Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Indiana
Fourth-Quarter Surge Carries Storm to Victory
Final: Storm 76, Indiana 68
What a wild fourth quarter. It started with Indiana leading by three points and in control of momentum with Tamika Catchings in the game. The Storm then held the Fever scoreless from the 8:04 mark of the fourth quarter to the 2:45 mark, going on a 16-0 run. That produced a 13-point lead, but Indiana made things interesting with a 9-0 run as the Storm got lackadaisical on offense. However, time worked against the Fever. Sheryl Swoopes came up with a big bucket and the Storm got two important stops and that was that as the Storm held on for the win.
Real team effort for the Storm tonight. Five players scored double-figures. Lauren Jackson led the way with 18, but the real catalyst on offense was Sue Bird. She missed a couple of shots late to hold down her shooting percentage, but Bird scored 17 points on 7-of-16 shooting, handed out five assists and had three steals. Sheryl Swoopes had three steals as well as the Storm collected 12 as a team and Swoopes scored 13 points, while Swin Cash and Tanisha Wright off the bench had 12 apiece. The real difference during the run was defense, as the Storm kept getting steals and turning them into buckets on the other end. The Storm also took care of the ball. Despite some late lapses, the team committed just 10 turnovers.
We saw again tonight how valuable rest and the opportunity to practice is for the Storm, at least during the process of learning Brian Agler's system. The good news is the team will be off for four days before getting a first look at the Los Angeles Sparks and Lisa Leslie and rookie sensation Candace Parker on Tuesday at the STAPLES Center. Tip-off is 7:30 p.m. on 1150 AM KKNW. The Storm will be back here a week from Sunday to host the Washington Mystics and star guard Alana Beard. Get your tickets now for that game and be sure to bring a new teddy bear for the Warm 106.9 Teddy Bear Toss at halftime!
Storm on the Run
Fourth Quarter: Storm 64, Indiana 59
KeyArena has come alive behind an 8-0 Storm run to reclaim the lead and push it to five points with 6:08 to play. Sue Bird has been the catalyst. Out of a 20-second timeout, she took it the hoop for a layup plus the foul to tie the game, pumping her fist on the ground after the ball went through the net. Bird then came up with a steal and led Tanisha Wright in transition for a layup and another foul (though Wright missed the free throw). Just a moment ago, Bird set up Lauren Jackson on the pick-and-pop for a wide-open three-pointer. LJ, who has been slumping from downtown, knocked it down. Lin Dunn followed with a timeout. The Storm is also getting after it defensively.
Storm Within One
Fourth Quarter: Indiana 57, Storm 56
The Storm starts the final period with Sue Bird hitting a pullup in transition to bring Indiana's lead down to one point. On the play, Fever post Ebony Hoffman went down in the paint. Indiana took a timeout, but Hoffman is doing well. She'll stay in the game. Tamika Catchings is getting a brief rest to start the fourth quarter.
In addition to catching up with Lin Dunn, I also chatted with Tully Bevilaqua. Like Dunn, Bevilaqua called Seattle probably her favorite city in the U.S. She loves coming back to where she won the championship in 2004 and seeing old friends, including former Storm teammates Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson. Bevilaqua got a great hand when she was introduced with the Fever starters. We joked about how Bevilaqua was talking about potentially retiring after the championship but is still going strong as a starter four years later. Bevilaqua retired from the WNBL in Australia at the end of last season but says she'll decide whether to play another WNBA season at the end of this year.
Bevilaqua is waiting on word from Basketball Australia about whether she will make the Olympic Team and should hear by the end of the month.
"I'm just playing it as 50-50," she said. "I'm supposed to find out towards the end of this month whether I am included or not. I'm trying not to think about it because I don't want it to affect how I play here. I'm just trying to stay loose, not worry about things. That's how I'm playing at the moment. When the time comes to get the call, hopefully it will be good."
Catchings Powers Fever
End Third Quarter: Indiana 57, Storm 54
Tamika Catchings has made a big impact on this game as Indiana has taken a three-point lead heading to the final period. When Catchings checked into the game, the Storm had its largest lead of nine at 46-37. The rest of the third quarter, the Fever outscored the Storm 20-8. Catchings had three points, four assists and three rebounds. If she's not healthy, I'd hate to see her at 100 percent (actually, I have. She's real good). Now the Storm needs to make a fourth-quarter comeback.
Great play during the timeout as a young fan wearing a Lauren Jackson jersey beats the buzzer. She wins another jersey, a Sue Bird one.
Defense Picking Up
Third Quarter: Storm 48, Indiana 42
With Tamika Catchings into this game less than two minutes into the second half, this game has picked up the defensive style we expected. Neither team has scored in the last two minutes, with every look getting contested. The Storm is shooting 34.1 percent from the field and Indiana is down to 42.5 percent.
Lin Dunn is back in Seattle tonight facing the team she helped build. Dunn reiterated before the game that this is her favorite city and took credit for the sunshine we've enjoyed the last couple of days. Dunn and the Fever were here in the preseason, but the difference is that now the two players Dunn drafted on this Storm team, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, are here.
