Oakwood Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Houston
You Can Breathe Now
Final: Storm 71, Comets 68
Hearts into thoughts throughout KeyArena when Lauren Jackson slipped slightly on the inbounds pass to Tina Thompson. Tanisha Wright slid over to get a hand in Thompson's face, and her 3-point attempt was long, fittingly settling into the arms of Jackson, who finished with 27 points and nine rebounds in a brilliant effort. But LJ wasn't the only hero tonight. Anne Donovan spoke before the game about the whole team needing to step up to replace Betty Lennox, and that was the case tonight. Not much will be said about her replacement, Wright, who had a rather modest line of eight points and three assists. I was tracking defensive statistics tonight, and the last shot was the eight miss she forced against 1.5 defensed made field goals. That is incredible. Plenty will be said about Simone Edwards, who sparked the Storm with her energy off the bench and without whom this game might not have been won.
Swoopes = Hoops
Second Half: Storm 71, Comets 68
Sheryl Swoopes' basket is a big one. Not only does it pull the Comets back within three, not only does it tie the WNBA season high for points in a game (34), it also gives her both her career high and the Storm opponent franchise record for points in a game (both were previously the same, 33, by Swoopes in Houston last June). An Iziane Castro Marques miss from 3 gives the Comets possession with 7.3 seconds left. One guess who they're looking to get the ball to.
Simone! (Vol. II)
Second Half: Storm 71, Comets 66
After two free throws from Michelle Snow, a huge play by Lauren Jackson and Simone Edwards. Jackson caught a high pass that no other WNBA player (or Seahawk receiver, to take a shot) would have caught, then spun to the middle under the hoop and drew a double-team. She handed off to an open Edwards for a layup to give the Storm a five-point lead.
Storm Standing Tall
Second Half: Storm 69, Comets 64
A Sheryl Swoopes fadeaway got Houston within two, but the Storm with two big defensive stops since then and has gotten to the foul line. Rookie Tanisha Wright hit both of her shots and Lauren Jackson split hers to give the Storm a five-point lead with 1:26 left.
Second Half: Storm 64, Comets 62
If you had the opportunity to be at this game and you passed it up, you have got to be kicking yourself right now because this is an absolutely phenomenal game. Sheryl Swoopes is making an MVP statement tonight. After scoring the last five points for the Comets, she now has 30 in the game to go with unofficially four steals. She is in another world right now. But fortunately for the Storm, so is Lauren Jackson, who has 26 points. 3:44 to go and we've got an incredible finish in front of us.
Second Half: Storm 58, Comets 53
The shakin' Jamaican sensation gets the crowd going with a three-point play coming out of a Storm timeout. That's exactly what the Storm needs from Simone.
MVP Top That
Second Half: Storm 55, Comets 53
A little bit of "Anything you can do, I can do better" between two of the leading candidates for the WNBA's MVP award tonight at KeyArena, most notably on two recent possessions. Sheryl Swoopes buried an NBA 3 off of an inbounds pass to give Houston the lead, followed by Lauren Jackson answering with a 3 of her own to put the Storm back on top. Jackson has 24 points, Swoopes 21, with Jackson adding six boards and Swoopes five. They'll be huge over the last 8:19. I'd be surprised to see LJ leave the game the rest of the way.
The Key Difference
Second Half: Storm 49, Comets 47
The conditions are all wrong for Storm attendance - Tuesday night, beautiful sunshine in the Northwest, the Mariners playing (and with phenom Felix Hernandez making his first home start, no less) - but I's really a nice crowd that has nearly packed KeyArena's lower bowl. After the last timeout, a Sue Bird clip played on Arenavision urging the fans to remind everyone why they're the best in the WNBA, and they're doing it right now. This is about as loud as I've heard it all year (granting that I'm not under a headset for the radio broadcast, as I usually am).
Unrelated but interesting: Anne Donovan told us before the game that Janeth Arcain would beat the Storm backdoors with her away-from-the-ball movement at least once, and she just did for a layup on a gorgeous Sheryl Swoopes eed.
Houston Foul Trouble
Second Half: Storm 43, Comets 43
While worrying about Janell Burse's fouls, I forgot about Michelle Snow's. On a bit of a phantom call against Tanisha Wright - drawing a quick "What!?!?" from Snow - she picks up her fourth foul. She and Tina Thompson are replaced by Sancho Lyttle and Tari Phillips.
It's rapidly becoming apparent that Sue Bird (2-for-8 from the field) just doesn't have her shot tonight. That happens, but it's really painful for the Storm with Betty Lennox on the bench (in a lovely shirt which is sort of a reddish fuchsia (sorry, but colors ain't my thing)).
Second Half: Houston 41, Storm 39
This memo to those who question Comets Coach Van Chancellor: Since he pulled his starters, Houston has gone on a 20-5 run. The Storm has completely lost its energy. Who will get it back? Anne Donovan said before the game that, at the defensive end, energy has to start with the point guard (Sue Bird, in this case). Bird can also doing it by getting the Storm back to the crisp offense the team ran in the first half.
Second Half: Storm 39, Houston 34
Good news: Janell Burse had only two fouls at the half, not three as I speculated.
Bad news: She just picked up her third.
Worse news: Nobody can stop Michelle Snow right now.
Halftime: Storm 36, Houston 30
The Storm is 11-2 this season when leading at the half.
Offensive ratings at the midway point: Storm 105.9 points per 100 possessions, Houston 90.9. The teams shot just 40.0% and 38.7%, respectively, but combined for but seven turnovers, impressive ballhandling. Congrats to Houston's Tina Thompson on recording her 200th career blocked shot during the first half (she had two).
