Live from Press Row - Storm vs. Los Angeles
Storm Finds Another Way to Win
Final: Storm 65, Los Angeles 63
We saw it all on this homestand: A blowout, the Storm pulling away in the final minutes and two games that were not decided until the clock showed triple zeroes. The common denominator? All four games ended with Storm victories. That's the team's longest winning streak of the season. It puts the Storm a season-best five games above .500. And it means that the Storm is one win away from securing an eighth consecutive trip to the playoffs.
Tonight saw the Storm really hang on after building a lead as large as 11 points. The Los Angeles Sparks controlled most of the fourth quarter, rallying from down eight with six minutes left to tie the game, but couldn't account for Sue Bird. Bird found yet another way to win a game for the Storm, adding game-winning free throws to her game-winning three-pointer against Connecticut and her game-saving strip in the New York game. Bird did a good job of selling contact and then stepped to the free throw line with 1.6 seconds left and calmly knocked down two attempts. Tina Thompson had a chance to win it for L.A. at the buzzer, but her three-pointer bounced harmlessly off the front rim.
Bird was one of four Storm starters to score double figures. The fifth player, Swin Cash, had nine points and tied for the team high with seven rebounds. That's how much of a team effort this victory was. The Storm also held a potent L.A. offense to 40.7 percent shooting and 1-of-9 from downtown in the second half.
The Storm now heads out on the last road trip of the season, starting Tuesday with a rematch against the Sparks in L.A. You can watch that locally on KONG 6/16 as well as via LiveAccess and on your radio dial on 1090 AM. Stay tuned to StormBasketball.com for compete coverage of the road trip as the Storm looks to secure a playoff spot.
Birdy Free Throws Give Storm Lead
Fourth Quarter: Storm 63, Los Angeles 63
Another wild end-game possession. Tanisha Wright had nowhere to go with the basketball and had her shot blocked. Sue Bird recovered with time running out, faked a three-pointer and drew contact from Kristi Toliver. Referees immediately whistled a foul to send Bird to the free throw line. She coolly made both shots to give the Storm a two-point lead. L.A. will still have 1.6 seconds after a timeout.
Storm Controls the Clock
Fourth Quarter: Storm 63, Los Angeles 63
Tense moments at KeyArena. The Sparks tied the game for the first time since 11-all with a pair of Candace Parker free throws at the 1:09 mark. Thereafter the teams traded stops, with Swin Cash missing a putback effort for the Storm and tough defense keeping Camille Little from scoring in the paint. Tanisha Wright secured the rebound and called timeout. The shot clock is off, giving the Storm a chance to take the final shot with 23.0 seconds remaining.
Down to the Final Minutes
Fourth Quarter: Storm 61, Los Angeles 59
Just like the first two games of the homestand, this one is going to be decided in the final minutes in a thrilling finish for fans here at KeyArena and watching around the country on ESPN2. The crowd, many of them clad in free T-shirts Bing provided to go along with the lunchboxes the first 3,000 fans received, can be a big factor down the stretch.
Right now, Camille Little is headed to the free throw line with a chance to double the Storm's tenuous two-point lead. The charity stripe has been a bugaboo for the Storm tonight. The team is 12-of-18 at the line, leaving some points on the board that would loom very large right about now.
Fourth Quarter: Storm 53, Los Angeles 47
Contributing to the playoff vibe of tonight's game is the way it's being called by our officiating crew. Physical play is being allowed, even on shot attempts, which is what we can expect next month during the WNBA postseason. After multiple shots during this quarter, Storm players have looked to the referees for calls that just aren't coming right now. The Storm has to recognize that and adjust accordingly. Players can take advantage of that by being aggressive at the defensive end of the floor.
End Third Quarter: Storm 51, Los Angeles 43
This game is not for the faint of heart. Led by the tangle between DeLisha Milton-Jones and Lauren Jackson, always a game within a game, the third quarter was marked by very physical basketball. The Sparks got into the bonus early and looked like they might take advantage at the line but ended up with just four free throws in the period.
The Storm made just enough plays - a Swin Cash three-pointer last among them - to hang on to a solid lead. The Storm's balance has been admirable tonight. All five starters have scored at least seven points. We might well see everyone reach double figures tonight.
Coming down the stretch, we're going to need the Storm Crazies to provide the kind of Home Court Advantage that has made it so hard for opponents to win at KeyArena over the last decade.
Third Quarter: Storm 42, Los Angeles 37
The Los Angeles Sparks aren't going away that easily. Since the Storm opened up an 11-point lead at 42-31, the Sparks have played a more determined brand of basketball to cut the deficit to five. Two scoring plays stand out. Tina Thompson aggressively ripped down a miss and went right up with the putback for her first bucket of the game. A moment ago, Candace Parker striped Tanisha Wright of the basketball and went the other direction for an uncontested layup. The Storm has been making those kind of plays most of the night and needs to get back that same level of aggressiveness to maintain the lead.
Halftime: Storm 37, Los Angeles 30
For Back to School Night presented by Group Health, we've got the talented youngsters from Seattle School of Rock here performing atop the tunnel to the Storm locker room. The kids performed a song as the Storm was coming out to warm up and has done a couple of numbers here during halftime as fans sing and dance along.
Strong Execution for Storm
Halftime: Storm 37, Los Angeles 30
The Storm has had bigger offensive quarters, but in terms of completeness, I'd put the second quarter a moment ago against any this season. The Storm scored 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting. The team stuck inside (getting five free throws) and outside (three three-pointers). As important, the Storm did not turn the ball over once in the period, giving the team a bunch of looks at the basket. Lauren Jackson had eight points in just 6:24 played in the second quarter, but Tanisha Wright was crucial too. She had eight points and two steals and leads all scorers with 11.
