Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Los Angeles
At Last, Storm Wins It
Final (3OT): Storm 98, Los Angeles 87
This was a game that those of us lucky to be in KeyArena tonight surely won't forget any time soon. The Storm was struggling to figure out the L.A. defense, had a tough time making shots and had Lauren Jackson playing at less than 100 percent. This was as gritty a performance as you'll ever see to tie the game, send it to overtime and then play the Sparks even and eventually pull away from them in the third overtime by going on an unthinkable 16-0 run after L.A. scored the first three points of the third overtime. Brian Agler was as pleased as I've ever seen him with a win, running up the sideline exhorting the crowd to get on their feet and hugging Sue Bird and Shannon Johnson at game's end.
What a way to go into the All-Star break for the Storm, which finishes the first half of the season at 11-6. Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Lauren Jackson are headed to Connecticut, and you can watch all the All-Star action on ABC at 12:30 p.m. The team starts the second half of the season in San Antonio, then returns home to face the Silver Stars on Aug. 1 as we celebrate 10th Anniversary Night and honor the Seattle Storm All-Decade Team. That's a night that, like tonight, you won't want to miss. Get your tickets now and join us!
Storm in Control
Third Overtime: Storm 92, Los Angeles 85
The Storm got another stop when Kristi Harrower drove and came up short on her runner. Camille Little was then fouled in the paint and made both free throws and it's a seven-point lead. The Sparks have taken their final timeout.
Storm Up Five
Third Overtime: Storm 90, Los Angeles 85
Delirium at the Key as the Storm has taken its largest lead of the evening by a 90-85 score with 2:08 left in the third overtime. Swin Cash came out of the timeout with a runner off glass, then after the Storm dodged a bullet when Betty Lennox missed a great look at a three. Sue Bird answered with a triple at the other end and it's a two-possession game - though there is still tons of time left to play.
Point for Point
Third Overtime: Los Angeles 85, Storm 85
These teams won't even separate for more than a possession. After Tina Thompson started OT with a three, Sue Bird answered with one of her own on the other end to keep us tied. There's now 3:01 left in this third extra session, and the Storm will have possession with a new shot clock after a foul with one left on the timer.
Five More Minutes
End Second Overtime: Los Angeles 82, Storm 82
Well, we're back for more after a second overtime failed to separate these teams. After the Sparks used the foul they had to give, the Storm had 3.3 seconds left to come up with a play. Shannon Johnson dribbled into an attempt from the top of the key that caught a lot of rim but was off, meaning we head to overtime number three.
Second Overtime: Los Angeles 82, Storm 82
It looks like for the first time in the three game-ending situations we've had so far, the Storm will have the ball last. The Storm forced a miss, catching a break when Tina Thompson's layup rimmed out and then forcing a contested Thompson three-pointer that was off and rebounded by Swin Cash with 6.5 seconds left. The Storm will have the ball after this timeout in the frontcourt, and has two timeouts left to use should anything break down.
Second Overtime: Los Angeles 82, Storm 82
There has been no shortage of action since we started this second overtime, though no stoppages of play. With 2:51 left, just after a Camille Little layup, Lauren Jackson and DeLisha Milton-Jones tangled up and both drew technical fouls. Unfortunately for Jackson, it was her second T and brought her evening to an early end. A Betty Lennox jumper put L.A. back up three, but the Storm's defense has stepped up and Sue Bird came through with a crucial three-pointer to tie the game with 53.8 seconds left. Now, L.A. has taken timeout to set up a play.
Double Your OT Fun
End First Overtime: Los Angeles 75, Storm 75
We're going to get five more minutes of basketball after the Sparks were unable to convert on their final possession. Los Angeles got the ball to Candace Parker in the post, and with her back to the basket and the clock she was unaware of how rapidly time was running out. By the time Parker kicked back out to Kristi Harrower, it was too late to get up a shot attempt and the clock run out without the Sparks trying a game-winner. So we'll play five more minutes, and foul trouble could hurt the Storm. Tanisha Wright is already out, as we've mentioned, and Lauren Jackson is playing with five fouls. DeLisha Milton-Jones has five for L.A.
