Live from Press Row: Storm vs. Tulsa
Storm Bounces Back in Style
Final: Storm 71, Tulsa 55
In the fourth game of the season, we finally saw the Storm team we envisioned for a full 40 minutes. In particular, the Storm pulled away by dominating the late third and early fourth quarters. We saw outside shooting, offensive execution and stout defense - pretty much everything the Storm will need to win this year.
Certainly, everything started with Sue Bird. Bird scored 27 points on just 15 shot attempts, making nine of them - five from beyond the arc. With Bird playing off the ball, Tanisha Wright was asked to run the offense, and she did so well that the Storm committed a season-low 11 turnovers - 13 fewer than the Shock had forced in any other game this season. Inside, Camille Little set the tone with 19 points and nine rebounds. Her 10 free throws were a career high. Katie Smith helped lead the defensive effort and the bench contributed in a big way.
The result was a milestone for Head Coach Brian Agler, who has broken a tie with former Houston Comets Head Coach Van Chancellor and become the all-time winningest coach in women's professional basketball history with 212 combined wins between the ABL and the WNBA.
Alas, the schedule won't get any easier for the Storm after tonight. On Sunday, the team visits the same Los Angeles Sparks team that defeated the Storm in the season's first two games. Then it's off to Minnesota for another visit to the defending WNBA champs on Wednesday. We won't be back at KeyArena for a Storm game until Sunday, June 17 when the Minnesota Lynx will be the opponent as we celebrate Father's Day. Bring your dad, your daughter or any member of your family. Get your tickets now for that game!
Running Out the Clock
Fourth Quarter: Storm 71, Tulsa 55
With 1:55 to go, the outcome of this game is no longer in doubt. Now it's just a matter of the Storm finishing out the season's first victory. Alysha Clark has gotten some more playing time late in the game, and has a chance to score her first career points at the free throw line after the break. Sue Bird did add another two points to her total with a tough running, twisting layup in traffic. She's scored 27 tonight and the crowd has loved every one of them.
Storm Without Sue
Fourth Quarter: Storm 69, Tulsa 50
One of the issues for the Storm during the season's first three games has been staying afloat when Sue Bird gets her typical rest during the second and fourth quarters. Not so tonight, as the Storm actually extended its lead while Bird got a nice long break at the start of the fourth. Tanisha Wright has done a terrific job of running the Storm offense tonight and the team's defense also helped keep the Shock in check early in the period.
Birdy's back now, and just before the Doppler Train at this last timeout she became the second Storm player to bank in a shot before the shot clock expired. Her three-pointer pushed the Storm's lead to 19 points and gave her 25 for the evening. With 4:47 to play, the Storm is in complete command right now.
Storm Opens It Up
End Third Quarter: Storm 57, Tulsa 46
This is the Storm's largest lead at 11 points. The home team pulled away late in the period thanks to strong ballhandling and physical defense in the paint. Tina Thompson, who's barely gotten to play tonight because of foul trouble, knocked down a second one of her patented moonball three-pointers. And Ewelina Kobryn has given the Storm some nice minutes. She banked in a 20-footer at the shot-clock buzzer after her teammates urged her to shoot, then scored in the paint.
More fun video during the quarter break with our first Storm Movie Magic of the young season, featuring Tina Thompson. If you missed that at the Key, you'll have to wait until we vote for the Stormy Award honoring the best Movie Magic at the end of the season.
Third Quarter: Storm 48, Tulsa 42
During the third quarter, all 12 Storm points have been scored by the duo of Sue Bird and Camille Little. Bird knocked down a triple and a short jumper in transition to give her 20 points, the first time this season she's reached the mark. Little, the Storm's other double-figure scorer during the first half, has continued the strong production. She's got seven points since the break, including a three of her own, and now has 17 for the game to go along with eight points. With the KeyArena crowd energized by a 12-3 run, Gary Kloppenburg needed to call timeout.
I'd also like to highlight Katie Smith's play. While Smith has shot just 1-of-4 from the field, she's been tough defensively. Smith has drawn a pair of offensive fouls and is doing a fine job against Tulsa's high-scoring guards.
Storm Up One at the Break
Halftime: Storm 36, Tulsa 35
Just like the first quarter, the second ended with Sue Bird shooting at the buzzer, but this time her catch-and-shoot effort from a little deeper rattled out. As a result, it's a one-point Storm lead at halftime. On its last two possessions of the half, the Tulsa Shock put the ball in the hands of rookie Riquna Williams and allowed her to go one-on-one. Williams responded with a pair of jumpers, one of them a three-pointer. She's awfully talented for a second-round pick.
Of course, Bird is talented in her own right. Despite her late miss, she's scored 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Brian Agler made an adjustment to put Bird off the ball with Tanisha Wright handling it. That allowed Storm teammates to screen for Bird and get her free for outside shots. The strategy has worked to perfection and the Storm has done an excellent job of avoiding turnovers. The team is on pace for 16, which would be a season low despite Tulsa's pressure defense. Still, this is anybody's game because the Shock has had so much success beyond the arc and controlled the offensive glass. Ann Wauters has been quiet tonight. Look for her to play better after halftime.