Running Into the Locker Room
Halftime: Storm 36, Houston 30
Something less than a great finish to the first half for the Storm. Back in the game, Houston's starters finished the half with a 7-0 run to get back within six at the half after trailing by as many as 13. The Comets found exploitable matchups of Sheryl Swoopes against Alicia Thompson and Michelle Snow against Suzy Batkovic and presumably will look to go to them during the second half. That makes it important for the Storm that Janell Burse (who's playing well and has four points and five rebounds) stays out of foul trouble in the second half. (She, as well as Batkovic and Wright, committed three fouls in the first half.)
First Half: Storm 36, Houston 23
Van Chancellor's coaching move merely bought him a couple of minutes of rest for his starters. Each team scored one bucket before four starters line-shifted back in (Michelle Snow could not because Sancho Lyttle was involved in a jump). Perhaps this was more strategic and less reactionary than I thought. If so, kudos to Anne Donovan, who called a timeout at the 4:58 mark (replacing the mandatory under-four minutes timeout), perhaps knowing her team was better rested to play uninterrupted for the last five minutes than the Comets.
The NHL is Back (But Usually Not in Seattle)
First Half: Storm 34, Houston 21
A line shift by the Houston Comets with 3:13 left in the first half. Van Chancellor, evidently unhappy with his team's effort thus far, removes his entire starting lineup and goes to an all-bench set that includes three rookies. That's not one you see very often.
All About LJ
First Half: Storm 31, Houston 20
On the Storm's first possession after the timeout, Iziane Castro Marques is forced to take a 3 that is blocked by Tina Thompson. Double-teamed in the post, Jackson still goes up to pull the ball out of the air and, just before the shot clock expired, lay it up and in. Yeah, I think it's safe to say she's having one of those nights (aka MVP ones). Jackson has 12 points and five rebounds already.
First Half: Storm 29, Houston 20
Great play by Storm center Suzy Batkovic. Catching the ball on the right side of the lane, she went behind her back to her dominant left hand and split two defenders for a lefty layup. Nobody enjoyed the play more than Batkovic's Aussie buddy Lauren Jackson, waiting to check in at the scorer's table just to my right. With a huge grin on her face that didn't leave until she checked into the game, Jackson applauded her teammate's move.
Honoring Special Students
First Half: Storm 22, Houston 16
Before tonight's game, the Sonics & Storm T.E.A.M. Foundation recognized the four winners of the 2005 Sonics & Storm Inspirational Scholar-Athlete Award in a special ceremony. The T.E.A.M. Foundation has partnered with King County Journal Newspapers to recognize local athletes who have overcome challenging circumstances to achieve their goals.
This year’s four winners are Alicia Cloer of Renton High School, Justin Fleming of Lake Washington High School, Blake Isbell of Tahoma High School and Dominique Owens of Issaquah High School. Each receive a $2,500 scholarship towards a college education.
Cloer, the starting middle-hitter on the varsity volleyball team, has found success despite dealing with transitional housing and absent parents. Fleming, who has only one leg, is a captain of his high-school swim team and recently realized his dream of being named to the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team for the Para-Olympics in Athens. Isbell, a three-sport captain at Tahoma High, uses his influence to encourage teammates to make good decisions outside of sports. Owens, despite living in foster care since childhood, has twice participated in the state track & field meet and works to raise money for cancer research.
First Half: Storm 20, Houston 14
The Storm has gotten solid production thus far from starting forwards Iziane Castro Marques and Lauren Jackson. Together, they've combined for 14 points and four rebounds on 6-for-7 shooting. Winning the forward matchup against the Comets and starting U.S. Olympians Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson is almost unthinkable. The Storm bench is beginning to make an impact and we'll see how they can compare with Houston's shorter rotation.
First Half: Storm 11, Houston 4
A problem for the Storm on the road has been playing from behind. That won't be an issue in the early going tonight. The Storm, off to a great start, leads it 11-4, forcing the Comets to take timeout. Great defense by the Storm, which they've turned into offense by getting out and running.
Bundle of Energy
It was impossible to be around the court pregame without noticing Sheryl Swoopes' son, Jordan, whether he was playing 2-on-2 with the Storm ballkids, joking around with Michelle Snow or talking with his mom. This kid has clearly grown up around the basketball court and basketball teams. I observed last time the Comets were here that Jordan really shows the age of this league, seeing as he was born during the WNBA's inaugural season. It's grown, just as he has.
Betty Lennox, who is sidelined tonight by a partially torn ligament in her left wrist, chatted with the Seattle media for the first time since suffering the injury last Thursday in Indiana and told us she's in pain.
"Pain to the fact that I need some antinflammatories? No," Lennox said. "I'm trying to tough it out. But as far as the swelling and not being able to bend it, yes."
The current plan is for Lennox to make the road trip to Minnesota and Houston with the Storm (the team leaves tomorrow), though Anne Donovan does not expect her to play. When the Storm returns home, she'll be reevaluated. Whether she returns will depend on what happens after she's able to remove the splint currently on her wrist, at least temporarily.
"She gets the splint off - and I don't think it's off all the way - tomorrow," said Donovan." She's got a lot of blood in her wrist, and they've got to get the blood and the swelling out and then work on range of motion. One day at a time."
Playoff positioning is on the line tonight at KeyArena as your Seattle Storm take on the Houston Comets. The Comets enter the game in second place in the Western Conference, but whichever team wins tonight will leave it in second. The Storm and Comets have split two games this season, but it's tough to read too much into those games since Houston has since gotten back forward Tina Thompson and traded for guard Dawn Staley, substantially changing the look of the team. This one should be played with playoff intensity, so stay with us all night long for the latest.