Big Play From Little
Overtime: Los Angeles 75, Storm 75
With the shot clock running down, Camille Little found herself with the ball well out of her shooting range. No worries. Little drove the lane and banked in a shot from about five feet to tie the game once again (Noelle Quinn scored on the other end). The Sparks could get the last possession with 15.4 seconds left in a tie game.
Overtime: Los Angeles 73, Storm 73
Shannon Johnson hit the biggest shot of her Storm career a moment ago. With the Storm down three, Johnson's defender (Betty Lennox, as I recall) was knocked down to the ground, leaving her wide open. She stepped into the triple and buried it, tying the game. Sue Bird had a really good look at a go-ahead three after (guess what?) an L.A. turnover, but it was off and L.A. will have a chance to go ahead after a timeout with just under a minute left.
Sparks Lead Early in OT
Overtime: Los Angeles 71, Storm 68
The Storm scored the first point of overtime as Shannon Johnson split two free throws, but the last two buckets have come from the Los Angeles Sparks. DeLisha Milton-Jones used the fortuitous bounce of a sloppy pass to come up with a layup, and Noelle Quinn followed with a runner. She's played nice, steady basketball for L.A. down the stretch. Down three, Brian Agler takes timeout and will get his best shooter in the game - Katie Gearlds replaces Shannon Johnson at shooting guard.
End Regulation: Storm 67, Los Angeles 67
Both teams got looks, but neither scored on their final possession. The Storm's possession was interrupted by Candace Parker's crucial deflection to knock the ball out of bounds with 17.1 seconds left and eight on the shot clock. After a 20-second timeout, the team's final, the Storm couldn't find a good look and Sue Bird had to force an attempt from three that was errant. The Sparks took over without a timeout and gave the ball to Betty Lennox, who we've seen come through in similar situations before at the Key. This time, Lennox missed and we'll get free basketball for the first time all season.
The Storm will play OT without Tanisha Wright, who fouled out trying to stop Noelle Quinn late in regulation.
Now, a Tie
Fourth Quarter: Storm 67, Los Angeles 67
The Red Sea parted for Noelle Quinn, who came right off a pick-and-roll and went all the way to the basket, where she was fouled. Quinn split two free throws, and now we're tied as the Storm takes possession.
Wright Clutch Again
Fourth Quarter: Storm 67, Los Angeles 66
Just as on Sunday night, albeit with a bit more time left on the clock, the Storm went to Tanisha Wright in a critical possession and she responded. Wright got the basket and was able to bank a runner off glass from about five feet out. With 43.0 seconds left, the Storm leads by one and the Sparks are using their final timeout. A stop here would be enormous.
Storm Down One
Fourth Quarter: Los Angeles 66, Storm 65
Betty Lennox, continuing a great game back at KeyArena, drew a shooting foul on Swin Cash as L.A. inbounded with just seconds remaining on the shot clock. She made both shots with 55.7 seconds left, giving the Sparks a narrow 66-65 advantage. The Storm will take over after using its final full timeout to set up a play. Neither offense has looked real sharp the last couple of minutes (or, more accurately, the defense has been terrific). I kind of thought the Storm's 65-64 lead might hold up.
Fourth Quarter: Storm 65, Los Angeles 64
KeyArena is a frenzy after Lauren Jackson's three-pointer has given the Storm its first lead of the final quarter, 65-64. Michael Cooper responded with an L.A. timeout. The Sparks have just one full timeout remaining. The Storm has executed very well on offense the last couple of possessions, working the ball inside first for a shot (a Camille Little layup) and then to kick it back out for the Jackson three.
The bad news for the Storm is that Candace Parker has gotten going. A couple of buckets here midway through the fourth have given her eight points, tying her season high. All have come in the last 10 minutes of game time. Foul trouble has affected both teams. Tanisha Wright was out with five fouls and will return after this timeout, while DeLisha Milton-Jones also has five and has been replaced on the floor by rookie Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton.
The Plot Continues
Fourth Quarter: Los Angeles 60, Storm 58
By this point, I'm as sick of writing this as you are of reading it: The Storm is struggling to make shots, while the Sparks hurt themselves with turnovers. Los Angeles got the first five points of the quarter to open up a lead, but the Storm has since closed it back to a two-point game with 5:28 to play. Again, turnovers - three of them in the last couple of minutes - have been a big culprit. Meanwhile, the Storm's shooting is up - but still only 33.9 percent.
