Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Sacramento
Storm Victorious on Opening Night
Final: Storm 80, Sacramento 70
A great crowd here for the Storm's Opening Night 2009 will go home happy as the Storm puts away an 80-70 victory over the Sacramento Monarchs. Sacramento's only lead of this game came at 2-1 as the Storm controlled virtually throughout, leading by as many as 16 points. This was a solid offensive effort for the Storm, which shot 49.2 percent from the field, and at the other end the team forced 20 turnovers, limited the Monarchs to 41.0 percent shooting and did much better on the defensive glass than in Saturday's matchup between these two teams.
Lauren Jackson is in midseason form in the early going. She topped 20 points for the second straight game, finishing with 25 on 9-of-16 shooting. Sue Bird added 15 points and eight assists, controlling the offense from the point. Five other players scored at least five points and the bench tallied 21 as a unit.
The Storm still has plenty of room of room for improvement, but you have to feel good about starting the season 2-0. The Storm joins Minnesota and Washington as the three teams atop the league standings with a pair of wins. Now it's out on the road for a three-game road trip that kicks off Tuesday in Indiana. That game will be on ESPN2, while you can catch the other two matchups with LiveAccess here on stormbasketball.com. Then it's back to KeyArena on Friday, June 19 as the Storm takes on Minnesota on Dads & Daughters Night ®, a great chance to bring your daughter (or your dad) to game before Father's Day. Get your tickets for that game now!
Fourth Quarter: Storm 72, Sacramento 59
One of the familiar faces in the stands here at KeyArena tonight is former Storm guard Jamie Redd, a UW product who still lives in the area, coaching at Pacific Lutheran University. Redd was a member of the Storm team that took the floor for the first time just over nine years ago, and spent three seasons playing in Seattle. Redd is also one of the nominees for the Storm's All-Decade Team. Voting for the All-Decade Team is still ongoing. Click here to cast your vote!
Contributions From All Quarters
Fourth Quarter: Storm 71, Sacramento 56
Naturally, Lauren Jackson has been the Storm's go-to player tonight, scoring 21 points. What really stands out in perusing the boxscore, however, is the balanced production the Storm has gotten in this game. Six players, including three reserves, have scored at least five points. The Storm has 20 points from reserves tonight, and in combination with excellent defense that's going to be a winning formula much more often than not. It's a 15-point game right now with a little over four minutes left and Janell Burse headed to the free-throw line to try to complete a three-point play. The crowd is loud during this timeout in anticipation of what would be the Storm's fourth consecutive victory on Opening Night.
Storm Holding Off Monarchs
Fourth Quarter: Storm 67, Sacramento 56
For the most part, the two teams have traded buckets in a defensive-minded fourth quarter. The Monarchs have made up two points after scoring consecutive baskets, but that pace still favors the Storm, which maintains an 11-point lead. Right now, the Storm's defense is strong enough that the team will have to make mistakes to give Sacramento an opportunity to come back in this game. Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson got a nice long rest to start the fourth quarter and now will be in the game, presumably for good.
It's our first train of 2009 (at least of the regular-season variety). I'm sitting close enough because I'm not doing stats for the radio broadcast that I could theoretically join in ... .
Storm in Good Shape
End Third Quarter: Storm 63, Sacramento 50
The Storm will take a double-digit lead to the fourth quarter, having outscored Sacramento 22-18 in the third period. The Storm has really been efficient on offense, shooting just under 50 percent with but eight turnovers against a team that loves to bring pressure. In addition to Lauren Jackson, who has scored a game-high 21 points, the big contributions in the third quarter in scoring came from Camille Little, who scored nine of her 11 points, including a big three-point play. On the other end, Kara Lawson is keeping Sacramento in the game. She's got 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting and is the lone Monarchs player in double-figures.
A Game of Runs
Third Quarter: Storm 50, Sacramento 43
The two teams have traded runs so far in the third quarter. The Storm came out with the first seven points, including two buckets by Camille Little and a Lauren Jackson triple, to open the largest lead of the game at 16 points. Since then, it's an 11-2 Sacramento surge that's included a pair of hits from beyond the arc.
Storm center Suzy Batkovic-Brown is dressed and on the bench tonight, having arrived from Australia this morning. Since she just flew 18 hours and has yet to practice with the team, Batkovic-Brown is only available tonight in case of emergency, but Head Coach Brian Agler is still happy to have her here and beginning to work her way into the system and getting ready to join the rotation.
"I have no idea," said Agler, asked when he expects Batkovic-Brown to be ready. "There are so many factors that play into that. Ready to play a minute or two? That could be sometime next week. Ready to play extended minutes? That's going to be tougher."
Batkovic-Brown just returned from her honeymoon after being married last weekend, and joked to reporters that she'd have to work off the wedding cake.
Marquee Halftime Act
Halftime: Storm 41, Sacramento 32
Red Panda is in the house, always one of my absolutely favorite halftime acts. I caught her down in Portland during a Blazers playoff game, and she just performed Thursday night at Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Los Angeles (to the delight of the assembled national media) before coming to the Northwest. As usual, she was perfect at flipping bowls onto her head while on a unicycle during this performance. I'm afraid words can't really do justice to Red Panda's performance. You really have to see it to understand.
