Oakwood Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Los Angeles
Posted at 3:01 p.m.
Wow … not really sure what to say right now. Los Angeles wins it 68-50, with the Storm never really threatening in the last four minutes. As much as we all knew that the Storm was going to start quickly, I don't think we saw this coming. This is the worst season-opening loss the Storm has ever suffered, an a big statistical "loss" as well - Lauren Jackson's streak of 84 straight games with double-figures, the second longest in WNBA history behind Cynthia Cooper's 92-game streak, ended. Jackson finished with just eight points on 3-for-15 shooting and was held scoreless in the second half. The Storm scored just 50 points, its lowest output since Aug. 19, 2003, and set a franchise record by shooting just 23.7% from the field. That's a lot of ugly statistics.
The good news is the Storm has five days off before taking the court again next Friday against Houston. Anne Donovan describes it as an extra week of training camp, and look for the Storm to make some changes. That may include more playing time for Iziane Castro Marques, the bright spot of this game with eight points, all of them coming in the second half.
Seattle Isn't Supposed to Have Droughts
Posted at 2:49 p.m.
I knew the Storm had gone a long time without scoring, but I didn't realize exactly how long until asking Scotty Ellsworth, who does stats for KJR's broadcasts. Until Iziane Castro Marques' free throw a minute ago, the Storm hadn't scored since the 13:10 mark, a stretch of about eight minutes. Castro Marques gets another score and amazingly, despite that drought, the Storm still isn't out of this game, trailing by 13 with 4:15 to play. Lauren Jackson's 3-point attempt in transition would have been huge, but like nine of her other attempts, it bounced off.
Posted at 2:42 p.m.
Betty Lennox leaves the game limping pretty badly. Lennox's right hip was sore yesterday, and while it hasn't been an issue previously today, that is presumably the reason she's out right now. She's replaced by Iziane Castro Marques. The Storm seems to have been stuck on 39 forever. Lauren Jackson accidentally gets Nikki Teasley in the face in a loose-ball scramble for her fourth foul. Storm needs points desperately.
Posted at 2:32 p.m.
We've reached the ten-minute mark of the game with the Storm trailing 53-39 and having only scored 12 points in this half. Janell Burse and Betty Lennox just returned for the Storm, and before they came in, Anne Donovan had a chat with both of them on the bench. The Storm now has a frontcourt of Janell Burse-Simone Edwards-Mandisa Stevenson that presumably hasn't worked together a lot in practice.
Posted at 2:27 p.m.
A Nikki Teasley transition 3-pointer gives Los Angeles its largest lead of the game at 51-39 and the Storm is in danger of being blown out if it doesn't come up with a run and quickly. Betty Lennox has come up with six points lately, but she's not getting a lot of help. Lauren Jackson has dropped to 3-for-12 on the evening; in fact, no Storm player is shooting 50% from the field right now.
Posted at 2:22 p.m.
For the WNBA teams who have today off and are watching this game the results can't be encouraging. Chamique Holdsclaw and Lisa Leslie, after a slow start, have done a good job together and both have 13 points. The Sparks have been talking about how they need to improve their defense, which is something of a silly notion considering they were second in the league on a per-possession basis last season. But while it's tough to determine how much of it is the fact that the Storm is still learning to play together, L.A.'s defense has been outstanding at forcing turnovers today.
The Sparks have opened up their largest lead at 42-33 with 13:30 left in the game, but Betty Lennox follows with a score and the foul. That was pure will. It's also Leslie's fourth foul. The refs can't be accused of protecting her today.
Posted at 2:15 p.m.
Janell Burse picks up her fourth foul and is replaced by Alicia Thompson, as the Storm goes small and to a 3-2 zone defensively. L.A. started the half on a 5-0 run and is threatening to open up a big lead despite a Betty Lennox score. The Storm is not playing smart basketball and is forcing passes on offense right now, leading to turnovers and Sparks layups. Anne Donovan takes a timeout.
Posted at 2:10 p.m.
First-half Offensive Ratings (points per 100 possessions): 74.4 for L.A., 71.1 for the Storm. By comparison, the league average in 2004 was about 93 points per 100 possessions. So obviously both offenses have started pretty slowly.
