Live from Press Row: Storm vs. Minnesota

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Storm Falls to Defending Champs
Fourth Quarter: Minnesota 86, Storm 73

I'm not sure how many teams in the WNBA would have beaten the Minnesota Lynx the way Minnesota played tonight. The Lynx shot 50.0 percent from the field and 57.9 percent from beyond the arc and had three players (Seimone Augustus, with 22, and Rebekkah Brunson and Maya Moore, with 22) top 20 points, surpassing their own season high for points scored against the Storm (84 on May 27 in Minnesota).

The Storm, with just eight players available, was unable to keep up. After scoring 62 points during the first three quarters, the Storm ran out of gas late and had just 11 points in the final period on 4-of-16 (25.0 percent) shooting. Camille Little reached 20 points for the second time this season and Sue Bird scored 17 in her return to the lineup, but Tanisha Wright (11) was the only other Storm player in double figures.

We look forward to adding Lauren Jackson potentially to the mix on Thursday, when the Indiana Fever comes to town. It's Take Your Health by Storm Night presented by Group Health, so we'll be airing Fit Tips throughout the game. You won't want to miss the only visit of the year by 2011 WNBA MVP and three-time gold medalist Tamika Catchings, so get your tickets now!

Help On the WayHere
Fourth Quarter: Minnesota 86, Storm 68

Down 18 with 2:54 to play, the Storm won't be coming back tonight. By the next time the Storm takes the court in just 48 hours, however, the team should have a more complete lineup. Three-time MVP Lauren Jackson, who arrived in Seattle late last night after the lengthy flight from her native Australia, said before the game she will make her 2012 debut against the Indiana Fever.

Jackson was emotional at times as she talked about the excitement of the last month and her surprise at being named flag bearer for the Australian Olympic Team during Opening Ceremonies. Back at home in Albury, where Jackson spent time over the last week, neighbors swelled with pride at Jackson's accomplishments, including a fourth Olympic medal. Now, though, Jackson said she's ready to focus exclusively on the remainder of the Storm season. She felt she was playing some of her best basketball since the 2010 season late in the Olympics, when she became the all-time leading scorer (and possibly rebounder) in women's basketball competition.

Jackson will practice with the team tomorrow. Head Coach Brian Agler was noncommittal about whether Jackson will play because he wants to see her go through a practice first, but has said previously that she will start when she returns to action. That can't come soon enough for the short-handed Storm.

Three by Three, Lynx Pull Away
Fourth Quarter: Minnesota 80, Storm 64

Every time the Storm has seized momentum during this fourth quarter, the Minnesota Lynx has responded with another three-pointer. Maya Moore has a pair and Seimone Augustus one a moment ago during the first 3:18 of the final period as the Lynx have opened up a 16-point lead. That gives Minnesota 11 threes for the game, which ties the Storm opponent record set by the Phoenix Mercury during both 2006 and 2007. Minnesota is shooting a sizzling 64.7 percent from beyond the arc. The Storm simply lacks the firepower to keep up with this kind of perimeter onslaught.

Storm Seizes Momentum
End Third Quarter: Minnesota 69, Storm 62

The crowd is officially in this game as we head to the final period. The Storm earned the cheers with a 13-5 run to finish the third quarter, including the last five points. Camille Little earned a flagrant foul when she was hit in the face by Candice Wiggins. Svetlana Abrosimova extended the subsequent possession by flying in to rebound her own missed free throw. Little scored a jumper to give the Storm five points on one trip downcourt. At the other end, Little tied up Lindsay Whalen to keep Minnesota from scoring before the buzzer. So it's just a seven-point game and the Storm is right in this.

During the quarter break, fans enjoyed the Boost Mobile 4G Speed Race as Cassie defeated the other competitors on tricycles to win a $100 gift card to the WNBA Store. Congrats, Cassie!

Moore Leaves Briefly
Third Quarter: Minnesota 64, Storm 49

Lynx wing Maya Moore, the reigning Western Conference Player of the Week, left the floor after hurting her ankle while trying to secure a loose ball. It doesn't look like anything serious, as Moore never left the bench and will return to the court after a timeout. She may just have jammed it. Cheryl Reeve replaced Moore with Monica Wright, who promptly dropped another pair of three-pointers, giving her 15 points tonight on 6-of-6 shooting.

During the timeout, we picked our sign of the night, and the winner was a simple one: "Welcome Back LJ." Fans are thrilled to have the Aussie back in the building tonight. On Thursday, she plans to make her 2012 debut as the Storm faces the Indiana Fever.

Storm in Danger
Third Quarter: Minnesota 58, Storm 45

Three minutes into the second half, this game has a chance to get away from the Storm. The Lynx have extended their lead to 13 and the Storm has had a difficult time generating good looks on offense since halftime. To try to turn things around, Head Coach Brian Agler took timeout and brought in Alysha Clark for Ewelina Kobryn to put a little more quickness and shooting ability on the floor.

