Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Phoenix
Storm Stays Perfect at Key
Final: Storm 70, Phoenix 63
The fans who came out here tonight for Dads & Daughters Night sure got their money's worth. What an incredible ballgame we saw. We saw great individual performances on both sides. We saw what looked like a fairly comfortable Storm lead turn into a very exciting game. We saw clutch buckets, and finally we saw a Storm victory. That's 6-0 at KeyArena, the best home start in franchise history. Trace it back to last season and it's 10 straight Storm home wins in the regular season, tying the franchise record from the end of the 2005 season and start of the 2006 season.
Diana Taurasi was unreal tonight. She finishes with 37 points on 13-of-20 shooting and seven three-pointers, just shy of the third 40-point game of her illustrious career. Taurasi had a three-point play to bring Phoenix within four at 76-72, but Lauren Jackson got to the free-throw line and Swin Cash drew a loose-ball foul when LJ missed her second shot. That allowed the Storm to push the lead back to eight. With defenders draped all over Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter hit a three to make it a one-possession game, but Sheryl Swoopes answered with an extremely clutch triple and the Storm got a stop, holding on for the win.
Lots of heroes on the Storm side. Swoopes scored 17 points, a new Storm high for her. She continues to look better and better all the time and ice water still runs through her veins when the game is on the line. Lauren Jackson had 20 points and a season-high 14 rebounds despite facing heavy defensive attention all night long. Swin Cash came up with 17 big points and five rebounds. Yolanda Griffith fell a rebound shy of her first Storm double-double with 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists. And while Sue Bird did not shoot the ball well, she had a big layup off a backdoor cut in the fourth, handed out six assists and tied her career high by pulling down eight rebounds from the perimeter. The bench was big too, including seven points and five rebounds in nine minutes of action for Shyra Ely before she injured her chin.
The Storm now heads out on the road, looking to extend some of the magic the team has had at KeyArena to away games. On Friday, the Storm will decide the season series with the Western Conference rival San Antonio Silver Stars. On Saturday, it's a back-to-back against the Houston Comets. Then the team will have only a travel day before returning to the Key to host the league-leading Connecticut Sun in another early-season showdown. You won't want to miss that clash of contenders from opposing conferences. Get your tickets now and join us!
No Lead Safe from Taurasi
Fourth Quarter: Storm 70, Phoenix 63
The Storm leads by seven with 3:41 left to play, but it doesn't feel safe at all. That's because Diana Taurasi is on the prowl. The Storm doesn't want to see anyone with a birthday any time soon. Last week, Katie Smith scored 33 points on her 34th birthday. The Storm was thus hoping to hold Taurasi to 25 points on her 26th, but she's well past that. Taurasi has 31 points with six three-pointers. That's virtually half of Phoenix's 63 points.
Meanwhile, the Storm has been much more balanced with four players scoring double-figures. However, there's no doubt Lauren Jackson is the go-to player down the stretch. Jackson has 19 points and 14 rebounds tonight.
Phoenix Back Up; Ely Down
Fourth Quarter: Storm 64, Phoenix 58
The Seattle Storm looked to be on the verge of delivering a knockout blow to the Phoenix Mercury when Lauren Jackson's three-pointer gave the team an 11-point lead with 8:05 to play. However, the Mercury has scored on its last three possessions to cut the deficit to a manageable six points with 6:37 to play.
The Storm had to take a timeout after Cappie Pondexter, on her way to the bucket, accidentally nailed Shyra Ely in the chin with an errant elbow. Ely was down for a while before going into the locker room. Hope she's doing OK. Sue Bird's confidence has been shaken by her 0-for-10 shooting night. She missed her first free-throw attempt of the evening and the crowd sensed Bird needed a lift and gave her a nice hand. She then knocked down the second free throw for her first point of the evening.
Storm Takes Momentum to the Fourth
End Third Quarter: Storm 56, Phoenix 49
The Storm's largest lead of the game is seven points, and that's the margin as we head to the final period of play. Diana Taurasi got a rest to end the third quarter, and the Storm finished it on a 6-0 run. Cappie Pondexter just can't get it going. She's got five assists, but has shot 3-of-14 from the field. Diana Taurasi is all the offense for the Mercury.
Meanwhile, the Storm is getting production from the bench. Ashley Robinson was extremely active in the first half, Tanisha Wright has been dissecting the zone and ding up Pondexter and Shyra Ely has three times grabbed an offensive rebound and gotten to the line, hitting five free throws.
On Their Feet
Third Quarter: Storm 46, Phoenix 44
Great standing ovation from the KeyArena crowd after a sequence that saw the Storm retake the lead. Trailing 44-42, Tanisha Wright snuck behind the defense for a Yolanda Griffith feed for a layup. On the other end, Katie Gearlds played great defense switching on to Cappie Pondexter with the shot clock running down and forcing Pondexter into a tough shot that she missed. On a second chance, Lauren Jackson got a layup to give the Storm the lead. Then Sheryl Swoopes got back on D to draw a charge from Cappie Pondexter, Pondexter's fourth foul.
Fun thing during the timeout, as the fathers of the Storm Dance Troupe joined their daughters to throw out t-shirts in the Discover Card T-Shirt Toss.
Storm's Lead Precarious at Break
Halftime: Storm 36, Phoenix 35
I mentioned this earlier, but it felt like the Storm controlled the entire first half - especially on the glass, what with 14 offensive rebounds against 12 defensive boards for the Mercury. However, Diana Taurasi had a halfcourt shot at the first-half buzzer that could have sent Phoenix to the locker room with the lead. The Mercury ended up outshooting the Storm (34.3 percent versus 31.8 percent) and outscored Seattle 15-3 from three-point range, which makes up for a lot of issues.
