Live from Press Row: Storm vs. Minnesota
Storm Hands Lynx First Loss
Final: Storm 65, Minnesota 62
It's all over at KeyArena. Maya Moore had a chance to tie from about 30 feet at the buzzer, but her desperation shot came up well short and the Storm holds on for a 65-62 victory, which doubles as the first loss for the Minnesota Lynx of 2012. The Lynx's record-setting run to start the season ends at 10 games, and the loss also snaps a 13-game Minnesota winning streak dating back to the 2011 regular season.
To get the win, the Storm needed an incredible defensive effort. Minnesota managed just 62 points, 16 points fewer than the Lynx have netted in any other game this season. Minnesota's 37.5 percent shooting was also a season low. Tough defense allowed the Storm to win with just eight points in the fourth quarter. Before that, Sue Bird supplied the scoring punch with 21 points on five three-pointers. Tanisha Wright ran the offense with 12 points and a season-high eight assists. Tina Thompson added 10 points and five rebounds off the bench, as well as the offensive rebound and free throws that helped put the game away.
The Storm will take tomorrow off and get back to work in practice on Tuesday, trying to get better with this brief break before the San Antonio Silver Stars come to town on Friday. It's a Me + 3 game, so round up three of your friends and come on down to KeyArena as we kick off our season-long celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Title IX, as well as start Pride Weekend in style. If it's anything like tonight's game, it promises to be a lot of fun.
Fourth Quarter: Storm 65, Minnesota 62
In an incredible development, Sue Bird missed both free throws after being fouled, but Tina Thompson saved the day. The Storm veteran pulled down the offensive rebound and made both of her tries with 1.0 second left to play.
Fourth Quarter: Storm 61, Minnesota 60
Seimone Augustus got a pretty good look at a runner from the baseline, but it rolled around and out. After a scramble for the loose ball, the Storm was able to call timeout with 4.4 seconds remaining and advance the ball to midcourt. The Lynx will likely still have a chance to tie after the Storm shoots free throws.
Lynx's Chance to Lead
Fourth Quarter: Storm 61, Minnesota 60
Again, the Minnesota defense blew up the Storm's attempt to create shots out of pick-and-roll actions. That left Tanisha Wright to try to create off the dribble with the shot clock running down. She got into the paint, but missed off the iron. Camille Little flew in to try to grab the offensive rebound but landed out of bounds, giving Minnesota the ball with 16.0 seconds remaining.
Lynx's Undefeated Record on the Line
Fourth Quarter: Storm 61, Minnesota 60
With 40.4 seconds left to play, the game is on the line. The Storm has possession after Minnesota was unable to secure a Katie Smith missed three from the right corner - the same shot she hit a few minutes ago for the Storm's first field goal of the fourth quarter. Head Coach Brian Agler took timeout to draw something up. The Storm can take the clock down under 20 seconds, so a score here would force the Lynx to start playing catch-up. On the other hand, a Minnesota stop would give the Lynx possession with a chance to take the lead. So yeah, there's a lot at stake.
Fourth Quarter: Storm 61, Minnesota 57
It would be hard to overstate the importance of Katie Smith's three-pointer a moment ago. It gave the Storm a little breathing room after back-to-back Seimone Augustus scores brought the Lynx within one point, the closest they've gotten since the opening moments of the game. It also gave the Storm a field goal in the period after starting 0-of-6 from the field. Minnesota has tightened things up defensively and the only open looks the Storm can get at this point are from downtown, so the team will probably have to hit some more threes to win this game.
On the other end, Tanisha Wright is doing a good job defensively, but Augustus simply can't be stopped when she's playing like this. Expect the Lynx to keep going to her down the stretch while the Storm utilizes guards Sue Bird and Tanisha Wright in pick-and-rolls.
Fourth Quarter: Storm 57, Minnesota 52
My interpretation of the Lynx's body language and energy during this fourth quarter is that they're serious about their winning streak, and this is more than just another game for them. Minnesota is arguing every call, scrapping for every loose ball and generally playing this far more like a playoff game than a matchup early in the regular season. It hasn't been pretty, but it has been effective. The Storm is scoreless in the fourth quarter and doesn't have a rebound either. The Lynx has five offensive boards, extending possessions and coming up with scores. However, Minnesota has already reached the penalty with 5:44 to go, and the Storm will be able to shoot a lot of free throws by staying aggressive the rest of the way.
