Live from Press Row: Storm vs. Chicago
Final: Storm 75, Chicago 60
The Storm took an early lead and never let up in a comfortable win over the Chicago Sky tonight at KeyArena. The team led by as many as 28 points thanks to a strong effort at both ends of the floor. The team shot 49.0 percent from the field and held Chicago to 32.4 percent shooting while outrebounding the Sky 42-25. That was quite a way to shake a four-game losing streak.
The return of Sue Bird made a huge difference for the Storm. She played just 19 minutes, but handed out eight assists in that span, setting the tone for the Storm to come up with 20 assists on 25 field goals as a team. Ann Wauters, whose 16 points were her most since Opening Night, and Katie Smith (13) were on the receiving end of a lot of those passes. Ewelina Kobryn scored 12 off the bench. And we can't forget Tina Thompson, whose 10 points took her past the 7,000-point mark in her record-setting WNBA career.
On Friday, we're back at KeyArena for the last time in the regular season, facing the San Antonio Silver Stars. That game will be all about you, the fans, as we celebrate Fan Appreciation Night with special giveaways and features, including a free #StormCrazies T-shirt for the first 3,000 fans. Get your tickets now!
Storm Getting Contributions from Everyone
Fourth Quarter: Storm 75, Chicago 54
With this game well in hand, Storm Head Coach Brian Agler has been able to sit down most of his starters. Three of them - Sue Bird, Camille Little and Tanisha Wright - have played less than 20 minutes tonight, although Wright might surpass that total as she finishes out the game at point guard.
The playing time has been valuable for younger reserves, who are playing much more crisply on offense than they have in recent games. The Storm has just 16 turnovers and has gotten contributions from a variety of players. Ewelina Kobryn has scored 12 points, one shy of her career high, and Alysha Clark has knocked down a pair of three-pointers, scoring seven points.
The Playoffs are Coming
Fourth Quarter: Storm 70, Chicago 51
After tonight, the Storm will play just two more games in the regular season. Then it's time for the playoffs and an opening-round matchup against the Minnesota Lynx. We know that Game 2 will be here at KeyArena either Saturday, Sept. 29 or Sunday, Sept. 30. Tickets for that game are on sale now. Be part of It for the playoffs and join us as the Storm takes on the defending champs!
Sky Cuts Into the Lead a Bit
End Third Quarter: Storm 66, Chicago 47
Finally, the Chicago Sky found some momentum late in the third quarter, with Shay Murphy hitting a pair of threes. Still, the Storm's advantage is 19 minutes heading into the final period. Three Storm players have scored double figures and a couple more might be able to get there during the fourth quarter. The Storm also has 18 assists on 23 field goals tonight, led by eight from Sue Bird.
During the quarter break, we saw the last of our Movie Magics for this season, with Brian Agler channeling Yoga. Voting for this year's Stormy Award will begin Friday night after the game right here on StormBasketball.com. Don't miss your chance to help choose the best acting job by a Storm player or coach this season.
Storm Pulling Away
Third Quarter: Storm 54, Chicago 28
In the first three-plus minutes after halftime, the Chicago Sky has gone scoreless while the Storm has scored eight unanswered points to push the lead to 26. Dating back to the first half, the Storm is on a 20-5 surge to really dominate this game. Chicago is oddly flat for a team that still has a chance to make the playoffs, especially given that New York's loss earlier today at San Antonio gave the Sky an opening.
If the score stays as it is, Brian Agler will have the opportunity to expand his bench and manage minutes As it is, only Katie Smith has played more than 20 minutes tonight.
Complete First Half for Storm
Halftime: Storm 46, Chicago 28
Because Shay Murphy knocked down a late three-pointer, this is not the Storm's biggest halftime lead of the season - that was 21 vs. New York a few weeks ago at the Key - but this was still as complete a half of basketball as the Storm has played. The team is shooting 57.1 percent thanks to great ball movement (13 assists on 16 field goals) and better shot selection. On the other end, Chicago is shooting just 31.6 percent from the field, and the Storm also has a 23-12 advantage on the glass.
The old hands have led the way offensively. Tina Thompson has gone right past 7,000 career points and has 10 tonight. Katie Smith has scored nine. Sue Bird has led the offense with six assists in 11 minutes and Camille Little has grabbed a game-high six rebounds, while Ann Wauters has a very solid six points and five boards.
Quick update on Svetlana Abrosimova: She suffered a sprained right wrist during the first half and her return as possible. Now, back to enjoying the Garfield High School Drumline.