Candace Parker's minutes were limited during the second quarter by foul trouble after she picked up a pair, but Parker has never really found a rhythm tonight. Parker has four points on 2-of-6 shooting against a swarming Storm defense. Ticha Penicheiro (10) and Ebony Hoffman (nine, all from downtown) have done most of the damage. If the Storm can continue taking L.A.'s top options away, this nice crowd on a Sunday night should go home happy.
Sparks Make a Run
Second Quarter: Storm 32, Los Angeles 27
Even with Candace Parker sitting and watching, the Los Angeles Sparks have used an 8-2 run to get back within five points. Most of the damage has been done from the perimeter, with Ebony Hoffman hitting another three-pointer and Ticha Penicheiro adding her first. In the second quarter, the Sparks are 4-of-7 from beyond the arc and just 2-of-7 from two-point range. Sue Bird and LJ will return after this timeout and the last 1:32 of the half will be crucial to determine momentum going to halftime.
Momentum Entirely with Storm
Second Quarter: Storm 30, Los Angeles 19
Even with Lauren Jackson heading to the bench to rest just after the timeout, the Storm has kept going. It's now a 17-5 surge for the Storm, which has scored the last eight points to open up the largest lead of the night at 11 points. Outside of threes, Los Angeles is finding few openings in the Storm defense. At the same time, the Storm's execution has been terrific. Seattle has scored on five of the last six possessions, getting production inside and out.
Tonight marks the debut of the last of our Storm mini-games: Camille Little's Big Wheels. Storm Assistant Coach Jenny Boucek won the race and was unbelievable competitive riding the trykes that are used in the competition. We'll have video of Camille Little's Big Wheels shortly. In the meantime, have you seen the ARobbin' Buckets video?
LJ Getting Going
Second Quarter: Storm 24, Los Angeles 19
After playing mostly on the perimeter during her first stint in the game, Lauren Jackson has attacked the paint here in the second quarter with terrific results. She's drawn three fouls, including a pair of "and ones" where Candace Parker was called for the foul. Jackson in the post opens everything up for the Storm offense, which has scored 11 points in the first 4:32 after putting up just 13 in the first quarter.
On the other side, Los Angeles is hanging around thanks to hot shooting. Two of the three field goals by the Sparks have been Ebony Hoffman three-pointers. Los Angeles is 3-of-5 from downtown overall, improving upon the best team three-point shooting in WNBA history.
Nice Energy for Storm
End First Quarter: Storm 13, Los Angeles 11
I really like the energy the Storm has shown in this game, especially at the defensive end of the floor. The Storm has held Los Angeles to 5-of-15 shooting in the first quarter. The Storm finished the quarter with Swin Cash stripping Tina Thompson clean near halfcourt and racing to the other end to beat the buzzer with a layup. Ashley Robinson and Lauren Jackson are both giving the Storm strong interior defense. When Jackson was matched up with Candace Parker, the Sparks star missed all three of her shot attempts.
Speaking of energy, during the quarter break, we had the HP Dunk Contest and saw a couple of impressive dunks off the trampoline by fans. Congrats to our winner.
Ragged Offensive Start
First Quarter: Storm 6, Los Angeles 6
More defense than offense in the early going at KeyArena tonight. Neither team has yet separated, tying at 2, 4 and now 6. They've combined for 5-of-18 shooting from the field and two turnovers, both by the Storm. The defense has been strong, but we've also seen both teams be a little impatient at the offensive end. The Storm in particular can do a lot more damage by making the Sparks work and defend for 24 seconds.
One stat we'll be watching all night long is offensive rebounding. Los Angeles struggles on the defensive glass and the Storm should be able to do some damage with second-chance points, especially if Lauren Jackson plays in the paint rather than floating to the perimeter.
New Look for Sparks
It's been a while since we've seen the Sparks. They visited KeyArena on July 9, when both teams were just beginning to deal with the absence of their MVPs (Lauren Jackson and Candace Parker). That was the last game as head coach for Jennifer Gillom. After a Storm blowout, Gillom was replaced on the sidelines by Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, back with L.A. five years after coaching the Sparks to the top regular-season record in the Western Conference.
In scouting the Sparks, Storm Head Coach Brian Agler has seen some differences with Bryant at the helm. For one, L.A. has gotten back to basics on offense.
"I think that they have shortened their playcalls a little bit," said Agler. "They don't try to do as much. I'm not saying that's good or bad. I think they really try to isolate a few things. The other thing is whenever they get a mismatch, they try to go take that person to the block and play inside-out or one-on-one."
The Sparks remain potent on offense. Their 41.2 percent three-point shooting is on pace to break the WNBA record. So the Storm has its work cut out defensively after allowing barely 80 points per 100 possessions the last three games, all of them wins.
Hello from KeyArena, where the Storm is getting ready to take on the Los Angeles Sparks in a matchup of Western Conference rivals that figures to have ramifications on the playoff picture. The Storm is closing in on a playoff berth and could clinch another trip to the postseason with wins over the Sparks tonight and Tuesday. Los Angeles has plenty to play for as well. The Sparks enter tonight's game a game back of San Antonio for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. With so much on the line between two teams that have a lengthy history, I expect a playoff atmosphere tonight at the Key. Stay with us all night long for the latest on what's happening on and off the floor.