Live From Press Row - Storm vs. New York
Complete Victory for Storm
Final: Storm 84, New York 71
The Seattle Storm started this game out with an 11-2 run and never let the New York Liberty get a whole lot closer. Even when the Liberty made a run in the fourth quarter, New York was never closer than seven points. The offense is obvious on a night the Storm put up 84 points and got season-high scoring efforts from both Lauren Jackson (33) and Sue Bird (23). Both players were very efficient, shooting a combined 22-of-33 from the field. A little-known fact is that LJ was just two points away from the Storm record for regulation scoring, 35, which she naturally holds (that coming May 25, 2006 at Phoenix; Jackson's 47-point game took overtime). Really, the strength of the Storm offense on this evening was avoiding turnovers. 15 is a pretty good turnover number against this New York team, and a lot better than the 23 miscues the Storm had in New York.
At the defensive end of the floor, the Storm held New York under 40 percent shooting and forced 20 turnovers for the second straight game. The Liberty is a really good defensive team, but the Storm stifled them for long stretches. Seattle did benefit form the absence of center Janel McCarville, who did not play in the second half. We never got word about an injury, but we should know more after the game.
The Storm got solid contributions form everyone who took the floor tonight. Swin Cash was a presence on the glass, coming up with a season-high 10 rebounds. Meanwhile, Sheryl Swoopes had a very versatile game - nine points, seven boards and a season-high six assists. The bench did not put up big numbers, but contributed a lot of energy.
After a light schedule for a long stretch, the Storm will get busy in a hurry over the next couple of weeks. That starts Saturday, as the Storm will be back at it after one day of practice, hosting the Minnesota Lynx here at KeyArena. The Lynx have been one of the best stories of the young season, getting off to a red-hot start before dropping back to the pack lately. In Seimone Augustus and Candice Wiggins, Minnesota has two of the league's brightest young stars. Have a Happy Fourth of July and we'll see you here on Saturday - get your tickets now!
Preventing the Run
Fourth Quarter: Storm 68, New York 54
A Sue Bird layup on the first Storm possession of the fourth quarter pushed the lead to 19 points and it looked like the Storm was cruising. However, Lisa Willis hit a three-pointer on New York's next possession and Cathrine Kraayeveld followed with a layup to pull the Liberty within 14. With the Storm failing to execute on the last two possessions, Brian Agler wants a timeout to get the team settled down.
The Doppler Train is my favorite KeyArena tradition, and it really seems to be getting bigger and better than ever now that school is out and more kids are in attendance. It's one of the many things that make Storm games unique.
O'Neill Makes Debut
End Third Quarter: Storm 66, New York 49
Storm rookie Kristen O'Neill made her WNBA debut late in the third quarter, playing a little under two minutes alongside Tanisha Wright in the Storm backcourt. How ready was this KeyArena crowd to see the hometown hero? The mere mention of O'Neill's name during the pregame preview with Dick Fain and Adia Barnes on StormVision drew a huge cheer from the fans. If the Storm can maintain this lead, O'Neill might get some good minutes down the stretch.
Good news on Storm center Ashley Robinson. Her ankle was merely tweaked, not sprained as we figured. She's back on the Storm bench and her return has not been ruled out, though I'd certainly be surprised to see her play
Robinson Hurts Ankle; Storm Pulls Away
Third Quarter: Storm 62, New York 44
Unfortunate sight here at KeyArena as Ashley Robinson came down on the foot of New York's Tiffany Jackson and immediately went to the ground holding her ankle. Robinson was helped off the floor by two teammates and went to the locker room. The timing is particularly bad because Robinson was playing so well tonight. She had a couple of a blocks and a steal before getting that score off of a great Sue Bird feed.
Despite the injury, the Storm has outscored New York 11-6 in the third quarter, including the current 11-2 run. Lauren Jackson has seven points to tie her season high of 30. Bird is running the show brilliantly. She's got 13 points and six assists, making six of her seven shot attempts. On defense, the Storm has done a great job of playing the passing lanes, coming up with eight steals.
Storm Offense Sparkles
Half: Storm 51, New York 38
On Sunday, the Storm won with defense. Tonight it has been the Storm offense that has been terrific, at least so far. Actually, the Storm was very strong at both ends over the first quarter and a half, leading by as many as 15 at 37-22. Thereafter, New York scored on eight of nine possessions. However, the Liberty made up precious little ground because the Storm was equally hot. It's a 13-point lead at the half and the Storm is shooting 60.0 percent from the field.
