Live from Press Row: Storm vs. Connecticut
Great Storm Effort Falls Short
Final: Connecticut 60, Storm 58
The Storm's possession after the timeout was foiled and resulted in Shekinna Stricklen throwing a shot at the hoop to avoid a travel. Mistie Mims split two free throws to give the Sun a two-point lead with 2.7 seconds remaining. Unfortunately, the Storm was out of timeouts and had to hope for a desperation heave. Tina Thompson made a great pass downcourt to Stricklen, who turned and was open from about 30 feet. Alas, her long cast was off to the right at the buzzer and Connecticut came up with the road win despite being held to the lowest point total of the season.
Without Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, this was a gutsy effort from the remaining Storm players. Stricklen scored 12 points, Camille Little had 11 and Tanisha Wright scored 10 points and handed out six assists. Six of the eight players who scored had at least six points. The Storm's defense was terrific, holding Connecticut to 33.3 percent from the field and 2-of-14 from beyond the arc.
On Tuesday, the Storm's final homestand will continue against Chicago on Breast Health Awareness Night. It's also the return of Swin Cash and Le'coe Willingham and the annual homecoming for Gonzaga's Courtney Vandersloot. We hope the Storm will have Sue Bird back in the lineup for that game. Join us and get your tickets now!
Connecticut Takes the Lead
Fourth Quarter: Connecticut 59, Storm 58
A Kara Lawson three got the Storm within one, and video replay gave the Sun back the ball after a Tanisha Wright shot was blocked off her Storm teammates and out of bounds. Renee Montgomery was fouled as she up-faked Camille Little and made two free throws to give Connecticut the lead. The Storm will have 14.4 seconds to try to score after a timeout.
Fourth Quarter: Storm 58, Connecticut 54
With 1:03 to play, the Storm holds a four-point lead thanks to eight unanswered points from the WNBA's all-time leading scorers. Tina Thompson hit a three to pull within one, followed by another from Katie Smith to give the Storm the lead. Smith later added a difficult fadeaway jumper to double the lead.
Miscues Mar Storm's Comeback Effort
Fourth Quarter: Connecticut 54, Storm 50
Again, the Storm's turnover problem has reared its ugly head. The team has turnovers on five of the last six possessions, a streak interrupted only by a Shekinna Stricklen three coming out of a timeout. The big problem is these turnovers have led to easy buckets for Connecticut, which got a pair of transition layups to build the lead.
Improbably, it's still just a four-point game and the Storm has a chance to come back. The crowd will be a factor over the last 3:36. Right now, Storm legend Simone Edwards is out on the court rallying support and throwing T-shirts into the crowd.
Back and Forth in the Fourth
Fourth Quarter: Connecticut 48, Storm 47
As fans take the court for the nightly Doppler Train, this is anybody's ballgame. The Storm took its first lead since 7-6 on a pair of Tanisha Wright free throws early in the quarter. Since then, the teams have traded the edge twice, with a Renee Montgomery jumper giving Connecticut the lead before Brian Agler took timeout. Wright and Camille Little have shown off their chemistry recently, connecting for a series of scores. They're the first two Storm scorers in double figures; in fact, Little's 11 points are the most by anyone on either side in this low-scoring affair.
As we mentioned earlier, the Storm will face the defending champion Minnesota Lynx in the opening round of the WNBA Playoffs. We know that the Storm will host Game 2 at KeyArena on either Saturday, Sept. 29 or Sunday, Sept. 30. Tickets for that game will go on sale Monday morning at 10 a.m. right here on StormBasketball.com. Don't miss your chance to get the best seats as the last two WNBA champs square off with a spot in the Western Conference Finals on the line!
Storm Takes Momentum to the Final Quarter
End Third Quarter: Connecticut 41, Storm 39
One of the most unusual statistics of 2012 is that the Storm has yet to win a game it trailed after three quarters. This is a similar group to the one that seemed to come back on a nightly basis in 2010. Maybe tonight is a night. The Storm will head to the final period down just two points and with the momentum after going on a 7-2 run to end the third quarter, capped by Shekinna Stricklen's late three-pointer.
During the quarter break, it was the return of Storm Fear Factor. Sue Bird and Head Coach Brian Agler were willing to eat grasshoppers for Doppler, but Tina Thompson wasn't having it. Contestant Daniel won by correctly guessing that Agler and Bird would win the Fear Factor challenge, getting a Storm jersey and more.
Third Quarter: Connecticut 39, Storm 32
It's pretty clear what Mike Thibault told his team during the last timeout: Get the ball to Tina Charles. Aided by better floor spacing, the Sun has gotten Charles some good touches in the post. She's scored twice and set up a Mistie Mims trip to the free throw line as Connecticut has scored on each of its last four trips downcourt, building this lead back out to seven points. The Storm has to be careful not to far fall behind because this lineup doesn't have a lot of quick-strike capability.
Third Quarter: Connecticut 32, Storm 28
No change in the defensive nature of this game since the break. Connecticut has made two shots in eight attempts, while the Storm's only make in five tries was Camille Little banking in a three-pointer to briefly tie the game. Again, the Storm simply can't hang on to the ball. The team has committed seven turnovers in a little more than five minutes. The miscues seem to be contagious and come in runs.
Again, defense is allowing the Storm to play through the mistakes. The team will try to get an offensive spark from Shekinna Stricklen, who just checked in off the bench.