Dunk Contest
Halftime: Minnesota 52, Storm 43

You may remember Norris Frederick as one of the most decorated track and field athletes in UW history - a five-time All-American who specialized in the high jump. Tonight at halftime, we got to see how those skills translated on the basketball court. Frederick was the winner of a halftime dunk contest featuring some of the area's best dunkers. Along with Doppler and in-arena emcee Shellie Hart, I helped judge as Frederick showed off his hops by dunking over two members of the Dance Troupe and from about 12 feet away from the hoop. Congrats to Frederick and all our competitors.

Halftime: Minnesota 52, Storm 43

The Storm hoped to get within six at the break on an Alysha Clark three-pointer, but Maya Moore capped an incredible quarter of offense for the Lynx with a three-pointer to extend the lead back to nine. Minnesota's 52 first-half points were the most the Storm has allowed in any half this season and nine points more than the team had previously given up in an opening half. Moore and Rebekkah Brunson lead the Lynx with 12 points apiece, while Seimone Augustus has nine and Monica Wright is nearly in double figures with nine.

If the Storm can get a few more stops, the team's offense has been more than good enough to win against the league's best defensive team. The crowd on hand is just waiting for a reason to erupt, so a run early in the third quarter could change the tenor of this game.

Weathering the Storm
Second Quarter: Minnesota 49, Storm 40

This has been a pretty incredible quarter of offense for the Lynx, who have 25 points with 2:07 left to play. Minnesota has shot 10-of-14 (71.4 percent), making both easy and difficult shots. Minnesota has a counter for just about everything and is capable of playing inside and out. When Seimone Augustus, who has 10 points, left with three fouls, Cheryl Reeve simply inserted Sixth Woman Award contender Monica Wright, who is a perfect 4-of-4 from the field for nine points.

Given that, the Storm has done an admirable job of hanging around within striking distance. The Storm is shooting 50.0 percent from the field itself and has made six free throws in the second quarter to keep the offense going.

Storm Looking for a Spark
Second Quarter: Minnesota 29, Storm 24

Things have gotten a bit stagnant at both ends during the second quarter. The Storm is looking for a jolt of energy offensively. During the first quarter, that was Svetlana Abrosimova, who had a pair of steals and two assists during her brief stint on the floor. Brian Agler often describes Abrosimova as a risk-taker, and those risks that paid off early haven't worked as well here in the second period. However, Abrosimova needs to keep playing aggressively because that's what she does best.

The Storm has benefited from great ball movement tonight. All 10 of the team's field goals have come off assists. Hard to do much better than that.

Bird Before the Buzzer
End First Quarter: Minnesota 24, Storm 22

It wasn't quite a buzzer-beater, but a Sue Bird three-pointer with 1.6 seconds left in the first quarter cut Minnesota's lead to two points. As expected, the fast scoring pace on both sides slowed down late in the period. In fact, both teams are now shooting less than 50 percent. The slower pace probably works a little bit better for the Storm, though Head Coach Brian Agler talked before the game about the importance of being able to play at two speeds - getting out in transition to take advantage of early opportunities when available, but then slowing down to execute the half-court offense instead of forcing something.

Fast Start
First Quarter: Minnesota 18, Storm 13

I hope you didn't blink, because you might have missed the first six minutes of this game. We had end-to-end action with little interruption to start the game. Just two fouls have been called so far, and there have been few stoppages for missed shots. Both teams are shooting high percentages - 60.0 percent for the Storm and 58.3 percent for Minnesota, which has taken the early lead thanks to one less turnover, one more three and only two free throws of the game. Maya Moore and Rebekkah Brunson have combined for 13 of the 18 Lynx points thus far.

On the other end, Tanisha Wright's aggressiveness has carried over from last game. She's got seven points on 3-of-4 shooting to lead the Storm.

No Thompson Tonight

For the first time all season, the Storm will have 11 players in the building thanks to Lauren Jackson's return - more on that in a bit. However, just eight will be available to Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. Besides Jackson, who is too tired and jet-lagged to play some 24 hours after landing in Seattle, and Ann Wauters, the Storm is also without forward Tina Thompson. Thompson, who is coming back from a sprained left knee, will sit out for precautionary reasons. Agler explained that the thinking is to be patient with Thompson now to make sure her injury doesn't linger and remain a problem down the stretch and into the playoffs. Thompson remains day-to-day and could play on Thursday depending on how her knee responds to the day off.

Signing On

Tonight a national TV audience descends on KeyArena for a matchup of the last two WNBA champions as the Storm hosts the Minnesota Lynx. So far, Minnesota's effort to become the first team since the 2001-02 Los Angeles Sparks to go back-to-back is off to a great start. The Lynx own the league's best record at 17-4. However, one of those losses came right here at the Key against the Storm. Tonight, Seattle will try to become the first team all season to beat Minnesota twice. It should be a great game, so stay with us all night long for the latest.