Oakwood Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Sacramento
Halftime: Storm 76, Sacramento 63
The script plays out again, as the Storm holds on for a 76-63 win. Seattle is the second seed, and the third seed - barring a loss by Los Angeles tomorrow in San Antonio - will be determined in Houston on Saturday when the Sparks and Comets face off. The win also ties a Storm franchise record for consecutive home victories (eight) as KeyArena continues to be very kind to the Storm. That isn't likely to change come playoff time. I know Anne Donovan hates when the media talks about this, but it is simply unreal the kind of things this team is doing given the magnitude of the makeover the Storm underwent over the off-season. It's a testament to Anne, to the big three of LJ, Sue and Betty and the quality of the newcomers the Storm has brought in. Saturday - Fan Appreciation Day - should be a ton of fun. Get your tickets now to make sure you don't miss it, and it goes without saying you should get playoff tickets.
Halftime: Storm 75, Sacramento 62
LJ fouls out with 14 points and six rebounds, leading to "MVP" chants from the passionate KeyArena crowd.
Halftime: Storm 75, Sacramento 60
The Storm has responded brilliantly to Sacramento's challenge. Lauren Jackson with a 3-pointer, followed by Janell Burse scoring in the paint and drawing the foul. Burse missed, but your MVP came up with the offensive rebound and hit a turnaround over Rebekkah Brunson to put the Storm up 15 and about put this one to sleep. She remains absolutely unreal.
It is a final in Phoenix, as Houston comes up with the clutch win.
Halftime: Storm 68, Sacramento 60
While the ending here has yet to be written, all three meetings between these teams this season have followed the same script: double-figures lead for the home team at the half, road team makes a run to make it close down the stretch. The home team has won both so far; we'll see if that continues tonight. The Storm is getting it done at the free-throw line in the second half, while Sacramento has gone hard to Nicole Powell (17 points, her first good game against the Storm in a Sacramento jersey). Both sides have been unhappy with the refereeing, which probably means it's been pretty fair, all things considered.
Time and the bonus on the Storm's side for the final four minutes.
Halftime: Storm 62, Sacramento 54
Lauren Jackson, going hard to the basket, collides with Yolanda Griffith. She's called for the offensive foul and it's her fifth, sending her to the sidelines for the next few minutes. The crowd voices its vocal displeasure. Nicole Powell follows with a 3 to pull Sacramento within seven and make KeyArena very, very nervous. The Storm has calmed things down a bit, but the Monarchs remain within striking distance of a good run. The Storm will have to do it without LJ for a little bit. I'm sort of guessing, but I believe Sacramento has drawn five offensive fouls tonight, which is a remarkable number. With all the and-ones and the offensive fouls, this has been a bizarre game from a refereeing standpoint. The Storm is in the bonus, which Anne Donovan will try to milk the rest of the way.
Halftime: Storm 59, Sacramento 51
Who would have thought a couple of weeks ago that five unanswered points by the Monarchs would make me think, "Where's Tanisha Wright?" Rookies aren't usually security blankets - except for Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson - but Wright has become that. Anne Donovan seems to agree, as Wright immediately got up to check into the game. She's had a tremendous positive effect when she has been in the game.
Halftime: Storm 59, Sacramento 46
Sacramento ratcheting up the defensive pressure has forced some Storm turnovers - Seattle has 15 for the night - and kept Sacramento in the game, still down 13 with 11:49 to go. At some point, you have to wonder when Sacramento Coach John Whisenant is going to decide this game isn't worth worrying about and start keeping his reserves and youngsters in the game instead of his starters. How much energy do the Monarchs want to expend tonight?
Halftime: Storm 53, Sacramento 40
Not a lot of scoring thus far in the second half. Going into our first mandatory timeout, the teams have combined for just six points. That's good news for the Storm; the clock running favors them with 15:44 left in the game. I want to take a moment to remark on how awesome Chelsea Newton is as a defender. I'm scoring this game defensively and Newton has forced five and a half turnovers, though she's been credited with just two steals. (She's forced a pair of offensive fouls.) Newton and Tanisha Wright are probably the best two defensive perimeter players out of this year's draft class, and there's a reason they're logging heavy minutes for contending teams.
Halftime: Storm 49, Sacramento 38
The Storm with a cool Offensive Rating of 128.9 points per 100 possessions. Sacramento is right at a point per possession, which is usually pretty good. (The opposition shooting 63.3% from the field does not qualify as "usual.")
Halftime: Storm 49, Sacramento 38
The Storm closes out the first half with a 5-0 run to take an 11-point lead to halftime. It's eerily similar to what happened Saturday in Sacramento, when the Monarchs took a 10-point lead to the half. Sue Bird takes us to halftime with a jumper plus the foul - something you rarely see - the Storm's fifth and-one of the half, accounting for 15 of their 49 points. I don't have highs for a half for the Monarchs, but I'm sure that's got to be the most points the league's best defensive team has allowed in 20 minutes of basketball. (The Storm had 48 the last time these teams met at KeyArena in July.)