One factor holding down the scores is that neither team has been able to get many easy points at the free throw line. The Storm missed its only attempt thus far and Connecticut is 4-of-5 from the charity stripe.
Zumba-ing Through Halftime
Halftime: Connecticut 28, Storm 25
In what has become an annual tradition, we had a Zumba demonstration at halftime with a variety of local instructors and participants filling the KeyArena court to dance for everyone in attendance.
One-Possession Game at the Break
Halftime: Connecticut 28, Storm 25
The Sun finally snapped its scoring drought at the first-half buzzer, when Tina Charles put back a Misti Mims airball that landed perfectly in her hands. Still, the Storm's 12 unanswered points brought the team within three at the break. Defense kept the Storm in this game - Connecticut nearly tied a season low for points in a half with 26 - and eventually the Storm found some offense. Shekinna Stricklen, with six, has been big off the bench and the team was more efficient with Tina Thompson on the floor. We'll see if those two reserves see more action after halftime as the Storm tries to steal this win.
Storm On the Run
Second Quarter: Connecticut 26, Storm 23
All of a sudden, the tide has turned at KeyArena. The Sun has gone nearly four minutes without scoring, allowing the Storm to go on a 10-0 run to get within three points with a little over a minute left in the first half. Reserves Shekinna Stricklen and Tina Thompson have energized the Storm with their scoring, combining for 10 points here in the second quarter.
For the first time tonight, the fans are a big factor in this game. All around us, kids are banging their Thunderstix during this timeout called by Mike Thibault in an effort to stem the tide.
Stricklen a Bit of a Spark
Second Quarter: Connecticut 26, Storm 15
As the Storm looks for point production, rookie Shekinna Stricklen has been helpful here in the second quarter. Stricklen has a pair of scores, both in transition, which ties her for the team high. Besides Tina Thompson, who has made her only shot, Stricklen's 2-of-4 shooting is the best on the team. Still, the Storm's offense has been poor. The team has stayed in the game thanks to holding Connecticut to 32.4 percent shooting at the other end. As a result, the Storm is within a run of making this game interesting
Bird Back Soon
Second Quarter: Connecticut 20, Storm 9
Before the game, Storm point guard Sue Bird told reporters that she expects to be back in the lineup soon. Before tonight's game, Bird was able to go through a light workout.
"Shooting, trying to run a little bit," she explained. "Really, to be honest, up and down I'm fine. It's more cutting and things like that. Slowly reintroducing myself back to those things. Seeing how I'm going to react is a big deal too - seeing how I feel tomorrow. I feel fairly confident that I'm going to practice tomorrow full-go, play and get ready for the playoffs."
Bird suffered a flareup of her left hip on Tuesday in Atlanta, similar to the one she had with her surgically repaired right hip earlier in the season that forced her to miss one game.
"Something didn't feel right," she said. "The doctor checked me out and I was able to finish that game. The next day I was really sore. Then we were on a back-to-back, which was tough. Sometimes in this league, the games come so quickly you have to take a lot of things into consideration."
One of those things was that the Storm was essentially locked into the fourth seed and now knows it will finish fourth in the West, meaning a matchup with the defending champion Minnesota Lynx in the opening round. That allowed the Storm to be conservative with not only Bird's health, but also Lauren Jackson's too.
"After talking with the doctor, it was an opportunity to use that time to get healthy," she said. "I'm thankful for that."
Storm Looking for Scoring
End First Quarter: Connecticut 15, Storm 9
After a decent start, the Storm scored just one field goal in the final 5:50 of the first quarter, allowing Connecticut to slowly walk away and build a six-point lead. The Storm's defense has been solid, especially on Tina Charles (1-of-5 from the field), but eventually you need to score some points and the Storm has been unable to do that. Ann Wauters is the only player with more than one field goal as the team is shooting just 26.7 percent from the field.
During the quarter break, young fans from throughout the state competed in the Boost Mobile 4G Speed Race, powering their tricycles around the KeyArena court. Congrats to our winner, Ellie!
Turnovers Again Issue for Storm
First Quarter: Connecticut 8, Storm 7
During her absence, the Storm has missed many aspects of Sue Bird's All-Star play at the point, but none more than her sure-handed ballhandling. The Storm tied a franchise record with 28 turnovers Wednesday in Indiana, then committed 21 more on Friday. Overall, the Storm has averaged 20.5 turnovers in the four games Bird has missed, all losses, as compared to 16.1 with her in the lineup.
Early tonight, we see those same miscues. The Storm has five turnovers in about five and a half minutes of action. The Storm has shot the ball well when it has gotten a shot up, but the turnovers and second-chance points have given the Sun an early one-point lead.
Storm Without Bird, Jackson and Clark
The Storm will again be without All-Stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, who are nursing minor injuries and trying to get healthy for the postseason. Bird is sitting out her third game with a strained left hip flexor, while Jackson is missing her second with a strained left hamstring. Also tonight, the Storm will not have forward Alysha Clark, who is battling a minor illness. She is in the building but will not be in uniform.
Welcome back to KeyArena, where the Storm returns home tonight after a four-game road trip to host the East-leading Connecticut Sun. The Storm got one of its biggest wins of the season at Connecticut on July 1 and will try to repeat the feat tonight without two stars in the lineup. Connecticut is battling for home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs, so it should be a great game. Stay with us all night long for the latest from the Key.