Oakwood Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Houston (Game 3)
Wrapping Up 2005
Final: Houston 75, Storm 58
It's not possible to really step back and put this 2005 season into context five minutes after its conclusion. That kind of perspective can only be possible with time. Still, I'll do my best to do so. The Storm winning 20 games to mach the 2004 franchise record is simply remarkable. At the same time, this team was never as good as the 2004 incarnation, something point differential made obvious. We may have forgotten in the wake of some of the late-season wins and Tuesday's win in Houston that this is a very young team still. Houston's top seven players entered this series with 123 combined games of playoff experience, the Storm's top seven a combined 42. This team is still learning, and maybe the 2004 Championship came a little too easy in some sense. This year's team recovered from the adversity of being below .500 in the middle of July, but couldn't recover from adversity in this series. They will learn from it, I guarantee you that. I credit the 2004 Championship to the empty feeling the Storm had after missing the playoffs in 2003, and I think there's that some kind of empty feeling in the locker room right now. On the other side, would the Comes have had this kind of season if they had made the playoffs last year? That kind of hunger can be a powerful motivator, and I look for a more determined Storm group than ever next spring.
Thanks to the Storm players and coaches for making this team, on a daily basis, so enjoyable to cover. Thanks to David Locke, Elise Woodward and Dick Fain for welcoming me to the broadcast. Thanks to all those I get to work with on the Storm staff. Thanks most of all to you, the Storm fans, who have been so fabulous again all season long. We'll see you again next spring.
11:15 p.m. edit: I don't normally do this, but re-reading that last sentence at home, I realized it was misleading. I'm not going anywhere - well, maybe a little time off before Sonics training camp, but we'll continue to provide the best coverage of the Storm all throughout the off-season on storm.wnba.com. Look for analysis of the rest of the playoffs, extensive review of the 2005 season, coverage of Storm players overseas, free agency, the expansion draft, the college draft and much, much more. We do play some basketball at the Key during the winter, and we hope to see you out at Sonics games and at SUPERSONICS.COM.
Second Half: Houston 73, Storm 55
I was remiss on Thursday in not mentioning the Storm's collection efforts for Hurricane Katrina and the church chosen by Janell Burse to receive their donation. It was with good intentions, as I don't want to report a guesstimate, but only a firm number. Anyways, suffice it to say that Storm fans raised more than $10,000 Thursday and still more tonight. Our best wishes to Burse's family and all those affected by this terrible tragedy.
Second Half: Houston 73, Storm 54
With the exception of David Locke, to my left, who has to find something to say (and says he barely has anything), there is a lot of stunned silence at KeyArena right now as people throughout the arena try to figure out what just happened. When the Storm won in Houston, that made them overwhelming favorites in the series. With the other three series all ending in sweeps, teams that won Game 1 on the road were 24-1 in series, the only exception being Anne Donovan in 2001 with the Charlotte Sting against the New York Liberty in the Eastern Conference Finals. But as the Comets have reminded us, there are no absolutes in basketball. This will sound whiny, but I still believe the Storm is the better team (though by a very, very slight margin and mostly because of home-court advantage). I think if you play this series 100 times, the Storm probably wins more often than Houston. How often does Sue Bird shoot 2-for-15 from 3-point range? But that's not the way it works in the playoffs, and you have to give the Comets credit for a phenomenal series. Never underestimate the heart of a champion, I wrote twice in Game 2, and it's certainly more true than ever tonight. The Sacramento Monarchs will certainly have their hands full starting Thursday.
It's All About Swoopes
Second Half: Houston 66, Storm 45
Sheryl Swoopes is simply putting up one of the greatest performances in WNBA history tonight. And while the fans here at KeyArena probably had some different goals than seeing Swoopes go off, when you step back, we're watching something pretty special. With 14 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, Swoopes has the first triple-double in WNBA playoff history, matching her first-ever triple-double in WNBA history period on July 27, 1999. Keep in mind Swoopes still has over seven minutes to add to it. Yikes.
First Half: Houston 59, Storm 43
When an Iziane Castro Marques layup pulled the Storm within 10, 46-36, the KeyArena crowd was going. But then Van Chancellor brought in Dawn Staley, and the veteran hit a 3 and proved to be the perfect tonic. The shot sparked an 11-2 run and it's a 16-point game right now and the Storm is giving up ground. You have to wonder right now what Anne Donovan is thinking. Staley is, of course, her all-time favorite player, traded to Houston for cents on the dollar by her closest friend in coaching, Trudi Lacey. Think about that a little bit.
Do You Believe?
Second Half: Houston 44, Storm 33
Are we seeing the beginning of an epic Seattle Storm comeback? This is certainly what would be needed to start it. The Storm gets two free throws from Iziane Castro Marques, a Lauren Jackson 3 and a Betty Lennox layup and the foul for a 7-1 run. Houston started the half with three consecutive turnovers, which is absolutely not how you want to start the half if you're Van Chancellor. He takes a timeout in Anne Donovan-esque fashion.
It Can Be Done
Halftime: Houston 43, Storm 26
We take you back now to May 27 of this year. There is an eerie bookend quality to the game the Storm played that night against the Houston Comets and tonight's game. That game was played on Memorial Day Weekend, the traditional beginning of the summer. Today we play on Labor Day Weekend, the traditional end of it. That was the second Storm game of the season - and really the first time we saw the true Storm team - and this, win or lose, will be one of the last games of the season.
