Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Minnesota
Dominant Performance by Storm
Final: Storm 96, Minnesota 71
In tonight's Insider Preview, I noted that Minnesota had not lost by double-digits all season long. That changed in a big way tonight. The Storm earned its largest win of the season in addition to the biggest Minnesota defeat. The team swept a three-game homestand by a combined 53 points, having previously won by double-figures just twice all season. This was as good an all-around performance as the Storm has had all season, crushing a good Lynx team coming off of a blowout win in Los Angeles two days ago.
The Storm shot 57.6 percent from the field, a near miss of the all-time franchise record of 58.7 percent. Lauren Jackson was brilliant, scoring 34 points in 26 minutes on 22 shots. For the second straight game, she beat her season high, and she's combined for 67 points in those two games. Sue Bird handed out a season-high 11 assists and got a chance to rest the entire fourth quarter, playing 27 minutes. The bench was very, very effective. Katie Gearlds added her fourth three-pointer of the night to tie her career high with 17 points, Tanisha Wright added 11 and Camille Little and Kelly Santos scored six apiece for 40 total bench points. Defensively, the Storm held Minnesota to 41.8 percent shooting after a hot start. And the Storm outrebounded the Lynx 34-23.
The Storm is rolling at home. The next step is to translate this momentum on the road. The Storm will have that chance Tuesday at Sacramento, facing a Monarchs team that is very much in the Western Conference Playoff picture. Catch that game on 1150 AM KKNW. On Thursday, the Storm will be back at the Key for our annual Kids' Day against the Phoenix Mercury with a special Noon start. Don't miss the last visit of the season by the league's highest-scoring team and stars Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter. Get your tickets now!
Storm Bench Effective
Fourth Quarter: Storm 87, Minnesota 64
While the intensity isn't quite what it was early in the game, the Storm's bench has played even with Minnesota's reserves and is scoring the ball better than at any other point this season. The reserves have combined for a season-high 31 points. Katie Gearlds (a season-high 14) and Tanisha Wright (11) have both scored double-figures, the first time all year anybody besides the five starters and Wright has scored double-figures and the first time two Storm reserves have reached the mark.
Storm Reserves Getting Run
Fourth Quarter: Storm 83, Minnesota 59
The Storm's big lead means some extended playing time for reserves. This is a valuable chance to get experience for the Storm's young players, especially rookie guard Kristen O'Neill. She's been sharing point guard duties with Tanisha Wright, who has picked up five fouls. Unfortunately, the refereeing has gotten awfully tight during the second half, extending the game.
Naturally, the fans are thrilled O'Neill is getting a chance to play and this place will erupt if she scores a bucket.
Great Third Quarter for Storm
End Third Quarter: Storm 79, Minnesota 55
So much for the Storm's third-quarter woes. The team outscored Minnesota 32-13 in the third, scoring on 16 of the team's 19 possessions in the period. It's a 24-point game going to the final period, and the only negative (and I say this as a statistician) is that the Storm is ahead so much Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird might not get a chance to add to their huge nights.
This has really been a very entertaining game and the crowd is loving it. We have several politicians in attendance tonight. State Senator Joe McDermott and State Representative Sharon Nelson are sitting with Force 10 Hoops L.L.C. Chairperson Anne Levinson courtside. Also here tonight is Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, taking in his second Storm game of the season.
Third Quarter: Storm 72, Minnesota 51
Don Zierden is in danger of running out of timeouts here in the third quarter. After taking another 20-second TO, Minnesota has only one full timeout remaining. That will automatically be charged at some point during the fourth quarter. The Storm is on a 13-2 run since Lauren Jackson's technical and now leads by 21, the team's largest lead. Lauren Jackson is up to 34 points and Sue Bird (12 points, 10 assists) already has a double-double and has tied her season high for assists.
Storm Takes Biggest Lead
Third Quarter: Storm 63, Minnesota 49
This game lost some of its flow when Vanessa Hayden-Johnson checked in for Minnesota. The behemoth center has been throwing her weight around, drawing a foul and a technical from Lauren Jackson before committing an offensive foul of her own. Jackson looked a little distracted, but the Storm has scored four straight points to go up 14, the team's largest lead of the evening. Hayden will be out after Minnesota takes a 20-second timeout.
LJ Still Hot After Halftime
Third Quarter: Storm 53, Minnesota 42
The third quarter has been a rough one for the Storm of late, particularly on the offensive end. So far, it looks like tonight could be different. The Storm has scored on each of its first three possessions to push the lead back to 11 points. The last two scores have come from Lauren Jackson on difficult shots. She is just absolutely locked in and playing at MVP level right now. Before the game, Minnesota Head Coach Don Zierden was asked whether his team could go small and match up with Jackson. Zierden came back that you can't match up with Jackson big or small because she's so good.
Following up on Thursday's season-high 33 points, Jackson has 25 tonight on 11-of-17 shooting.
