Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Los Angeles (Game 2)
We Play Tuesday
Final: Storm 64, Los Angeles 50
50 hours from tonight, we will return to KeyArena for the winner-take-all Game 3 of this Storm-Sparks Western Conference Semifinals series. The Storm ensured that with a 64-50 win this afternoon that was in many ways more convincing than the final score indicates. A late run should vive the Sparks some confidence going into Game 3, but the team was also highly frustrated throughout the game, including Lisa Leslie drawing a late technical foul hat helped the Storm put the game away.
That frustration was inevitable because of the way the Storm defended Los Angeles tonight. The high-powered Sparks were held to 50 points, a season low, even after putting up 21 points in the fourth quarter. Their previous season low was 53 points at KeyArena against the Storm on July 12. L.A. shot 30.8 percent from the field and turned the ball over 20 times, including five more by Leslie.
At the other end, the Storm's guards had the kind of advantage we expected going into this series. Sue Bird scored 20 points and heard "M-V-P" chants as she went to the free-throw line late in the game. Sheryl Swoopes offered a vintage performance, coming up with 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting, four rebounds and three steals in 25 strong minutes. Camille Little had 13 in her best effort against the Sparks all season and Tanisha Wright had eight points and seven boards while taking great care of the basketball. Yolanda Griffith did not put up big numbers, but her defense on Leslie was typically phenomenal.
If you're not in the house Tuesday for Game 3, you better have an awfully good excuse. KeyArena is going to be rocking for a do-or-die game for both sides. Tickets are going fast, but you can get yours now by clicking here. There's no doubt the crowd was a big factor in today's game, and it could be the same thing Tuesday. We'll see you at the Key!
Fourth Quarter: Storm 55, Los Angeles 48
In an eerie replay of Game 1 (but in the opposite direction), the Sparks have pulled back within seven by outscoring the Storm 19-5 here in this fourth quarter. The Storm's offense is really stagnant in this quarter, which to an extent I think it somewhat inevitable in Lauren Jackson's absence. When Sue Bird is cut off, the Storm can have a tough time creating shots - especially against a defense as good as L.A.'s. However, the Storm also needs to get more ball and player movement on offense and can't constantly be fighting the shot clock.
L.A. Makes a Run
Fourth Quarter: Storm 52, Los Angeles 39
It's 10-2 Sparks here in the fourth quarter. Los Angeles hasn't exactly been spectacular other than a questionable turnover a moment ago for consecutive buckets, but the Storm has been very quiet offensively, allowing the Sparks to walk their way back within 13 plus a Lisa Leslie free throw after this timeout. Time is such a big factor that the Storm needs only string together a couple of baskets to put this one in the refrigerator (to steal from an L.A. basketball legend). The KeyArena crowd can't get quiet now, but needs to remain a factor in this game.
Storm Pulls Away
End Third Quarter: Storm 50, Los Angeles 29
Los Angeles got as close as 12 late in the third quarter, but the Storm silenced the rally (but not the crowd) over the last 2:06 of the period, going on an 8-0 run - five of the eight points from the free-throw line - to push the lead to 21 points. Given the Sparks have only scored 29 points all game, even just 14 in a relatively hot third quarter, a comeback is going to be challenging.
Three-pointers have been a big difference-maker in this game. The Storm is 5-of-12 from downtown, including three by Sue Bird and two by Sheryl Swoopes, while Los Angeles is 2-of-9 from downtown. When the Storm is hitting from downtown, this team is tough to beat.
Sparks Not Making Up Ground
Third Quarter: Storm 40, Los Angeles 26
The Los Angeles Sparks weren't going to be denied on offense for all 40 minutes, and they have put up 11 points in the last five minutes. However, they've only made up four points on the scoreboard in that span as the Storm has gotten going. Sheryl Swoopes now has 14 points, which is only three off her top outing of the regular season. The Storm also continues to force turnovers and come up with steals. Swoopes and Yolanda Griffith have combined for seven steals and L.A. has turned the ball over 14 times.
Love looking at the signs in the loud KeyArena crowd. We've got a lot of the usual "Beat L.A." fare but some creative signs as well, including one that spells out ESPN2, "Storm soaks Sparks" and a "Bring Out the Storm to Put Out the Sparks."
No Drop-Off Starting Third
Third Quarter: Storm 31, Los Angeles 15
Sometimes you see a team unable to maintain its intensity coming out of the locker room after a big first half. Not so with the Storm, which has outscored L.A. 5-0 so far in the third period. In case there was any question that this is Sheryl Swoopes' day, she answered that by coming out and banking in a three-pointer on the first Storm possession of the half. She's got 10 points and a pair of three-pointers.
Michael Cooper is searching for answers for the Sparks. Marie Ferdinand, who has played with a lot of energy, started the second half in place of Kiesha Brown. Murriel Page (seeing her first action of the night) and Temeka Johnson are also in early in the third quarter as Cooper takes timeout.
Halftime: Storm 26, Los Angeles 15
There might not be strong enough words to describe how well the Storm played defensively in the first half. The 15 points scored by the Sparks tie the fewest allowed by the Storm in any half in any game of their existence, regular season or playoffs (Washington also scored 15 on July 3, 2001 at KeyArena. That was, ahem, not a playoff team.) L.A. shot 18.5 percent from the field and made just five field goals in 20 minutes, while doubling that total in terms of turnovers (10).