The three UConn alumnae (and no, I'm not counting Phoenix reserve Willnett Crockett) have figured prominently so far. Diana Taurasi leads all scorers with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting and is the only Phoenix player with more than five points, Cappie Pondexter struggling and having to sit out because of foul trouble. Swin Cash has 14 points for the Storm. However, Sue Bird has been unable to find the touch. She's missed all eight of her shot attempts, including 0-for-5 from three-point range. Bird and Lauren Jackson have combined to miss all nine of their attempts from downtown. Knock down a couple of those (and remember, Jackson shot 40.2 percent on threes last year, Bird 33.8 percent) and this is a totally different game. Still, Phoenix has to be awfully pleased to be right in this game with Pondexter playing just 12 minutes in the first half. Should make for an interesting final 20 minutes.
Westhead 'Still Around'
Second Quarter: Storm 36, Phoenix 33
The defending WNBA champions had a change on the sidelines last off-season, with Head Coach Paul Westhead coming to Seattle to serve as an assistant to Sonics Head Coach P.J. Carlesimo. Westhead's protégé Corey Gaines was promoted to head coach, and he continues to stay in contact with Westhead.
"He's still around; I talk to him all the time," said Gaines. "It's the same - instead of talking to him in person, I talk to him on the phone. Even if I wasn't coaching, I would still be talking to him because we've known each other for 20 years."
Gaines has tweaked the system, but has generally maintained the Westhead 'Paulball' philosophy of pushing the ball at every opportunity. How could he change things after playing under Westhead at Loyola Marymount and with the Denver Nuggets and coaching under him in Phoenix? Naturally, on this trip to Seattle, Gaines met up with Westhead yesterday for dinner at P.F. Chang's.
The Exception That Proves the Rule
Second Quarter: Storm 32, Phoenix 28
An unhappy Brian Agler immediately took timeout after the Storm got a Sheryl Swoopes desperation attempt but then saw Phoenix come right back with a Le'Coe Willingham layup in transition before the Storm got back on defense. Agler wants to remind his charges about the importance of getting back, but the fact that we just saw the first real fast break of the evening for the Mercury shows how well the Storm has been defending in transition so far tonight.
Some special fathers in attendance tonight. Ashley Robinson's father Kenneth is sitting courtside along with Sue Bird's dad Herschel, a regular at Storm games. Next to them is Seahawks wide receiver Bobby Engram with his young daughter, who is wearing a Swin Cash jersey. Cash's partner played wide receiver alongside Engram at Penn State.
Storm Moving the Ball
Second Quarter: Storm 30, Phoenix 24
Great ball movement for the Storm in this first quarter and a half. Seattle has 10 assists on 11 field goals, including three terrific dishes for Yolanda Griffith from the high post. Swin Cash has been on the receiving end of a couple of those passes. She's got 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting and has played very well after struggling a little bit in the last two matchups against her old Detroit team. Meanwhile, the Storm has a 22-14 advantage on the glass including 11 offensive rebounds. It's not just the Storm being bigger and more physical than the Mercury; it's also the Storm simply outhustling Phoenix to get to some 50-50 balls. Ashley Robinson has been incredibly active tonight and has really helped on the glass.
A special Dads & Daughters feature during the timeout: Dads and daughters competing in a dance-off. Some of those fathers don't quite have the moves they used to have, if they ever had any at all. Still, everybody had a lot of fun.
Foul Trouble Hampers Mercury
End First Quarter: Storm 20, Phoenix 18
You don't associate foul trouble with the Phoenix Mercury, but that's just what we've seen in the first quarter here tonight. Diana Taurasi picked up a pair of fouls matched up with Lauren Jackson, while Cappie Pondexter joined her on the bench after committing her third foul with a little under a minute left in the first quarter. Pondexter will miss at least part of the second quarter, you'd have to figure. Taurasi will be back in but can't defend LJ quite as aggressively.
The one disappointment is that the Storm's lead isn't larger than two points. It really feels like the Storm has dominated this game so far, but Phoenix has four hits from three-point range and that has helped keep the Mercury in the game. We'll see how that changes in the second quarter.
Slow Start on Offense
First Quarter: Storm 10, Phoenix 10
When the Phoenix Mercury comes to town, you expect points a plenty on both sides. So far, that hasn't really bee the case tonight, with the two teams tied at 10 a little less than six minutes into the game. The Storm is shooting 26.7 percent from the field, while Phoenix is at 33.3 percent. The Storm is still tied because of taking six more shot attempts than the Mercury, getting five offensive rebounds in the early going.
Phoenix has mostly used a box-and-one defense with Diana Taurasi matched against Lauren Jackson. That stymied the Storm right off the bat, but now Seattle is beginning to play the angles and find the gaps for some better looks. Sheryl Swoopes is still hot - she's got six points and has hit another three in the early going.
The Phoenix Mercury will be without center Tangela Smith tonight. The team's third-leading scorer and leading rebounder is sidelined by a sore right knee that kept her out of the second half of last Friday's game in Los Angeles. The Mercury still won that one, showing the team's newfound depth up front. Veteran Barb Farris moves into the starting lineup for Phoenix alongside Le'Coe Willingham, while rookie LaToya Pringle will also be important to the Mercury. Her minutes remain limited because of preseason knee surgery, but Pringle had three blocks in 11 minutes in her WNBA debut against the Sparks.
Hello from KeyArena, where the Seattle Storm hosts the defending WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury, looking to take a second straight head-to-head matchup with the Mercury. However, this is a very different Phoenix team than the one the Storm defeated in the Valley of the Sun last month. After starting the season 0-4, the Mercury has won two straight, including an impressive win at Los Angeles last Friday. It's also Dads and Daughters Night here at the Key as we celebrate Sunday's upcoming Father's Day. Stay with us all night for updates on all the action.