severity and how her hip reacts to time off. Jackson will not do anything for about a week, then will begin ramping up her activity. In about three weeks, the Storm should know whether Jackson will be able to return or will need to undergo surgery.
While diagnosing the injury, doctors determined that it almost certainly was suffered in the game at Tulsa and had nothing to do with her offseason surgery or an injured leg muscle that required a cortisone shot last week.
"It happened when I was in front of the bench running down the court," said Jackson. "I think I locked legs with someone on their team. I felt something pop in my hip. I ran a few more plays, thinking it was my groin or something. Then I said to Brian, 'I think I hurt myself' and he subbed me straight out."
Tonight at KeyArena, the Storm is hoping to even the season series with the Minnesota Lynx after losing to the Lynx right here at the Key 15 days ago. Minnesota has been one of the league's hottest teams in the early part of the 2011 season, going a WNBA-best 5-1 including a pair of early road victories. That should make for a great matchup between the veteran Storm and one of the up-and-coming teams in the Western Conference. Stay with us all night long for the latest.