Los Angeles held a commanding 20-6 advantage in points in the paint. Only two second-chance points in the first half, which is surprising, and the Sparks won fast-break points 6-0.
Posted at 1:57 p.m.
Chamique Holdsclaw's putback gives Los Angeles a 29-27 lead as we go to the half. The Sparks finished the half by outscoring the Storm 21-10 to take the lead. If you're Henry Bibby, you've got to be ecstatic that your team could start as poorly as it did, play only seven players and still lead at the half. If you're Anne Donovan, presumably there is going to be some halftime discussion of an offense that looked at times like five players playing together for the first time. That's to be expected - most of these combinations are playing together for the first time in a game - but the execution can be better than it was. The Storm had nine turnovers and shot 27.8% from the field.
Posted at 1:52 p.m.
Lauren Jackson's career high in 3-pointers attempted in a game is nine, which she's done twice. She has eight in this first half. 16 of Seattle's 35 shots have come from downtown, and only four of them have gone in. Meanwhile, this game has been anything but the foul-fest some expected in the wake of slow-paced preseason games, with the Storm attempting only four free throws thus far and L.A. getting its sixth and seventh attempts right now. I've only noticed one foul (against Storm rookie Tanisha Wright) that could really be classified as relating to the new rules interpretation limiting contact in the backcourt.
We've Got a Ballgame
Posted at 1:46 p.m.
With a 14-4 run, the Sparks have gotten within three points, 23-20, at the 2:38 mark. An angry Anne Donovan takes timeout to talk it over with her players. Thanks to some fast-break scores, the Sparks shooting percentage has actually passed the Storm's. Lauren Jackson is 2-for-7, and six of her attempts have been threes. Lisa Leslie has been allowed to play the last eight minutes with three fouls and so far it has yet to cost the Sparks.
Two dance troupes this season for the Storm - the kids you're used to performed at the last timeout, while there's a new hip-hop squad that rocked KeyArena during an earlier timeout.
Jackson hits a 3 out of the timeout to get the Key going again.
There's Gold at the Rim
Posted at 1:42 p.m.
You'd like to see Lauren Jackson playing inside more than she has today. The three-post lineup changes her role slightly, but Jackson remains extremely dangerous down low. Adding to that is the fact that Lisa Leslie has three fouls and the Storm is now in the bonus. The referees can help Seattle during the final four minutes of this half.
L.A. Getting Back Into It
Posted at 1:38 p.m.
An offensive "explosion" has the Sparks more than doubling their points over the last few minutes. L.A.'s pressure has caused some problems for the Storm because of the big lineups Anne Donovan has been employing, with Alicia Thompson at shooting guard recently. The Sparks have also forced consecutive turnovers with Francesca Zara on the court at the point.
That's Not Good, Is It?
Posted at 1:30 p.m.
Los Angeles has dropped to 3-for-21 from the field. The only Sparks player to have scored is Lisa Leslie, who has six points. Chamique Holdsclaw finally gets on the board at the 7:26 mark to make it 19-8 Seattle. Still, this is just an incredible display of defense.
Francesca Zara will replace Sue Bird after this timeout.
"I think Zara's going to see minutes tonight at the point, again we can swing Sue over," said Donovan. "Hopefully, she can break free and show some of the offense she's got."
Posted at 1:26 p.m.
Lisa Leslie picks up her third foul of the first 10 minutes away from the basket on defense. Incredibly, improbably, Henry Bibby is leaving her in the game. I know six fouls seems like a lot when you're coming from the NCAA, but are you kidding me? The Storm has to continue going right at Leslie, whose proneness to fouling has always been a major weakness.
More Foul Trouble
Posted at 1:22 p.m.
Janell Burse gets to the line and draws Lisa Leslie's second foul. L.A. can't afford foul trouble with its limited roster. Henry Bibby joked before the game you might see the first WNBA team ever playing only four players if several players foul out.
Nikki Teasley's last entry pass to Lisa Leslie was so bad it helped the Sparks. Leslie "rebounded" it and scored her second basket.