It is a subdued KeyArena right now (except after the performance of the Sonics Boom Squad), as you might expect. But there was that same feeling in the Key on May 27, as the Storm trailed 40-26 (virtually the same score). Then we were wondering whether the magic of the championship team had been lost after a blowout defeat to L.A. in the opener and the horrid first half. The magic returned after halftime, as the Storm scored 53 points to win going away, 79-69. As I recall it, Anne Donovan in the locker room challenged her players to play with passion, and she'll probably be doing something similar tonight. After the Comets jumped out from the opening tip, the Storm seemed somewhat lifeless. Assistant coach Jenny Boucek told the radio audience that the team needs to relax, that the players wanted this one too much. It can be done. The odds are against it, of course, but the odds were also overwhelmingly against the Comets after they lost Game 1. 20 minutes left. Can the Storm do it? Stay tuned.
Trying to Finish Strong
First Half: Houston 41, Storm 26
Nice driving layup by Iziane Castro Marques for her first score of the evening to get the Storm within 15 as we enter the final minute of this half. Van Chancellor takes a full timeout to set up a play. It is hugely important for the Storm to get some stops and go into the locker room feeling good about themselves. Don't underrate the important of confidence in a situation like this. The Storm doesn't look like they're feeling like champions right now.
Swoopes Steps Up
First Half: Houston 39, Storm 22
Sheryl Swoopes is only 3-for-7 from the field, has just six points, and she's been the best player on the court tonight by a mile. Swoopes' last assist, on a Tina Thompson 3, gave her nine in the half. That ties the playoff half record (by Teresa Weatherspoon vs. WAS on 8/24/02) and puts Swoopes within five assists of the playoff record for a game set by Sue Bird on this very court last year against Sacramento in the WNBA Finals. Swoopes looks a little fatigued on her shot, but no way she's leaving the court until this game is totally in hand.
No Letup Yet
First Half: Houston 36, Storm 20
Anne Donovan is in danger of running out of timeouts in the first half. She calls her third of the game at the five-minute mark of the first half after a 6-0 Houston run capped by Janeth Arcain's fourth layup of the half (I'm estimating there, but she's 6-for-6 from the field for 12 points). The Storm had a couple of scores out of the last timeout and it looked like they were going to reclaim momentum, but it went right back to the Comets. Amazingly, Houston looks fresher right now despite their age and the heavy minutes their starters log.
Sheryl Swoopes' line is unreal right now: 6 points, 6 boards and 8 assists. Could she have a triple-double in the first half?
First Half: Houston 30, Storm 16
The Houston Comets have come into KeyArena and absolutely silenced this Storm crowd with outstanding play at both ends of the court. Houston is shooting 82.4% (14-for-17) and has held the Storm to 31.6% shooting at the other end. The crowd is silenced, and I think the Storm players are as well. You have to wonder where the Storm's confidence is right now after the end of Game 2 and the start of Game 3. The Comets, who were very loose at practice yesterday, continue to be so on the bench tonight.
Comets Start Quick
First Half: Houston 11, Storm 6
The last four possessions for the Comets have ended in two free throws, then layup, layup, layup, the last two in transition by Janeth Arcain, who already has six points on 3-for-3 shooting. Led by Arcain, the Comets have come out running the court and very aggressive. Anne Donovan talked before the game about wanting a quick start, but of course that did very little for the Storm in Game 2. As Donovan said, referring to the history of Game 3s.
"Nothing matters but walking out of here with a win and advancing to the next round," she said. "That's the only thing that matters."
She takes a timeout to try to stop the 7-0 Houston run.
First Half: Storm 4, Houston 4
Just 2:20 in, Van Chancellor takes a timeout with the teams tied. He might be unhappy with his team's rebounding (4-1 Storm in the early going, with a couple of team rebounds also going the Storm's way). This means that, unless somebody else takes a timeout, we'll have a very long stretch here before our first mandatory timeout at the under-12 minute mark.
Two days later, Storm Coach Anne Donovan still doesn't quite understand what happened to her team in the final four minutes of Thursday's game.
"When we came out of the last media timeout, we were playing to hang on to our lead," said Donovan. "If you do that, you're not going to win. You might win, but you're really going to struggle.
"Really a lack of composure down the stretch that I don't foresee happening again."
Donovan pointed out something no one else had mentioned, that she wasn't able to direct the Storm's offense as much as she would have liked to because the teams finished up playing defense in front of their coaches instead of offense, as is the usual WNBA custom. (It is not the NBA custom.)
"The NBA guys - I don't know why Van does it - they take the opposite basket," said Donovan. "It's the first time I've seen it really pay off. Just eye contact with Sue, familiarity at this end of the floor. Sue knows she can look up and get confirmation from me.
"At the end of the game, when you really want to control your offense, where you're going with the ball, you prefer to have them right in front of you."
Game 3. Winner take all. There's something special in the air tonight at KeyArena. The playoffs are always electric, but when there's no margin for error for either side, that takes it to another level. In a couple of hours, one of these teams will be done until next spring, and that will be a long winter to think about this game. Given how close these teams are and how competitive this series has been, we expect a real thriller. If you're anywhere in the neighborhood, there are a handful of tickets remaining. If not, stay with us all night long to enhance your coverage of the game.