This is a new first-half season high for the Storm, who put 53 on Houston in the second half in May. When this team is clicking, it's clicking. And right now it's clicking.
First Half: Storm 42, Sacramento 37
A 6-0 Sacramento run draws an Anne Donovan timeout. As successful as the Storm's offense has been against the Monarchs, it's almost all been with shooting. Sacramento has still forced eight turnovers thus far as the Storm has forced it at times.
First Half: Storm 41, Sacramento 31
For the second straight game, Anne Donovan is making fairly heavy use of a three-guard lineup with Tanisha Wright alongside (usual) starters Betty Lennox and Sue Bird. I asked Anne about this yesterday and she said the lineup was too small to use against bigger small forwards like Sacramento's Nicole Powell, but Powell has been in the game and hasn't really done anything I can remember against Wright. On offense, the group really opens things up for the Storm. Bird and Lennox have eight points apiece, and Lauren Jackson - with four - is just starting to get rolling.
Jackson's bucket and the foul through Yolanda Griffith is the Storm's fourth and-one of the half (!)
KeyArena, in full playoff mode already, is rocking during the timeout.
It's All Good
First Half: Storm 32, Sacramento 22
With the shot clock running down, Tanisha Wright has to force up a 17-footer with Chelsea Newton all over her and drains it. I think she's starting to get the hang of this being a starter in the WNBA thing.
Around the Crowd
First Half: Storm 30, Sacramento 22
A very nice Thursday-night crowd has nearly filled KeyArena tonight, and we'll highlight a couple of the notables. Sitting just behind me and to my right is Sonics swingman Damien Wilkins, who just had a contract offer from the Minnesota Timberwolves matched by the Sonics. He's joined by KJR's Mike Gastineau. I pity the people behind Damien, as he's been standing at times and runs 6-6 on a good day. Betty Lennox's brother is as flamboyant as always with an orange T-shirt, and he's cleared up any confusion - it reads "Betty is my sis" or something to that effect.
Sue Bird's 3 gives the Storm a brief 10-point lead as the crowd erupts in excitement.
First Half: Storm 19, Sacramento 13
I really like the Storm's aggressiveness thus far against Sacramento's "white-line defense." The Storm is taking the ball hard to the basket with terrific results. Kristin Haynie's foul to send us to a timeout is Sacramento's fifth already, and the Storm has a pair of "and ones," both by Betty Lennox (six points). Lennox and Iziane Castro Marques (nine points) are powering the Storm right now.
We're watching Sacramento's rotation after John Whisenant said before the game he needed to rest his players. So far his rotation has been normal, with the exception of Kristin Haynie stepping in for injured Kara Lawson as the first guard off the bench.
First Half: Sacramento 7, Storm 6
Sure, there are some big stars on the court tonight in Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird and Yolanda Griffith, but for those four and under, the biggest star is Dora the Explorer, who has been hanging out pregame and just appeared on the court. Lots of excitement for kids on back-to-school night.
Expression of the night already goes to Iziane Castro Marques, sighing dramatically after Nicole Powell hit a 3 from NBA range with Castro Marques' hand in her face.
Betty Lennox checks into the game for the first time to a huge ovation.
Interesting topic of some brief discussion before tonight's game … David Locke brought up to Monarchs Coach John Whisenant that he said last fall his team might need to hate the Storm the way they do Los Angeles. Whisenant didn't repeat that this year, speaking instead about the respect between the teams and the coaches. That's evident even from the crowd; Yolanda Griffith got a very loud ovation when she was introduced as a starter. (There were a few boos for Nicole Powell, but that owes to her time at Stanford, not to WNBA rivalry.) These teams respect each other, but they'll still give it their all on the court.
Storm guard Betty Lennox visited a doctor today for another update on the status of her left wrist, and the news was good. The partially torn ligament in Lennox’s left wrist is as good as it’s going to get without significant rest, so Lennox will continue playing.
"It’s a matter of managing it," Storm Coach Anne Donovan explained.
Lennox will again come off the bench tonight, but that won't last long.
"I anticipate her back in the starting lineup soon," said Donovan.
"Saturday?" she was asked, referring to the Storm's regular-season finale against Phoenix.
Donovan said maybe, but her tone suggested that's a reasonably likely possibility.
It’s the Sacramento Monarchs and your Seattle Storm tonight from KeyArena in a matchup of teams that right now sit one and two in the WNBA’s Western Conference. The Monarchs, as Coach John Whisenant puts it, don’t have a whole lot to play for besides pride. The Storm, meanwhile, is looking to secure second place in the Western Conference and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a win. It should be a good one between two fine teams, so stay with usa ll night long for the latest.