Earlier, I mentioned a star-studdied crowd. We have some prominent dads in the house tonight, including University of Washington Women's Basketball Head Coach Kevin McGuff at courtside with his two daughters. Retired Seattle Seahawks lineman Walter Jones, a sure future Hall of Famer, is here with his family. We also have a pair of current Seahawks in safety Kam Chancellor and cornerback Richard Sherman.
Of course, one dad who's a bit preoccupied tonight is the Storm's Brian Agler. Coach Agler's family arrived in town over the weekend, and daughter Taylor - who recently committed to play basketball at Indiana University - is serving as a ballkid for the game.
Back and Forth
End Third Quarter: Storm 57, Minnesota 44
The Lynx surges. The Storm answers. That was the pattern through the third quarter, including within that last segment. Minnesota scored seven consecutive points, followed by the Storm scoring the last five of the period. You'll never guess who made a three - Sue Bird, who now has five for the night in six attempts and has scored 21 points. Bird has already tied her season high for threes; her career high is seven.
Lookes like Brian Agler is going to alter his rotation a little bit to keep Bird on the floor at the start of the fourth quarter to try to keep the Lynx at bay. With four days off before the Storm's next game, Bird can probably extend her minutes tonight.
Storm Responds Again
Third Quarter: Storm 52, Minnesota 37
The Minnesota Lynx are throwing punches tonight, but each time the Storm has the answer. Since the last timeout, the Storm has scored seven unanswered points to push the lead back to 15 - larger than it was at halftime. As usual, Sue Bird was right in the middle of the surge, knocking down another three-pointer - her fourth of the night, marking the bulk of her 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting. The crowd is also giving the Storm a big lift.
Here Come the Defending Champs
Third Quarter: Storm 45, Minnesota 37
Former Houston Rockets Head Coach Rudy Tomjanovich once famously declared, "Never underestimate the heart of a champion." Well, that's what we're seeing from the reigning WNBA champs in the third quarter. The Minnesota Lynx have come out with incredible energy at both ends of the floor. The shooting is evening out a little sooner than we expected, as the Storm has just one field goal - a Tanisha Wright banker to beat the shot clock. Everything the Storm does on offense has been contested by Minnesota, while the Lynx are getting better shot attempts on offense than they did in the first half.
In a Father's Day tradition, the Storm Dance Troupe performed at the last timeout with a little help from their fathers, including Peter Carrington, the father of three Dance Troupe members we featured on StormTracker earlier this week.
Great Half for the Storm
Halftime: Storm 43, Minnesota 29
I think this was a half that showed the potential for the Seattle Storm when everything is clicking. Getting big-time production from guards Sue Bird and Tanisha Wright, who combined for 23 points and eight assists, and strong bench play, the Storm has opened up a 14-point lead against the WNBA's best team. Minnesota, which has shot better than 50 percent this season, managed just 35.5 percent shooting without a three and with nine turnovers. Instead, it was the Storm that could not miss from the field, making 56.7 percent of its shots.
Of course, as we learned on Opening Night, a great half doesn't mean much if it doesn't translate into 40 solid minutes. We can safely assume the shooting will even out a bit during the second half, so the Storm must maintain its defensive effort to hang on to the lead and hand the Lynx their first defeat of 2012. I'm curious to see how Minnesota responds. The Lynx have dealt with some adversity, coming from behind twice in the fourth quarter this season, but I'm almost certain this is the biggest deficit Minnesota has faced.
Bird Leads Storm Response
Second Quarter: Storm 41, Minnesota 25
The Lynx got back as close as 11 at 36-25 behind strong play at both ends from sixth woman Monica Wright. However, Sue Bird had an answer. Bird knocked down a triple from the right wing - her third of the game - and then delivered a gorgeous dime to Tanisha Wright, who never had to break stride as she glided to the basket for the layup in transition to push the Storm's lead back to 16 and cause Reeve to call another timeout.
Lynx Draws Energy from T
Second Quarter: Storm 32, Minnesota 19
After the Storm earned its largest lead at 32-15, Minnesota Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve drew a technical foul. Reeve was furious about an offensive foul called on Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson for pushing off to get free in the post, and continued her commentary all the way through Minnesota's next offensive possession, earning a T from Kurt Walker. Since then, the Lynx has fed off the energy provided by the fiery Reeve on the sidelines, scoring on the last two possessions to get back within 13. Brian Agler called timeout to keep the run from potentially developing.
