Live from Press Row - Storm vs. New York
Wild Finish Favors Storm
Final: Storm 63, New York 62
It wasn't quite as clean as you would have hoped, but the Storm has emerged with a needed 63-62 victory. Essence Carson jumped the Storm's inbound pass and came up with a steal streaking toward the basket. Sue Bird, the target of the pass, was able to cut her off and went for the strip. The ball went off Carson and out of bounds as time ran out and the referees ruled the play was clean despite the protests of Carson and other Liberty players. Since nothing was called, replay was not an option. The game ended with the Storm winning.
Bird made the big plays down the stretch, including the three-pointer that got the Storm within two points. Katie Smith came up with the game winner - the final score, in fact, with 1:13 left in the game. But Lauren Jackson was the story of the game, scoring 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds in 22 minutes in her first action since June 21. Jackson looked out of gas at times, but otherwise showed few signs of rust in an encouraging performance.
The Storm will be right back here on Tuesday to take on the San Antonio Silver Stars in a game that looms large in the race for playoff positioning in the Western Conference. With San Antonio losing tonight in Phoenix, the Storm jumped ahead of the Silver Stars and into third place in the West. A win Tuesday would both maintain that spot and secure the head-to-head tiebreaker with San Antonio. You won't want to miss this playoff preview, so get your tickets now!
Fourth Quarter: Storm 63, New York 62
The Storm ran a second defender at Cappie Pondexter, and it paid off. Pondexter dished to Kia Vaughn, who missed a 15-footer. Swin Cash grabbed the rebound and the Liberty failed to foul before Cash took timeout with 20 seconds left. The Storm will inbound with 3.0 seconds remaining.
Liberty's Chance to Win
Fourth Quarter: Storm 63, New York 62
The Storm ran down a lot of clock, but Ashley Robinson got stuck with the basketball flying out of bounds and had no choice but to throw it away. Now New York has the ball down one with 14.4 seconds remaining.
Threes Lift Storm Into Lead
Fourth Quarter: Storm 63, New York 62
For the first time in the fourth quarter, the Storm holds the lead thanks to back-to-back three-pointers from Sue Bird and Katie Smith. Bird answered an improbable Kara Braxton triple at the other end, while Smith struck with the shot clock running down. The crowd is all on its feet right now as the Storm holds possession with 51.8 seconds remaining.
Stretch Run Without LJ
Fourth Quarter: New York 59, Storm 57
The Storm will have to try to win this game down the stretch without Lauren Jackson, who fouled out a moment ago after picking up fouls on consecutive plays. Clearly, Jackson was battling fatigue after playing 21 minutes in her return, and that led her to foul Kara Braxton in the act for her sixth personal. Before that, Jackson had been magnificent, hitting a three-pointer to get the Storm back within two and ignite the crowd. Sue Bird tied it with a steal that she followed by racing to the basket for a contested layup, but Cappie Pondexter has given New York the lead with 2:49 to go by hitting a pullup jumper.
Down the stretch, the Storm will have to rely on Bird's ability to create. Swin Cash continues to struggle to find the range offensively, so Bird is the team's most reliable scoring option - but she's 5-of-16 tonight, including 0-of-5 from behind the arc. Because it's been so tough to score, the Storm can't allow any cheap baskets at the defensive end.
Trading Three-Point Plays
Fourth Quarter: New York 56, Storm 52
The Storm got a three-point trip a moment ago thanks to Essence Carson. After fouling Lauren Jackson in the act, Carson threw down her goggles in frustration and drew a technical foul. Jackson hit all three free throws to get the Storm back within two, but the team couldn't pay it off with a stop at the other end. Plenette Pierson scored in the paint and drew the harm. She's got a team-high 14 points pending the free throw.
To come back, the Storm is going to need a lot of energy the rest of the way from a KeyArena crowd including former University of Washington star Nate Robinson, who is sitting courtside. Before the game. Liberty Coach John Whisenant praised Storm fans for their intelligence as well as the noise they make, saying winning here in Seattle would be one of the team's toughest tasks this season.
Fourth Quarter: New York 54, Storm 49
After the Storm briefly tied the game, the Liberty has taken complete control of the momentum with a 5-0 surge. The Storm looks like it's struggling to find answers at either end of the floor right now.
End Third Quarter: New York 49, Storm 45
The New York Liberty has really put its stamp on this game right now, playing the kind of basketball - and the kind of defense - that has allowed New York to be in the thick of the Eastern Conference Playoff hunt. The Storm is now shooting 31.8 percent for the game - 26.7 percent since the first quarter. New York will make teams look discombobulated like this, but the Storm also needs to be more patient and not take the easy way out against the Liberty's tough defense.
To win this game, the Storm will need to do something it has not done all season long - come from behind to win after three quarters. The fourth-quarter comeback was a staple of the championship season but the Storm has been unable to find that same magic this year - so far.
Third Quarter: Storm 45, New York 42
I really like the energy the Storm brought out of that last timeout. In particular, Camille Little has been energized. She's got three scores at the free throw line and a layup to help the Storm open up a small lead here after trailing a moment ago. Little now leads all scorers with 11 points and is 5-of-6 at the free throw line overall as the Storm has outscored New York 13-4 on free throws.
Liberty in the Lead
Third Quarter: New York 39, Storm 36
The Storm scored on its first two possessions of the second half, but since then it's been all New York. The Liberty has run off seven consecutive points to take the lead for the first time tonight. New York is still hot from downtown, shooting 5-of-9 from beyond the arc, and has had more success getting easy opportunities in the paint. The Liberty has shot 5-of-7 from the field in this quarter, and the Storm needs tougher defense with the offense still stuck in mud against a very good New York defense.