The question is how much of a positive factor the KeyArena crowd will be for the Storm over the 5:28. After the Doppler Train, they're primed and chanting "Beat L.A."
End Third Quarter: Los Angeles 53, Storm 52
All of a sudden, coming out of that last timeout, the Storm caught fire. Sue Bird's three-pointer kicked off a 16-4 run that pushed the Storm from down eight to up four. The Storm's pressure continued to cause problems for the Sparks, who have now turned the ball over a stunning 19 times tonight, while the crowd became a major factor in the game during the run and the L.A. defense broke down and gave up some easy looks. Michael Cooper was unable to take a timeout to break up the momentum in part because he used one early in the quarter and didn't want to run out.
Give the Sparks credit for playing through the run, however. Consecutive Candace Parker baskets have given L.A. a one-point lead headed to the final period of play. That's certainly a lot smaller deficit than the Storm faced three nights ago against Minnesota.
Storm Staying With It
Third Quarter: Los Angeles 43, Storm 38
The way the Storm is shooting the ball tonight, the team has no business being in the game. Yet, as Michael Cooper takes a timeout to discuss defensive rotations, it's still a six-point game on the strength of a Sue Bird three-pointer. That's one of the two reasons the Storm is hanging around. The Storm is 6-of-13 on threes, 6-of-29 (20.7 percent) on twos. Also, the Sparks keep turning the ball over. Their consecutive turnovers early in the quarter gave them 14 in the game to the Storm's four.
A familiar face is back in the house as Clarence Lennox is here for the second time this season to cheer on his sister Betty. Lennox is wearing a Sparks-ish golden-brown ensemble that is sequined across the front. As usual, words cannot possibly do it justice.
Storm Trails Midway Through
Halftime: Los Angeles 38, Storm 32
The field-goal numbers tell the story of the first half for the Seattle Storm. Aside from Tanisha Wright, the other four Storm starters have shot a combined 5-of-24. As a team, the Storm is shooting 27.0 percent at the break as compared to 46.2 percent for the Los Angeles Sparks. Now, field-goal percentage tells an incomplete and often misleading story, but it's hard to overcome such a massive imbalance in shooting percentages.
Fortunately, turnovers have favored the Storm, which has forced 12 miscues and committed just three. That's the biggest reason the teams are separated by just six points at the break. The other good bit of news is that unlike the last meeting between these two teams down at the STAPLES Center, the Storm hasn't stagnated on offense. There's a lot of movement and cutting, but the Storm's offense relies on paint scores that just haven't been there tonight. We'll see if the team can generate them after making adjustments at halftime.
Lennox Leads L.A.
Second Quarter: Los Angeles 33, Storm 28
When we talked to Betty Lennox before tonight's game, she noted how she had yet to play well at KeyArena in two trips as a visitor since leaving the Storm. Not so tonight. Lennox has scored a game-high 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, most recently scoring a three-point play to extend the Los Angeles lead to five points. Lennox's outside shooting has been key for the Sparks.
At the other end of the floor, L.A. is really packing the lane defensively and making the Storm beat the D from the perimeter. Five of the Storm's buckets have come from three-point range, including a pair of makes for Katie Gearlds. Swin Cash has really been affected by the aggressive nature of the Sparks defense. She's shot 2-for-11 from the field and was visibly frustrated before getting a three-point play of her own. The one player who's been able to penetrate has been Tanisha Wright, who has bulled her way to the basket for three inside scores.
The Best Defense
Second Quarter: Los Angeles 23, Storm 22
During the second quarter of this game, defenses have taken center stage, with shooting percentages plummeting on both sides (particularly for the Sparks, who started hotter). Los Angeles is now shooting 40.0 percent from the field, with the Storm at 29.6 percent. The Sparks have blocked seven shots, four of them by Candace Parker, who is very active at the defensive end though she is still searching for her timing and rhythm on offense. However, the Storm has forced eight turnovers, in keeping with the way the defense has played recently. When the Storm became the championship-era Sacramento Monarchs in terms of pressure, I'm not sure.