Storm Up Nine at the Break
Halftime: Storm 41, Sacramento 32
Competitive play from the Sacramento Monarchs has erased any notion that the Storm might run away with this one, but the Storm still holds a reasonably comfortable nine-point lead as we head to the break. Sue Bird finished the first half with a pullup jumper just before the buzzer, taking advantage of a crushing screen from Lauren Jackson on Scholanda Robinson. Jackson has 13 points and Bird nine (plus vie assists) to lead the Storm offense. Camille Little has also had a major impact in the first half with five rebounds and an impressive four steals.
Robinson has provided surprising offense for the Monarchs. She scored just one point yesterday, but already has seven in the first half to lead Sacramento so far tonight. The Monarchs have a whopping 13 turnovers thus far.
Second Quarter: Storm 36, Sacramento 27
The Storm is getting some nice contributions tonight from the bench. Swin Cash has brought a lot of energy when she has been in the game and has scored five points. Katie Gearlds knocked down a big three-pointer to help the Storm open up the lead and Janell Burse also has a score. The Storm has played even with Lauren Jackson out of the game, which is a good sign after the Monarchs held a 20-point advantage with Jackson sitting yesterday.
The bench will be especially important in this stretch, with both Sue Bird and Jackson on the bench. Bird looked gassed before the timeout, but she still cruised in for a layup after a Storm steal.
Storm Staying With It
Second Quarter: Storm 26, Sacramento 19
If you listened to yesterday's season opener in Sacramento, there were definitely some stretches of less-than-pretty basketball. We're seeing a little of that here in the second quarter. I think that's to be expected with the way the Monarchs pressure the basketball. I remember a few years ago, John Whisenant declaring when he was Sacramento's head coach that he's perfectly happy "winning ugly." You're especially likely to see some miscues early in the season, when teams are still working into their offenses. The Storm's defense gives them a chance to overcome those kind of droughts, and so far they've allowed the Monarchs no closer than five points.
I'm told the LiveAccess feed is now working for live video coverage of tonight's game. That's blacked out if you're in the Seattle area, but the game is on FSN Northwest, so flip that on for coverage.
Monarchs Settle Down
End First Quarter: Storm 22, Sacramento 15
After one quarter complete, we have us a much more competitive game. The Monarchs worked through their early struggles on offense and were able to find some ways to score as they did yesterday, off second chances and at the free-throw line. Storm Head Coach Brian Agler pointed out that the vast majority of Sacramento's points yesterday came off those two areas, transition points and points off of Storm turnovers - the "easy buckets" the Storm seeks to take away.
We've seen eight players so far for the Storm, with Swin Cash, Janell Burse and Katie Gearlds getting time off the bench. Neither of the Ashleys, Walker or Robinson, has yet seen action as Brian Agler has ran a variety of different lineups in thus far. Lauren Jackson stepped out briefly with two fouls. You'd like to see her avoid the foul trouble that plagued her yesterday.
All Storm Early
First Quarter: Storm 17, Sacramento 4
This is Lauren Jackson's first game at KeyArena since last July, and she wasted no time making her presence felt. Jackson scored the Storm's first eight points, hitting inside and out. (No, that's not a record. She once scored the team's first 11 points against this same Monarchs squad back in July 2004.) Now the entire team has gotten in the act, with four of the five starters and reserve Swin Cash all on the scoreboard. Meanwhile, Sacramento has scored just two buckets in the first five minutes. Great defense has really helped feed the Storm's offense at the other end, with a number of easy buckets in transition. The team is also getting on the glass to deny the Monarchs the second opportunities they relied on in yesterday's game.
Opening Night Festivities
First, a special moment before tonight's game. Seattle City Councilmembers Bruce Harrell and Jan Drago presented Storm CEO Karen Bryant with a proclamation making today "Seattle Storm Day" in the city of Seattle. It commemorates the anniversary of the city being named one of four expansion cities by the WNBA and today's Opening Night.
After an intro video highlighting some of the biggest moments in the Storm's 10-year history, players were introduced and walked through the aisles to the floor. At the conclusion, newly re-signed Lauren Jackson took the microphone to thank fans for their support. I'm sure she had an inspirational message, though it was a little tough to tell since she was drowned out by loud applause.
After all that, we're at last ready to play some basketball. The Storm will go with the same starting lineup as yesterday - guards Sue Bird, Shannon Johnson and Tanisha Wright with Camille Little and Lauren Jackson up front.
Johnson to Play
Storm guard Shannon "Pee Wee" Johnson had to miss the end of yesterday's Storm win after suffering what was diagnosed as a sprain of the lateral meniscus in her left knee. After an MRI came up negative, Johnson was a game-time decision for tonight. She got on the court very early before the game to warm up and test her knee, shooting around and doing defensive drills. After consulting with team doctors, Johnson was cleared.
"She told me she wants to be there for her team and play," Storm Head Coach Brian Agler said before the game, when Johnson's status was still uncertain. "You don't want to put her out there if there's a possibility of her injuring herself in a worse manner. But if there's not, and she feels like she can tolerate the pain, I would imagine knowing her that she'll be out there."
Welcome to Season 10 of Storm basketball! It's Opening Night, and KeyArena is buzzing as we prepare to get the 2009 home schedule underway. The Storm will do so with a win in the books, having beaten the Monarchs yesterday in Sacramento. Tonight the Storm goes for a sweep of the home-and-home set. There's also all the pageantry that comes with Opening Night, and we'll try to keep you abreast of all of it. Stay with us throughout the game for the latest.