A quick reminder that on Tuesday when the Storm hosts San Antonio, we're going to have a fun event before the game - our first ever Tweetup for the #StormCrazies who love to tweet about us @SeattleStorm. Join us in the MGD Corner outside Aisle 111 at 6 p.m. to meet other Storm fans on Twitter and participate in a Q&A with our special guest @DickFain.
Halftime: Storm 32, New York 27
During the break, the KeyArena floor was taken over by local Zumba dancers, about 200 of whom showed off their moves to Storm fans.
Defense Carries Storm
Halftime: Storm 32, New York 27
The Storm's defense was terrific during the first half, holding New York to sub-30 percent shooting. Early foul trouble for Cappie Pondexter helped a little bit, but Pondexter ended up playing 17 minutes and never got going, shooting 3-of-8 from the field. Besides Kia Vaughn, who hit a pair of shots before dealing with foul trouble of her own, none of the other Liberty players are better than 50 percent from the field. The Storm did an especially good job in the paint. Kara Braxton has missed all five of her shot attempts and New York is 2-of-14 overall in the painted area.
The Storm's defense can carry the team to victory if Seattle avoids turnovers on the other end. The Storm finished with seven for the first half, which isn't bad, but had a stretch with three in four possessions during the second quarter - two of them offensive fouls. The Storm could also use to get back to the free throw line. After nine shots from the charity stripe in the first quarter, the Storm had none in the second quarter.
Second Quarter: Storm 30, New York 25
As we wrote about in today's Insider Preview, the New York Liberty is starting to play John Whisenant-style. I asked Whiz about it before the game and he pointed to the team's improving field goal percentage allowed but lamented that New York isn't scoring as many points lately. That's how things have played out during the second quarter. The Liberty is shooting 29.0 percent overall - including 1-of-12 in the paint - and the Storm has made just three shots in 11 attempts during the period. New York has outscored the Storm 12-6 in the second quarter to cut the lead to just five.
More Storm Mini-Game fun during the timeout with three fans participating in Sue Bird Racing presented by T-Mobile. Congrats to Andrew the Duck, who cruised to victory even though he needed two shots at the basket.
Storm Needs to Keep Up Energy
Second Quarter: Storm 28, New York 21
The emotional boost the Storm got from Lauren Jackson's return has worn off now and we've got a basketball game. The Liberty has been as close as five on a couple of occasions. Jackson has scored 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting, but the rest of the team is just 5-of-15 from the field. With Jackson already having played nine minutes, it's not clear how much more time she'll be able to provide the team the rest of the way. The Storm can't count on Jackson making the difference tonight. The whole team will have to play well offensively to win.
Strong Quarter for Storm
End First Quarter: Storm 24, New York 13
The Liberty made a bit of a run midway through the quarter, hitting some of the long jumpers that weren't going in beforehand and going on a 10-1 surge to get within five points. But the Storm responded with the last six points of the quarter from a familiar duo. Sue Bird knocked down a pullup plus the foul, then Lauren Jackson - back in for another brief stretch - made a three-pointer off a Katie Smith feed. Two great things about the Storm offense in the first quarter: Nine free throw attempts as the team aggressively went to the basket and five assists on six field goals, indicative of great ball movement.
Bird and LJ are money, but one lucky fan walked home with some cash after participating in the Swin Cash Grab during the quarter break.
Like She Was Never Gone
First Quarter: Storm 13, New York 3
Wow, is it ever nice to have Lauren Jackson back in the lineup. Jackson's energy was a huge boon to the Storm in the first three and a half minutes that she played. She opened the game by being fouled and making two free throws, then followed it up with a three-pointer. Jackson also contributed a blocked shot and two rebounds in her short stint on the floor, helping the Storm build an early double-digit lead. We've almost certainly seen the last of Jackson for the first quarter because of her limited minutes. Expect her to play stints like this of about three to four minutes to avoid overtaxing her.
On the other side, Cappie Pondexter picked up two early fouls for the Liberty after making the team's only field goal of the game. She went out of the lineup but will return after this timeout with New York in need of offense. The Liberty is shooting just 1-of-8 from the field thus far and has a pair of turnovers.
Tanisha Wright flew back to Seattle this morning, arriving around 11 a.m., after a week in her native New York following the death of her mother, Victoria, at age 50. Wright declined to talk about the matter, calling it personal, but said she was happy to be rejoin her teammates.
"It's definitely good to be back," she said. "You get some type of normalcy. It's good to be back with some of my friends and focused on something different."
Wright was touched by the support from her fellow Storm players over the last week.
"They were really great," she said. "The whole organization was amazing."
LJ to Start
Jackson will not only play tonight after being cleared medically, she will start.
"Minutes we don't know," said Storm Head Coach Brian Agler before the game. "It won't be big minutes and it won't be long stretches."
After an extended period away from the court, Jackson is rearing to go. Agler isn't certain how that will translate on the court.
"She's practiced with us a little bit, so it's not like she's been totally out," he said. "We've had a couple days of practice. I'm sure she's going to be really energized. That doesn't mean positive or negative results. I just see her like a thoroughbred being let out of the stable after being in there a couple of months. There's going to be a lot of energy. She's going to have to get a feel for game speed, intensity, physicality - those things."
Hello from KeyArena, where the Storm kicks off a four-game homestand tonight against the New York Liberty. There's a lot of energy in the arena as tipoff draws near because, for the first time since June 21, the Storm will have a full complement of players on the court. Lauren Jackson is returning to the lineup after missing nearly two months following hip surgery. Meanwhile, Tanisha Wright will also play for the Storm after traveling back from New York today after attending her mother's funeral. It should be a great game between two teas that would make the playoffs if the season ended today, so stay with us throughout the game for the latest.