Another Milestone for Bird
End First Quarter: Los Angeles 16, Storm 14
Less than a week after scoring her 3,000th career point, Sue Bird has reached another important mark tonight. Bird's two first-quarter assists give her 1,339 in her career, which has moved her past Dawn Staley (1,337) and Teresa Weatherspoon (1,338) and all alone into third place in WNBA history in career assists. The only two people Bird trails are teammate Shannon Johnson (1,398) and runaway leader Ticha Penicheiro (2,064).
The Storm got the final five points of the first quarter to pull back within two at the break. An interesting note on the rotation - Ashley Robinson, who had not been seeing regular minutes prior to Lauren Jackson's injury but played well during her absence, has checked in for the Storm at the end of the first quarter.
Counting by Threes
First Quarter: Los Angeles 14, Storm 9
So far, the Los Angeles Sparks have scored four field goals, and all of them have come from beyond the three-point line. The Sparks are 4-of-5 on threes and have not made a single one of their seven two-point attempts. That's a very extreme version of the trend we've seen lately. The Storm has defended fine inside the arc, but has struggled to get out on shooters. Los Angels is known more for its beef inside than its perimeter marksmanship, but so far the Sparks have been able to take advantage.
Storm Cold Early
First Quarter: Los Angeles 8, Storm 4
Frigid shooting early for the Storm, which has started 1-of-8 from the field as the Sparks have put together a very early 8-4 lead. The big takeaway from the game right now is that the referees are letting a lot of contact go at both ends of the floor. The Storm will have to adjust to the way the game is being called. Already, some frustration with the no-calls has been evident.
Lauren Jackson played the first three and a half minutes for the Storm before checking it out. It wasn't any sort of problem, as she'll return to the game after the timeout. We might see Jackson play shorter stints tonight because her conditioning has suffered from her week-long absence.
Before tonight's game, the schedule was packed with a number of different ceremonies and honors. First, Los Angeles center Lisa Leslie taped a message thanking fans for their support, drawing a healthy round of applause, often a rarity at KeyArena for the Storm's rival. Leslie did not travel with the Sparks for tonight's game, her last scheduled outing in Seattle. Of course, Leslie still could return should these teams potentially meet in the playoffs.
Next on the docket was Betty Lennox. Storm CEO Karen Bryant celebrated Lennox's selection to the Storm All-Decade Team. Because of her duties with the Sparks, Lennox will be unable to attend 10th Anniversary Night on Aug. 1, when the Storm takes on San Antonio. Bryant presented Lennox with a bouquet of flowers as well as the gift all members of the All-Decade Team will be receiving. To hear from Lennox, check out this StormTracker post.
Lastly, the Storm celebrated Sue Bird for scoring her 3,00th career point on Friday in Sacramento, presenting her with a game ball. Bird, as we've noted, became the first WNBA player with 3,000 career points and 1,000 career assists.
Jackson to Play
We were all pretty confident about Lauren Jackson's return to the lineup yesterday, but the final hurdle for her was warming up before tonight's game. Having finished that up feeling "fine," Jackson is playing and will start tonight. Having yet to do any live basketball since injuring her left Achilles tendon a week ago, Jackson isn't entirely certain how she'll respond.
"I haven't even run the length of the court in a week," she said before the game. "I'm a little bit nervous and whatever, but I'm getting out there and giving it a go. I know Brian (Agler) and everyone knows my situation."
Agler said there "could" be some restrictions on Jackson's minutes. The coaching staff will see how she responds and go from there over the course of the game. Jackson said it was important to return tonight before traveling to Connecticut for Saturday's All-Star Game (12:30 p.m., ABC).
"It's just wanting to get back for the All-Star Game and get comfortable and know I'm OK," she said. "I think that's the most important thing."
But, as Agler pointed out, it's tough to keep Jackson off the floor no matter the circumstances.
"I think she wants to play," he said. "I think she likes to play and wants to play. She wanted to play last game, but just couldn't."
Good evening and hello from KeyArena, where the Storm is preparing to face the Los Angeles Sparks in the third meeting between the two Western Conference rivals. Tonight is the last game for the Storm in the first half of the season before breaking for Saturday's All-Star Game, and the team wants to go into the break on a three-game winning streak and with an 11-6 record, which is within reach tonight. The Sparks have played the Storm very tough this season, so we look forward to another great battle. Stay with us throughout for updates.