During the timeout, KeyArena fans gave a standing ovation to Amina Bowman, who is here at the game with her family. Bowman is a nine-year-old basketball fan who was wounded in an accidental shooting at Armin Jahr Elementary in Bremerton. We'll have more on Bowman's special experience at the game tomorrow on StormBasketball.com.
All Storm Right Now
Second Quarter: Storm 24, Minnesota 12
This Father's Day crowd is loving the way the Storm is playing right now, giving the team loud ovations at each break. What's not to like? The Storm is doubling up the undefeated Lynx a little over two minutes into the second quarter, forcing Minnesota Head Coach Cheryl Reeve to take timeout. The Storm has found the range from downtown since the quarter break, with Tina Thompson and Sue Bird both knocking down triples. Bird has a pair of threes in the game, continuing her hot shooting Friday at Tulsa, and leads all scorers with eight points. Tanisha Wright has six and Ewelina Kobryn five after a running banker off glass, giving the Storm some of the same scoring balance that is a Lynx trademark.
In response, Reeve is going much more heavily to her starters than usual. She's got all five starters in the game with 7:46 to play in the second quarter, while the Storm has two reserves on the floor in addition to Tina Thompson, who is resting now but has already played heavy minutes off the bench.
Trademark Storm Defense
End First Quarter: Storm 16, Minnesota 10
Before tonight's game, Storm Head Coach Brian Agler sounded a bit more encouraged about the progress of his team's offense than its defense. That will change if the Storm keeps defending like it did in the first quarter. Minnesota managed just 10 points, a season low for the Lynx in any quarter in 2012 and tied for the fewest the Storm has allowed in a quarter. Minnesota shot 4-of-16 from the field and turned the ball over seven times. The Storm did a good job of providing help in the paint and getting back out to shooters.
At the end of the quarter, Ewelina Kobryn helped the Storm open up its lead to six points, the largest of the night. In the last two minutes of the quarter, Kobryn had three points - all at the free throw line - and grabbed two rebounds.
Wright Way to Start
First Quarter: Storm 10, Minnesota 8
Tanisha Wright is no longer rocking the 'fro, having gone back to braids, but a Wright by any other hairstyle is still effective off the dribble. She's been aggressive attacking the basket and has six early points as the Storm holds a 10-8 lead. I think the scoreboard might understate how well the Storm has played at the start of this game. We're seeing lots of energy at the defensive end, which has led to three Minnesota turnovers thus far. At the other end, the Storm is doing a good job of creating opportunities in the paint.
There are two familiar issues to clean up: defensive rebounding and turnovers. The Storm has coughed it up twice on offense, and Rebekkah Brunson remains effective as ever at creating second chances, which led to the last Lynx score.
The last time the Storm took the court here at KeyArena, it was June 1. Since then, the Storm has played five road games as part of three separate trips. Returning home in between the different trips gave the Storm's players and coaches a chance to sleep in their own beds, but didn't offer a taste of home cooking in front of the #StormCrazies like the Storm will finally get tonight. Of the Storm's first nine games, just two have been played at KeyArena - as many as the Storm has played at both the Target Center in Minneapolis and the Staples Center in L.A., believe it or not.
I asked Head Coach Brian Agler, jokingly, whether he had to reacquaint himself with KeyArena. He pointed out that he'd just told Victoria Dunlap she looked different, only to realize what had changed was Dunlap wearing a white home uniform and shooting shirt instead of the road green the Storm has worn recently.
Given the Storm's track record at KeyArena, with just three losses in the regular season dating back to 2010, this three-game homestand should help boost the Storm's play. At the same time, don't expect the Minnesota Lynx to be intimidated, having handed the Storm one of those three losses last June.
Happy Father's Day! We're back at KeyArena for the first time in more than two weeks as the Storm takes on the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx, winners of all 10 games to start the season. The Storm will try to put an end to that streak tonight, but it won't be easy. The Lynx defeated the Storm by double figures twice in Minnesota earlier this season. In addition o the action on the court, we'll have plenty in the stands with a star-studded crowd here to celebrate the holiday with a special focus on Dads & Daughters.