Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Houston
Storm Holds On
Final: Storm 64, Houston 63
Wild finish to a crazy game. As the Comets were running their final play, the clock accidentally stopped with 3.6 seconds left and Shannon Johnson handling the ball on the perimeter. A very similar situation to what you may remember from the Detroit-Orlando NBA Playoff game a couple of weeks ago. Johnson worked it in to Mistie Williams, who shot and missed. Only as the teams were scrambling for the ball did the clock start again, with 0.2 seconds running off before the referees realized what happened. They stopped the game and, after a lengthy consultation at midcourt, ruled the Storm would have possession with 0.8 seconds left. Even the final inbounds pass had drama, with Swin Cash and Shannon Johnson battling for the ball, but ultimately with 0.0 left on the clock the scoreboard shows Storm 64, Houston 63. It wasn't pretty, but the Storm got the win and is off to the best start in franchise history at 5-1.
Swin Cash deserves a lot of credit for this victory. She scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds and came up big in the fourth quarter. Sue Bird scored 17 and had the game-winning layup, playing 39 out of a possible 40 minutes. Tanisha Wright came off the bench to score 12 points, her second consecutive double-figure scoring effort. They helped pick up as the Storm managed to win despite making no three-pointers in a game for only the third time in franchise history. Lauren Jackson was held to six points on 1-of-9 shooting, matching her total of one single-digit scoring effort from 2007. The Storm held Houston to 33.3% shooting and forced 17 turnovers.
Now, the Storm looks to continue this great start to the season against the Eastern Conference, visiting New York and Detroit on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Storm will be back here at KeyArena to host the defending Eastern Conference champion Shock next Saturday. Don't miss that game between two top WNBA contenders - get your tickets now!
Fourth Quarter: Storm 64, Houston 63
What an incredible sequence for the Storm a moment ago. After a turnover, the Comets took over with a chance to extend the lead to three in a game where the Storm has not hit a single triple. Instead, the Storm rotated terrifically defensively. Yolanda Griffith and Tanisha Wright combined to block a shot in the paint. Lauren Jackson came up with it and threw ahead to a streaking Sue Bird, who raced to the hole for the go-ahead layup with 6.4 seconds left to play. Houston will have the last chance to steal a win at the Key.
Comets Reclaim Lead
Fourth Quarter: Houston 63, Storm 62
The Comets have gotten stops on the last two Storm possessions, and a Tamecka Dixon fadeaway - a very difficult shot with good defense from Swin Cash - gives Houston a one-point lead with 48.6 seconds left to play. The Storm will attempt to retake the lead after a 20-second timeout. Let's see what Brian Agler draws up.
Storm Holding On
Fourth Quarter: Storm 61, Houston 59
At our final mandatory timeout with 2:49 to play, the Storm is clinging to a two-point lead. The good news is Swin Cash is headed to the free-throw line with a chance to extend that lead. Cash is 8-of-12 from the charity stripe tonight, accounting for nearly half of her game-high 18 points. These two foul shots will tie the Storm's franchise record of 38 attempts.
Foul trouble has become a major issue. Cash and Yolanda Griffith has five fouls apiece for the Storm and Tamecka Dixon and Hamchetou Maiga-Bä have five for the Comets.
Fourth Quarter: Houston 55, Storm 53
In need of energy, the Storm has turned to Swin Cash. Cash had a pair of jumpers from the left wing, then drove in transition and made a play in the paint for a layup to pull the Storm within two. They'll have a chance to tie or take the lead coming out of this timeout. All season, Cash has been consistent for the Storm, and that has been the case tonight. Like all her teammates, she's not shooting the ball especially well (4-of-10 from the field), but Cash has 14 points and seven rebounds and again has manufactured offense in all sorts of different ways.
For the first time tonight, the crowd has become a factor, and I thought Karleen Thompson might take a TO after that last Cash score. Instead, the Comets will take advantage of the mandatory timeout here.
Storm Can't Get Control
End Third Quarter: Houston 53, Storm 47
The Storm has never been able to seize hold of this game, and time is starting to right out on the chance to do that as we head to the final quarter. The Storm finished the third period with only two field goals, and once the free throws tried up late in the third, the team went scoreless. Meanwhile, the Storm did not have a defensive answer for Matee Ajavon, who scored six of her seven points in the third. The Comets outscored the Storm 13-6 over the last four and a half minutes of the period to open up a six-point lead.
Because the game has been so choppy and there has been so little momentum, the fans haven't had much of an opportunity to play a role here at KeyArena.
Ajavon Leads Comets
Third Quarter: Houston 48, Storm 41
I'd been looking forward to seeing Comets rookie Matee Ajavon, who has started the season well. Though Ajavon hasn't put up big numbers, she has not disappointed. Over the last couple of minutes, she has keyed an 8-0 Houston run to take a seven-point lead, tying the largest tonight for the Comets. Ajavon has three free throws and a big steal a moment ago. She missed the layup under defensive duress, but Mistie Williams followed. Ajavon is very aggressive, but under enough control to be successful.
The Storm still has yet to hit from the field in the third quarter, missing all nine shot attempts. Without the free throws, Seattle can't score.
Free Throw Contest
Third Quarter: Houston 40, Storm 40
The Storm heads out on the road after tonight's game and is not at KeyArena again until Saturday. The staff here might need that time to repaint the free-throw lines, because the Storm is wearing that paint off tonight. The Storm has been sent to the line on each of the last five possessions. Yolanda Griffith is about to step up for the team's 27th and 28th attempts of the game and 11th and 12th of the third quarter.
This has been Houston's M.O. all season long. The Comets have sent their opponents to the line an average of 27 times per game this season, most in the WNBA. Houston has been shooting the ball well, but the Storm has been able to stay with them because of all the free throws.