The Sparks played some pretty good defense themselves, limiting the Storm to 34.4 percent shooting in the first half. Sue Bird got loose for 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting, including a pair of big three-pointers. Sheryl Swoopes, with seven, was the only other player to score more than two points for the Storm. However, a couple of things turned around from Game 1. The Storm has a slight lead in bench scoring (5-3), while the Sparks backcourt has combined to score five points on 2-of-12 shooting.
Storm Playing from Ahead
Second Quarter: Storm 23, Los Angeles 15
A major difference between Friday's Game 2 and today's Game 2 has been that the Storm has played from ahead the whole time as opposed to trying to play catchup for basically the entire game Friday. Head Coach Brian Agler spoke before the game to the difficulty of that.
"When we play a game like we did where we're continually on our heels like we were, it's emotionally draining and physically draining," explained Agler. "Once we eliminated that part of the game and sort of played on the front foot a little bit, we played a lot better."
The Storm looked a little fatigued at times during Game 1. We haven't seen that at all tonight. Agler has also been a bit more liberal with his bench after going to a seven-player rotation in the second half of Game 1. We even saw Shyra Ely and Kimberly Beck for short stints.
Sparks Make a Push
Second Quarter: Storm 18, Los Angeles 12
Five straight DeLisha Milton-Jones points have the Sparks back within six points at 18-12 after the Storm had opened up its biggest lead of the game. As well as the Storm has played defensively, the team's offensive execution still has not been great. The Storm hasn't turned the ball over, but is shooting but 40.0 percent from the field. The team also has yet to get to the free-throw line, something Brian Agler emphasized before the game. Lisa Leslie has drawn two fouls, but both have come on the offensive end of the floor.
Until the Storm is able to string together more consistent scoring, this game will remain tight. That might just be its nature. The fact is that both of these teams are much better defensively than they are on offense. The regular-season matchups were very low scoring. Sub-30 percent shooting shouldn't come as a surprise.
Storm Locked in Defensively
End First Quarter: Storm 16, Los Angeles 7
You're not going to see a lot better defensive performance over the course of a quarter than the Storm put up in the first period. The seven Sparks points tied the fewest the Storm allowed in a quarter during the entire regular season. Los Angeles got nothing in transition and the Storm was very aggressive defensively in playing the passing lanes and forcing turnovers. The Sparks coughed it up six times and shot 2-of-12 from the field, 16.7 percent.
Now the key for the Storm is keeping it up. We're also going to get our first look at Sidney Spencer, L.A.'s best shooter. On offense, Sheryl Swoopes is giving the Storm a great effort. She's got seven points on 3-of-3 shooting, including a trademark NBA three-pointer.
This Just In: LJ Not Playing
First Quarter: Storm 4, Los Angeles 2
The Storm isn't quite sure how to react to Michael Cooper's insistence that he expects Lauren Jackson to play in this series. Neither Brian Agler nor Jackson herself had much of a response. Cooper elaborated before the game, explaining that he thought it was noteworthy that Jackson was wearing her regular shoe on her right foot instead of something more protective or more comfortable. Alas, Jackson is nowhere near playing.
"Right now, it's feeling pretty not great," she said of her ankle." I had a good workout yesterday and I felt alright yesterday, but today I just feel really, really bad."
Energy All Belongs to the Storm
First Quarter: Storm 4, Los Angeles 0
The national TV audience hasn't even switched over to this game with Detroit and Indiana still finishing up the early game, but Michael Cooper has already taken a timeout. The Storm has gotten off to a far, far better start than in Friday's Game 1. Yolanda Griffith forced a Lisa Leslie timeout on the first possession, and she's got two of the three Sparks turnovers. The Storm started well defensively Friday, but didn't score. Sue Bird has a trademark pullup and a Sheryl Swoopes runner to take the 4-0 lead.
A solid playoff crowd is already totally in this game, starting a "Beat L.A." chant before the introduction of the starting lineups and making things very loud for the Sparks so far.
The Storm will change up its starting five from Game 1, with Sheryl Swoopes replacing Ashley Robinson in the lineup. Storm Head Coach Brian Agler was happy with Robinson's play and energy, but feels Swoopes is ready to return to a starting role after playing well off the bench in her first game back from a concussion.
"We feel like Sheryl's ready to go now," said Agler. "Won't be quite the size that we'd like, but Sheryl's been here. She's a seasoned veteran. She's got a game under her belt now, which is helpful, and I liked some of the things she did on the court in L.A."
The change gives the Storm less size in its starting five, but more speed and in particular more outside shooting. That may help the Storm avoid the kind of slow start the team suffered in Game 1 and which has been a problem at times throughout the season.
"I think a lot of it is not so much us starting slow as a matter of slowing down their surge at the beginning," noted Agler. "I think they really surge a lot at the beginning. We've talked about our transition defense a lot, so hopefully that will help."
It's Time! The Storm will look to square the Western Conference Semifinals at one game apiece with the Los Angeles Sparks this afternoon at KeyArena in the Storm's first home playoff game. After a rough first half of game 1, the Storm found some momentum after halftime and will try to extend that into today's game and get off to a stronger start. A vocal crowd here at the Key should help that process. We'll cover all the action and excitement from our usual spot with the Storm's radio broadcast team. Stay with us throughout the game.