Storm Controlling Paint
Second Quarter: Storm 38, Chicago 25
Typically this season, the Storm's advantages over opponents have mostly been on the perimeter. Early this season in Chicago, the Sky controlled the paint in beating the Storm. Not so tonight. With Sylvia Fowles out of the lineup, the Storm has made a good living playing inside. The team has a 6-4 advantage in offensive rebounds, leads 9-2 in second-chance points and has taken 11 free throws to Chicago's three. All of that has helped the Storm open up a lead as large as 15 points and have a double-figure advantage most of the second quarter.
One slight worry is the condition of Svetlana Abrosimova, who went to the locker room after a collision and returned with ice on her left wrist. Abrosimova has yet to play since then. Ann Wauters and Tanisha Wright both left the game after getting banged up but have been able to return.
Tina Hits 7K
Second Quarter: Storm 34, Chicago 23
Congrats to Storm forward Tina Thompson, who became the first player in WNBA history to reach 7,000 career points with her bank shot at the 9:03 mark of the second quarter. Thompson came into the game needing seven points to hit the milestone and got there quickly, knocking down a pair of three-pointers in the opening quarter and that shot early in the second.
Thompson is the WNBA's all-time leading scorer, and she and teammate Katie Smith are the only players in the history of American women's professional basketball to score at least 7,000 points in their careers. It's worth taking a moment at times to realize how lucky we are to watch both of these players as part of a long list of WNBA legends who have played in Seattle.
Storm Outshoots Sky in Opening Quarter
End First Quarter: Storm 26, Chicago 13
Turnovers and offensive rebounds remained issues for the Storm at times during the first quarter. However, those were totally overshadowed by the Storm's massive shooting advantage. The home team made two-thirds of its shot attempts, which Chicago managed just 25.0 percent shooting. So while the Sky had five more shot attempts, the Storm made twice as many field goals.
During the quarter break, the Storm recognized survivors of breast cancer. First, survivors were asked to stand up, then anyone who has been affected by any form of cancer. What a great opportunity to celebrate breast cancer survivors.
Strong Reception for Cash and Willingham
First Quarter: Storm 21, Chicago 11
KeyArena fans have shown the love to Swin Cash and Le'coe Willingham, who are back in Seattle for the first time since they were traded to Chicago last offseason. Both Cash and Willingham were part of the Storm's 2010 championship team, and Cash in particular was a major presence in the Seattle community during her four years with the Storm. Cash got a huge ovation during starting lineups, and fans applauded Willingham a moment ago when she checked into the game for the first time.
Both Cash and Willingham were excited to spend a few days back in the Emerald City.
"It was good to see the girls," said Cash. "We had a lot of downtime because we went early yesterday, so I was able to do some stuff I normally do, which is nice."
"It's always nice to be back to familiar places," added Willingham. "I did a little shopping. There's always good shopping downtown. We got together with the girls - Sue, Camille, Tanisha. We're still pretty close so it was good to have dinner with those guys and catch up."
Bird's Presence Felt Immediately
First Quarter: Storm 16, Chicago 9
It didn't take long to notice that Sue Bird was back in the lineup for the Storm. On the very first possession of the game, Bird hit a jumper off a screen to open the scoring. Already, Bird has four points and four assists. As important as the numbers is the way Bird has controlled the tempo, pushing the ball in transition. That led to a layup for Tanisha Wright moments ago.
Besides special pink jerseys for players, which are being auctioned on the concourse, there is lots of pink in the arena tonight on Breast Health Awareness Night. From the members of Force 10 Hoops to the broadcast crew to the coaching staff, it's great to see all that pink. Even the Chicago coaching staff got in the spirit in the midst of a lengthy road trip.
Bird Back; Jackson Sits
After missing three games with a strained left hip flexor, Sue Bird will be in the starting lineup tonight. The Storm will also get back Alysha Clark, who missed Sunday's game with the flu. However, Lauren Jackson will not play tonight, missing her third game with a strained left hamstring. Head Coach Brian Agler said before the game he anticipates Jackson will return to practice on Thursday after the team takes tomorrow off. Agler is hoping Bird's presence in the lineup will help the Storm's recent turnover woes.
"We've got to cut the turnovers down," he said. "The ball's being sprayed around. Obviously, Sue in the lineup should help that.
Hello from KeyArena, where the Storm and the Chicago Sky are getting ready for tipoff in just a few minutes. It's the Storm's penultimate home game of 2012 as we close in on the postseason. Tonight is also Breast Health Awareness Night, meaning Storm players are wearing pink jerseys and many have on pink shoes as we celebrate survivors, honor victims and raise awareness about breast cancer. This should be a great night on and off the court, so stay with us for the latest.