All Square at the Half
Halftime: Houston 32, Storm 32
The Storm has tried (a lot) trailing at the half. Last game they even tried a halftime lead. This is a new one - tied at halftime. Sue Bird's two free throws to close the half produced a 32-all tie. The Storm went to the free-throw line 14 times in the second quarter, making 11 of them amongst the team's 23 second-quarter points. Bird was a big part of that, scoring 14 points in the first half on 5-of-8 shooting. She helped pick up for a quiet scoring night from Lauren Jackson.
If the Storm can get the outside shots falling in the second half (no threes in five attempts in the first half) and control the Comets on the offensive glass, this game is the Storm's to lose.
Storm Getting Going
Second Quarter: Houston 27, Storm 24
The Storm has picked up its offense here in this second quarter, scoring 15 points in a little over seven minutes of action. Yet it still hasn't been quite enough to catch the Houston Comets, who still hold a three-point lead. A big reason for that has been veteran point guard Shannon Johnson. Coming off the bench, Johnson has responded well. She's scored a season-high 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting and has added four assists.
The Storm has gotten some contributions off the bench. However, the team is still trying to get Lauren Jackson going. At the 3:36 mark of the first half, Jackson hit a turnaround to finally get in the scoring column. She's still shooting only 1-of-5 from the field, but has a game-high eight turnovers.
End First Quarter: Houston 12, Storm 9
We hoped Friday night, when the Storm started the game with a 14-0 run, had cured the Storm's problem with slow starts early in the season. However, tonight's game has followed essentially the same script as several early games, with the Storm getting good shots but failing to convert them. Seattle hit just 26.7% from the field in the first quarter. Thanks to good defense, the Storm is down just three heading to the second period, but that still forces them to play from behind.
Sue Bird is the lone Storm player with more than one bucket so far. She was 3-for-5 from the field for six points. Before the game, Bird was congratulated on being named to the U.S. Olympic Team yesterday, with a presentation of her Olympic jersey.
Defensive Start to Game
First Quarter: Storm 7, Houston 6
It's been a defensive affair over the first five-plus minutes of tonight's game. Houston has been scoreless for over four minutes, yet the Comets still held the lead most of that time before Tanisha Wright hit on a pullup a moment ago to give the Storm the lead for the first time tonight. The Storm is shooting 37.5% from the field, Houston just 27.3%. I think the Comets would prefer this kind of a game as compared to the Storm, which has been looking to push the ball and run so far. A couple of opportunities were stopped because of bad passes that became turnovers.
Houston made a couple of changes to its starting lineup tonight. Mwadi Mabika is out with a left knee injury, while rookie Erica White made her first career start in place of veteran Shannon Johnson at the point. Karleen Thompson said before the game she might start one of her rookie guards "soon" - soon indeed.
The highlight of the first few minutes was Sheryl Swoopes coming up with a steal. It's the 600th of her WNBA career, making her the first player in league history to reach that milestone. Congrats, Sheryl!
Santos Joins National Team
The Seattle Storm will be without center Kelly Santos for the next two and a half weeks after Santos left the team to join the Brazilian National Team in Spain over the weekend. Santos will try to help Brazil qualify for this summer's Beijing Olympics in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women. Initially, Santos had told the Storm coaching staff she would not play in the qualifying tournament despite having their blessing to do so. That changed when another veteran Brazilian post, Erika DeSouza, suffered a broken leg while playing for the Atlanta Dream.
"Because Erika was injured, her national team got a hold of her and needed her, because they're trying to qualify," explained Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. "We understand that. That's something we have to live with."
Obviously, not having Santos is not ideal for the Storm, but Agler sees a bigger picture.
"My opinion is, if a player gets a chance to represent their country and they're asked to do it like she was, then I think we have to welcome that and encourage that," said Agler. "Does it help us? No, it doesn't help us, but I think for the good of basketball, it's good relations to keep and it's something she wanted to do."
The Storm will play with just 10 active players tonight because rookie center Florina Pascalau has yet to receive her P-1 visa. Agler said Pascalau will have her visa in time for Tuesday's game at New York. The Storm has the opportunity to sign another player to take Santos' spot on the roster, but the team didn't want to make a rash decision and has some salary constraints in place. It's possible the Storm could add a player, potentially late cut Kristen O'Neill, at some point in the near future.
The Storm should have Santos back in the lineup in time for the June 20 game against Indiana. Santos might take an extra day or two getting back for a good reason - getting a new visa, which would mean she would not have to go through that process again prior to the 2009 season.
Swoopes Faces Comets
Tonight's game is notable for Sheryl Swoopes, who will take on her long-time team in the Houston Comets for the first time as an opponent. Swoopes spent 11 seasons in Houston, winning four WNBA championships. However, that's not a big deal for Swoopes.
"It's just another game - seriously," she said. "I haven't even looked at it as this is my old team. I've really just approached this like I've approached every other game this season.
"It might be a little different when we go back there to play, obviously, because it's in Houston, but I haven't looked at it that way. It's another game for me."
Comets Head Coach Karleen Thompson, who coached Swoopes for two seasons, one of them as an assistant, feels differently. Thompson said earlier it's going to be "awkward" to see Swoopes in a Storm jersey and coach against her.
The Seattle Storm is back at KeyArena tonight looking for the best start in franchise history. No Storm team has ever started 5-1, which the Storm could do with a win tonight. Meanwhile, the opposing Houston Comets are looking to get off the schneid after losing their first four games of the season. The Storm wants to continue both of those trends in tonight's game, but Brian Agler is worried about a Houston team that is better than its record indicates. It should be a fun one, so stay with us all night long for the latest.