Storm Slips Late in Half, Still Leads
Halftime: Storm 47, Minnesota 42
The Storm took its largest lead of 47-34 on a Lauren Jackson three-point play with 1:42 left in the first half. Thereafter, the team lost a little bit of focus and Minnesota closed the half with eight straight points to get back within five. This was a very strange half, as the Lynx outscored the Storm 20-2 at the beginning of the end. In between, the Storm had a 45-22 advantage.
The Storm's ball movement has been terrific, with 15 assists on 19 field goals. Seven of those have come from Sue Bird, who is already ahead of her league-leading average of six a night. Bird, Jackson and Katie Gearlds have been responsible for 40 of the 47 Storm points. We'll see if other players get going after halftime. If Jackson keeps getting great post position and the Storm keeps looking for her, they may not need to. On the other side, great first half for rookie center Nicky Anosike, who has 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting. She and Seimone Augustus (11) are both in double-figures.
KG on Fire
Second Quarter: Storm 42, Minnesota 30
Before tonight's game, Storm Head Coach Brian Agler was asked about Katie Gearlds. A couple of weeks ago, Agler had talked about Gearlds being on the upswing, but it hadn't translated into a lot more playing time. Agler said that wasn't anything Gearlds had or hadn't done, but simply on the coaching staff and its rotation - and, as he pointed out, the fact that the Storm is limited to five players on the floor at a time.
Well, Gearlds has gotten it rolling tonight. She has 11 points all in the second quarter, making 4-of-6 shots including three hits from downtown. Gearlds got some open looks early and got confident. Now she's hitting some impossible attempts. Lauren Jackson has scored only once in this quarter, but Gearlds has been so hot the Storm hasn't needed Jackson's scoring. Gearlds already has beaten her season high of nine points from the Storm's second game of the season against Sacramento.
All Storm in Second Quarter
Second Quarter: Storm 32, Minnesota 25
You rarely see a momentum shift as dramatic as the one we've seen in tonight's first half. The Lynx controlled the first five minutes, but over the last 10 minutes or so, it's been all Storm. The score in that period is Seattle 30, Minnesota 10. Right now the Storm is on a 15-2 run, including 9-2 during the second quarter. Seimone Augustus is the main offense for the Lynx at the moment, making five of her six shot attempts to score 11 points.
So far, this has been a very cleanly-played game without a lot of fouls or turnovers and with some great shooting on both sides. Very entertaining for the nice Saturday night crowd in the house.
Behind LJ, Storm Rallies to Tie
End First Quarter: Minnesota 23, Storm 23
The Storm trailed by as many as 13 points, 15-2, as the Lynx got a pair of three-pointers in the first two possessions after Brian Agler's timeout. But while Minnesota hit those shots (the second a banked triple from the top of the key), the Storm had tightened up defensively. After making their first six shots, the Lynx went 4-of-11 the rest of the way.
AT the other end, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson were unstoppable for the Storm. Jackson scored at the buzzer to give her 16 first-quarter points on 7-of-11 shooting. Several of those scores came off of feeds from Sue Bird, who handed out five assists in addition to her five points in the first quarter. Bird had one brilliant play where she blew right past the very quick Candice Wiggins, then went behind her back to leave it off for Jackson, who made a layup. When the Storm's two stars are going, they are nearly impossible to stop.
First Quarter: Minnesota 9, Storm 2
The Storm got off to a great start against New York on Thursday, leading 11-2 early. That start has been reversed tonight, with the Lynx taking a quick 9-2 lead. Minnesota has executed extremely well on offense, scoring nine points on the team's four possessions. The Lynx have gotten some nice looks inside off the pick-and-roll and have caused some problems by pressuring the ball out of Sue Bird's hands. After taking a timeout, Brian Agler will respond by getting Tanisha Wright in the game as an extra ballhandler.
Former Storm broadcaster Alan Horton is here calling the game for the Lynx, his new squad. He predicts during the timeout that Minnesota is not going to miss a shot all night.
Defending the Lynx
With the addition of rookie Candice Wiggins and some other key pieces, the Minnesota Lynx's offense has become the most potent one this side of the defending WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury.
"It's going to be a great challenge for us," said Storm Head Coach Brian Agler before the game.
"Candice has a knack of getting to the free-throw line. Seimone (Augustus) is probably as good a one-one-player as there is in the league, probably the best midrange jumpshooter that there is in the league. They complement each other very well. Seimone's probably their go-to player still, but it makes it difficult when they've got another quote unquote 'go-to player' too."
The Storm is back at KeyArena tonight to host the Minnesota Lynx in a clash of two of the many teams fighting for playoff positioning in the crowded Western Conference. At 10-7, the Storm entered today in third place but just one game out of first. Meanwhile, Minnesota is a game back of the Storm and percentage points out of the fourth and final playoff spot. And the Lynx have only a one-game margin on the two teams tied for last in the West. Intraconference games like tonight's take on added importance because the West is so tight, so this should be a very intense, well-played matchup. Stay with us all night long for the latest.