The Storm goes from big to small by replacing 6-3 Mandisa Stevenson with 5-11 rookie Tanisha Wright. Here's what Anne Donovan had to say about Wright before the game:
"I think Tanisha Wright is going to come in early and help us, swinging Sue over to the two or just defensively changing things up. I think she's going to push the tempo."
Wright with two offensive rebounds on her first possession. She's scrappy.
How'd That Happen?
Posted at 1:17 p.m.
Lauren Jackson and Betty Lennox with back-to-back 3-pointers and, just like that, the Storm leads this game 14-2 five minutes in. Bad there's a bad sign as Jackson picks up her second foul by charging on the Storm's next possession. Anne Donovan takes a risk by leaving her in the game. Great defense by the Storm thus far and a lid on the basket for Los Angeles. Tamecka Dixon will check in at the next break.
Henry Bibby, the new coach of the Sparks, put on a full-court press coming out of that last timeout.
"We looked at two exhibition tapes (of the Sparks), and what we've been able to see s he plays a ton of junk defense," said Anne Donovan before the game. "He's going to mix it up; we're gong to see a lot of full-court, half-court, man-to-man, zone, junk."
Sparks Can't Score
Posted at 1:10 p.m.
Not until the 17:00 mark of the first half did the Los Angeles Sparks finally get on the board for 2005. I believe they missed four shots and had two turnovers before that. The Storm offense hasn't really been clicking in either - both teams are adjusting to new lineups and have had players come in late during training camp - but Seattle leads it 8-2 at the first timeout of the game with 16:07 left in the first half.
Anne Donovan, commenting on the Storm's early road trips, pointed out that her team will be making some mistakes in the early going, and she'd rather not have those come in front of the home fans.
Posted at 1:05 p.m.
No shortage of surprises before tip-off. First, we found out the eighth player who is active for Los Angeles is not Gordana Grubin, as believed, but 2002 Vanderbilt product Marlous Nieuwveen, who was not listed on the Sparks roster yesterday. The starting lineups have surprises on both sides. The Storm will not start any of the projected starters at small forward, but instead post Mandisa Stevenson to match up with Holdsclaw. Los Angeles has Doneeka Hodges at guard in Tamecka Dixon's usual spot (you'll recall Dixon didn't start early in the season against the Storm last year either) and Tamika Whitmore at power forward where we expected Christi Thomas. Both Dixon and Thomas have been battling injuries.
Posted at 12:48 p.m.
After a slow ascent to the top of KeyArena, the Storm's "2004 WNBA Champions" banner now hangs just to the north of the scoreboard.
Presentation of Rings
Posted at 12:45 p.m.
Lisa Stevens, who won the Storm's fan contest to win a ring
Director of Basketball Operations Missy Bequette
Video Coordinator Ayana Clinton
(Former) Strength and Conditioning Coach Greg Fahrendorf
Player Development Specialist Talvin Skinner
Athletic Trainer Annmarie Henkel
Assistant Coach Jessie Kenlaw
Assistant Coach Jenny Boucek
Head Coach Anne Donovan
Center Janell Burse
Forward Alicia Thompson
Center Simone Edwards
Guard Betty Lennox
Guard Sue Bird
Forward Lauren Jackson
Betty Lennox might hurt someone as aggressively as she's hugging everyone down the line.
Posted at 12:43 p.m.
With just over two minutes left until game time, the ceremony presenting the Storm with their championship rings and raising their 2004 WNBA Champions banner to the KeyArena rafters has begun. WNBA President Donna Orender was first to speak, congratulating the Storm's ownership group. Storm COO Karen Bryant has thanked the Sonics/Storm staff, "The best fans in the WNBA," and Anne Donovan and the Storm's coaching staff.
Up next is a highlight video from the 2004 season that draws loud cheers.
Posted at 12:35 p.m.
The Seattle Storm opens the 2005 season and defense of the 2004 WNBA Championship this afternoon at KeyArena. Even before the game tips off, we'll have the excitement of rings being presented to players and the Storm's championship banner being raised to the roof. It should be an unforgettable experience. Stay with us throughout the game if you're at home as we bring you the latest from the Key.