Equally impressive might be that the Storm has just six turnovers against a New York Liberty team that does a great job of forcing them. New York threw the full-court pressure on late in the half because of all the made buckets, but it did not bother the Storm, which easily broke it for layups at the other end. Lauren Jackson has 23 points, which has to be her biggest half in a while. I'm digging through the numbers to try to see if I can shed any light on that. Still, the Storm has three other starters with at least six points. That's impressive scoring.
Swoopes Looking Good
Second Quarter: Storm 39, New York 28
As Billy Crystal once told the nation on SNL, it's better to look good than feel good. And dahling, Sheryl Swoopes has looked marvelous tonight. I can't tell how Swoopes' right knee is feeling, but it hasn't bothered her on the court. Swoopes has made all three of her shot attempts for six points and has four boards to go along with her two early assists. The one thing that was really troubling about Swoopes potentially having to sit out with a knee injury was that undoing some of the hard work she's put in to get back to where she was before last year's back injury. She's a different player than she was a month ago.
New York rookie Essence Carson has had a good night, making 4-of-8 from the field for eight points. The maddening thing about Carson is her tendency to step inside (or on) the three-point line when she shoots. Of course, she has four of New York's six two-point buckets on the night. The rest have been threes.
Big Names in the Stands
Second Quarter: Storm 28, New York 19
A pair of big rounds of applause during the last timeout for two big names in women's basketball. WNBA President Donna Orender is sitting courtside for tonight's game in between Anne Levinson and Lisa Brummel from Force 10 Hoops L.L.C. On the other side of the arena is former UW women's head coach June Daugherty, now coaching at Washington State. It's a big night for Daugherty. She coached Kristen O'Neill for four years at UW. O'Neill could make her WNBA tonight, as she's dressed and active for the Storm.
"I think she'll get in the game," Brian Agler said before the game. "How much time she gets, I can't answer that."
Jackson Powers Storm
End First Quarter: Storm 22, New York 14
Lauren Jackson had a brilliant first quarter for the Storm, scoring 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting and adding four rebounds. Jackson was getting terrific position in the post, something she should be able to do all night long. The Liberty has quality frontcourt players but not a ton of size. Cathrine Kraayeveld is the only New York player listed at over 6-3 (Jessica Davenport is 6-5, but she's inactive tonight because of injury) and Kraayeveld is hardly a behemoth in the post. Also credit Jackson for establishing position so well and the rest of the Storm for finding her down low.
At the other end of the floor, the Storm held New York to 33.3 percent shooting. Shameka Christon was the only New York player who was much of a threat in the first quarter. Christon scored eight points and knocked down a pair of three-pointers. The Liberty does a lot of its scoring from beyond the arc.
Storm Executing Early
First Quarter: Storm 13, New York 2
The Seattle Storm offense is clicking in during the first four-plus minutes of this game. The Storm has had eight possessions and has scored on six of them while limiting New York to only one score. That's produced an early 13-2 lead. The Storm set the tone early, getting four offensive rebounds on one possession to finally get a score. New York has only one rebound all night long. Lauren Jackson has been hot, scoring seven points on 3-of-4 shooting.
Sheryl Swoopes also looks plenty healthy so far. She's got two points, two boards and two assists, scoring on a difficult fadeaway. Pat Coyle will try to change the Liberty's momentum by getting rookie Leilani Mitchell, a native of the Tri-Cities, in for starting point guard Loree Moore.
When Sheryl Swoopes walked out of The Furtado Center on crutches on Tuesday with a brace on her right knee, it was pretty frightening. Two days later, however, tests have checked out on the knee and Swoopes will play through some soreness tonight and will start. Swoopes' status was confirmed this morning before shootaround.
"She felt good," said Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. "I didn't really work with her a lot - (Athletic Trainer) Tom (Spencer) did. We had film at 9:45 and she was in at about 9:15 and did some things in front of the film."
Swoopes' minutes do not figure to be limited if she is not bothered by the knee.
"I'm not really thinking about any adjustments that way," Agler said, "but if we watch and see that she's not 100 percent, we'll go from there."
With Kristen O'Neill added to the roster, center Kelly Santos will be inactive tonight, giving the Storm depth on the perimeter.
Welcome to KeyArena, where tonight the Seattle Storm will look to get the Fourth of July Weekend off to a great start by beating the New York Liberty. The Liberty comes to town having won in Los Angeles on Thursday and looking for a season series sweep of the Storm. A month ago today, these teams met in New York and the Liberty used full-court pressure to force 23 turnovers and keep the Storm's offense from getting into a groove in a 77-63 victory. The Storm will look to deal with that pressure better and reverse the outcome tonight.