Sign of the Game
Second Quarter: Storm 34, Tulsa 30
A quick Tulsa timeout just before halftime gives us a chance for the Sign of the Game promotion. Tonight's winner: "No One Flies Higher than Sue Bird."
Second Quarter: Storm 32, Tulsa 27
Since the last break, the Storm's starting backcourt has done a fine job of taking care of the basketball and getting the Storm into its offense. At the other end, the Storm defense is contesting shots and getting rebounds to complete stops. The result is a 7-0 run that has given the Storm its largest lead.
Backup center Ewelina Kobryn has been on the floor for the run and scored two points at the free throw line. Before the game, Head Coach Brian Agler spoke about Kobryn's performance as a regular this season.
"Obviously we've given her more opportunities and I think she's playing pretty well," he said. "She's doing some good things. She went from being coached in Spanish and Polish to coached in English. We really have to take our time and talk with her in practice. Her teammates are doing a great job of that. We're giving her extra attention that way. I'd say she's evolving pretty well."
Second Quarter: Tulsa 27, Storm 25
Both teams have shot the ball accurately from the perimeter but Tulsa has the upper hand. The Storm has made three three-pointers in seven attempts and the Shock is 4-of-7 from beyond the arc, including a pair of makes for Jennifer Lacy. Her latest gave the Shock back the lead at 27-25.
We have a young, loud crowd in attendance tonight at the Key. It's a little like Kids Day, though this group is slightly older. Middle schoolers and high schoolers gathered here this afternoon for the Storm's Careers in Sports Day, hearing from various members of the organization - including your humble blogger - about what it's like to work for a pro sports team. Now, those same students are cheering on the Storm and making good use of their Thunderstix.
Bird at the Buzzer
End First Quarter: Storm 17, Tulsa 14
Hey, that sounds familiar. After an Ivory Latta foul with 4.9 seconds left in the first quarter, the Storm inbounded to Sue Bird, who drove to nearly the three-point line and drained a long three-pointer just before the buzzer sounded to end the first quarter. Bird had a pair of threes in the period and finished with a game-high eight points. Her three untied the game and gave the Storm a 17-14 lead after one.
Late in the first quarter, Alysha Clark checked in for her first action this season and her WNBA debut.
During the quarter break, fans got an opportunity to see this year's incarnation of Sue Bird Racing featuring Storm newcomers Victoria Dunlap, Shekinna Stricklen and Tina Thompson. We'll have that video on StormBasketball.com shortly so you can find out which player cheated and knocked down a teammate to win!
Storm Taking Care of the Basketball
First Quarter: Storm 8, Tulsa 6
The obvious key going into this game was turnovers, as the Tulsa Shock has forced more miscues than anyone else in the WNBA and the Storm has struggled with turnovers so far. Give the Storm credit there - when Tina Thompson was called for an offensive foul a moment ago battling for post position, it was the Storm's first turnover of the game. To deal with Tulsa's pressure, Head Coach Brian Agler changed up his starting lineup, replacing Thompson with Katie Smith to add more ballhandling. Thompson and Stricklen were the first substitutions.
The Storm needs to do a better job on the glass, where the Shock holds an early 8-2 advantage. Tulsa has been able to get the ball inside but is missing shots around the rim and collecting offensive rebounds instead of buckets.
Dunlap Out Tonight
Storm forward Victoria Dunlap will not play tonight. Dunlap suffered a concussion in practice earlier this week and is still recovering. She had played in one of the Storm's first three games. Dunlap is the first Storm player to miss a game this season.
Homecoming for Coach Klop
For Shock Head Coach Gary Kloppenburg, tonight's game is something of a homecoming. Kloppenburg's father, Bob, was an assistant coach for the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics in the 1980s and 1990s. Gary was a part of the Storm at its inception, serving as an assistant coach from 2000-02 and helping lead the Storm to its first playoff berth in 2002. Kloppenburg is getting his first opportunity as a head coach in the WNBA after serving as an assistant to Lin Dunn both here and in Indiana.
Kloppenburg got a few days in Seattle after his team flew in from Los Angeles Wednesday afternoon.
"My family's here so we went out," he said. "My mom put together a little party for some old friends. Seattle's so nice. I do miss it."
Welcome back to KeyArena, where the Seattle Storm has returned after a two-week absence for tonight's game against the Tulsa Shock. After three days of practice, the Storm will try to demonstrate improvement from an 0-3 start to the season, all against the Los Angeles Sparks and the Minnesota Lynx. While the Tulsa Shock is also winless, Tulsa has gotten everything but the victory so far this season, losing three games by three points or fewer. Coach Gary Kloppenburg joked his team is getting lots of practice in end-game situations. Both teams are motivated to get their first win tonight, which should make for a great game. Stay with us throughout.