"I wish I had more time to spend with them," said Dunn. "It's too bad we've got a game or I'd do something with them tonight."
Storm by Seven at the Break
Halftime: Storm 42, Indiana 35
The Storm's defense relapsed late in the half, giving up a pair of layups. However, a great second-chance look by Sheryl Swoopes (the Storm's eighth offensive rebound of the first half) just before the buzzer sends the Storm to the locker room with a seven-point lead. The Storm executed well on offense despite shooting only 35.5 percent from the field. In addition to the offensive rebounds, 13-of-13 from the free-throw line and just four turnovers allowed the Storm to score 42 points in 37 possessions against a very, very strong defense.
What's interesting is now we prepare for a second half that promises to be an entirely different game because of Tamika Catchings. Catchings is like the bullet Lin Dunn has been saving for the second half, and she'll be able to play 15 or 16 of the 20 minutes. The Fever is a very different team with Catchings on the floor, especially offensively, where the team is already shooting an even 50.0 percent but needs to cut down on turnovers. Brian Agler has to feel good about having a seven-point lead, but with Catchings coming back, he can't feel comfortable.
Turning Up the D
Second Quarter: Storm 38, Indiana 30
Nice defensive stretch by the Storm as halftime nears (1:39 away). Indiana has scored only one bucket in nearly five minutes, committing five turnovers - including a pair of 24-second violations - in that span. That's allowed the Storm to go on a 7-0 run to push the lead to eight points.
Storm Living at the Line
Second Quarter: Storm 31, Indiana 28
The Storm has been dramatically outshot thus far, 52.2 percent to 34. percent. However, the Storm still leads by three because of two disparities. The first is turnovers - eight for Indiana to just two for the Storm tonight. The other is the free-throw line. The Fever has yet to make a visit to the line tonight, while the Storm is a perfect 11-for-11 thus far.
Fun fact: All three head coaches in Storm history are in the building tonight. Not only is Lin Dunn here coaching the Indiana Fever, but Anne Donovan (who coached the Fever during its inaugural season) is here visiting. She's watching the game with her former assistant Heidi VanDerveer, now scouting for other WNBA teams, from the press table at courtside.
Quick Agler Timeout
Second Quarter: Storm 23, Indiana 20
While the Storm has been executing well, the team needs to do a better job defensively. I'm sure that's Brian Agler's message after he took a timeout two possessions into the second quarter. Indiana scored on both its trips down the floor and is now shooting 47.4 percent from the field. The Storm has forced five turnovers, but needs to cut down on the scoring of one of the league's weakest offenses.
In the house tonight and on StormVision during the timeout: Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, taking in some WNBA hoops with his family during the break before the Seahawks start training camp next month.
Storm Gets Offense Going
End First Quarter: Storm 23, Indiana 16
Well, a quarter in this has been a more offensive game than we were expecting. It seems like the pace has been faster; we'll see when we get the quarter-end box score. Anyways, the Storm has put up 23 points. Indiana's opponents have scored 20 or more 12 times in 40 quarters this season, so that is definitely something of an accomplishment. It starts with ballhandling, as the Storm still has only one turnover. Nice balanced scoring as well, with six players in the scoring column and three (Swin Cash, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson) with five or more.
Storm Defense Stout Early
First Quarter: Storm 10, Indiana 5
If Lin Dunn follows through on her plan to play Tamika Catchings only in the second half, you'd really like to see the Storm take an early lead and put pressure on Indiana to make a comeback when its star player gets in the game. The Storm is off to a nice start towards that goal, scoring the game's first eight points and taking a 10-5 lead so far. Indiana has been held to 25.0 percent shooting with three turnovers. The Storm has done a good job of executing against the Fever's pressure and has only one miscue thus far.
Yolanda Griffith played the first five-plus minutes and will be relieved by Ashley Robinson at the timeout. She's looked good and healthy so far.
Griffith to Give it a Go
The Storm will have center Yolanda Griffith back in the starting lineup tonight after she missed the last two Storm games, both losses, with left knee and ankle injuries. Griffith tested the soreness in her ankle before the game and the decision was made that she would play. Griffith will start at center. Storm Head Coach Brian Agler said before the game that he would try to limit the length of Griffith's stints on the floor and would keep a close eye on how she is moving throughout the game.
On the other side, Fever All-Star Tamika Catchings will be limited to about 15 minutes tonight. 15 is the official number, but Lin Dunn is hoping that because she only played Catchings 14 minutes on Wednesday against New York that extra minute will carry over like cell-phone minutes, allowing Catchings to play 16. Dunn said she expects to use Catchings solely in the second half.
Tonight, the Indiana Fever invades KeyArena to take on the Storm in a matchup of two of the WNBA's best defensive teams. As I reported in tonight's Insider Preview, the Fever is on track to post the best defensive season in WNBA history. That should be a good test for a Storm team that has executed well with the benefit of a couple straight days of practice, like they got Wednesday and yesterday. The Storm is 5-0 with at least two days' rest. We'll see if that continues tonight. It should be a good one, so stay with us all night long for the latest.