Live From Press Row - Storm vs. Phoenix (Preseason)
Storm Starts Season in Winning Fashion
Final: Storm 77, Phoenix 58
Wins and losses aren't really what the preseason is all about, but all things considered you'd still rather win than lose. The Storm got off to a 1-0 start with a quality effort at both ends of the floor this afternoon. The Storm held Phoenix to 36.4 percent shooting and forced 21 turnovers while coughing it up just 10 times in a well-played game for the exhibition opener. Ashley Walker led the Storm with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting, grabbing six rebounds. Aja Parham had a big offensive fourth quarter, scoring 13 of her 15 points in the period. Camille Little added 12 in just 18 minutes of work. All 10 players who saw action scored for the Storm.
Tomorrow will be Media Day, and then it's back to work for the Storm, which returns to preseason action a week from today in Tulsa against the Shock. Two weeks from tonight, the L.A. Sparks will be at KeyArena for what should be a memorable Opening Night. If you don't have your tickets, get them now.Storm Pulling Away
Fourth Quarter: Storm 73, Phoenix 57
Up 16 with 2:22 left to play, the Storm pretty much has this one in the bag. Still, this is valuable court time for the team's young players. A moment ago, Alison Lacey notched her second bucket of the game on a three-point play in transition that featured a great finish through contact. It's been a tough shooting night for Lacey, who is 2-of-10 from the field, but she has contributed in other ways with five rebounds and five assists. It looks like Lacey's day is done, with Lindsey Wilson taking over at the point. She and Lacey worked back and forth to set up an open three-pointer for Wilson, which she knocked down to give herself seven points.Train Time!
Fourth Quarter: Storm 63, Phoenix 52
OK, now it's officially Storm season. Per tradition, the opening timeout of the fourth quarter brought our first Doppler Train of the 2010 campaign. I love nothing more than seeing fans' reactions the first time they watch the chaos that is the Doppler Train.
Fans still have plenty to cheer on the court as the Storm maintains an 11-point lead. Aja Parham has led the offensive charge during the fourth quarter, knocking down a three-pointer and scoring seven of her nine points here in the period.Some Observations
End Third Quarter: Storm 55, Phoenix 44
The Storm will take an 11-point lead to the final quarter after outscoring the Mercury 18-10 in the third. For those of you who have yet to see the Storm's newcomers, a few observations. Alison Lacey has kind of a side delivery on her jumper, which is really more of a set shot. The release reminds me of Katie Smith, and hopefully it's equally successful. Lacey also has a tendency to fire up left-handed shots, and we saw some creative scoop attempts from her late in the third quarter. Laura Kurz, by contrast, releases the ball almost right in front of her face. Kurz too is a very accurate perimeter shooter, though her form limits how quickly she can get attempts off. I haven't said much about Aja Parham so far during camp, but I would say she's been the Storm's best perimeter defender. She moves her feet very well and accepts defending as a challenge. The size and strength of WNBA players has definitely been an adjustment for Heather Bowman, but she's been competing and is dangerous when left alone on offense.Starters Open Up Lead
Third Quarter: Storm 51, Phoenix 41
The Storm's starters have really controlled the game against Phoenix's first unit, especially with Candice Dupree watching from the bench so far in the third quarter. The Storm has outscored the Mercury 14-7 to push its lead to double-figures. Ashley Walker continues to be impressive on offense, knocking down a second three-pointer and scoring in the paint to give her 15 points. Coach Agler talked before the game about how much more comfortable Walker looks this training camp after a season of watching (if not necessarily playing because of her untimely toe injury) and a successful campaign overseas. Where Walker is still working is defending on the perimeter. She's been vulnerable to fouling while closing out on shooters.
The Storm's other Ashley, Robinson, has also had a nice third quarter. She went right at Brooke Smith in the post, scoring twice with her back to the basket and completing a three-point play the second time. Robinson has seven points and seems to be playing with a lot of confidence during camp.Midway Point
Halftime: Storm 37, Phoenix 34
With the benches taking on a leading role, the second quarter was a bit more sloppy. The Storm is doing a good job of taking care of the basketball for the preseason, having committed just seven turnovers, but both teams paraded to the line during the period. They attempted a combined 18 free throws, splitting them almost evenly (10 for the Storm, eight for Phoenix). Surprisingly, the Storm has been more accurate from downtown thus far, knocking down three triples in seven attempts.Bench Getting Involved
Second Quarter: Storm 36, Phoenix 32
All five Storm reserves have now seen action after Gonzaga product Heather Bowman checked in a moment ago. So far, Villanova forward Laura Kurz has made the most positive impression today, draining a three-pointer and a baseline jumper for five points. Devanei Hampton hasn't been quite as strong so far today as she has been in practices. Quicker players do give Hampton some issues on defense. She's at the free throw line now, however, after earning a foul from Brooke Smith in a rematch of the players' rivalry when they were at Cal and Stanford, respectively. We saw the Cal connection pay off in the first quarter when Walker fed Hampton for a score.
Looks like Doppler needs some work in the preseason too. After failing to connect on a half-court shot yesterday at Stormin' the Lake (see our gallery), Doppler missed all three attempts during the last timeout. I have no doubt Doppler will be draining them with a little more practice.Mercury Reserve Heating Up
Second Quarter: Storm 27, Phoenix 25
Phoenix is back within two thanks almost entirely to the efforts of backup wing Lenae Williams. A DePaul product who played for the Detroit Shock in 2002 (where her fellow rookie was the Storm's Swin Cash), Williams has been away from the league since then, but she's making up for lost time in the first half. Williams has knocked down a trio of three-pointers and has a team-high 11 points.
For the Storm, first-round pick Alison Lacey scored her first WNBA points on a three-pointer from the right win early in the second quarter. It's an adjustment for rookies like Lacey. I just noticed Nyeshia Stevenson, Phoenix's third-round pick out of Oklahoma, going into the lane after the first of two free throws. No one-and-ones here.Strong Defensive Quarter
End First Quarter: Storm 18, Phoenix 11
Even though this isn't exactly the Phoenix Mercury squad that has led the WNBA in offense ever since Paul Westhead brought Corey Gaines to the Valley of the Sun in 2005, it was still a nice defensive effort for the Storm to hold Phoenix to 12 first-quarter points. The Mercury missed six of its seven attempts from beyond the arc and committed six turnovers.
So far, we've seen two reserves off the bench for the Storm, wing Aja Parham and post Devanei Hampton.Walker Leads the Way
First Quarter: Storm 14, Phoenix 5
I think we're seeing early on the benefit of the Storm having played a scrimmage against the Chinese National Team before today's game. The Storm looks much more organized on offense and has taken an early 14-5 lead behind the scoring punch of forward Ashley Walker. Picking up where she left off against the Chinese, Walker has scored 10 points in five-plus minutes, knocking down a three-pointer and coming up with an old-fashioned three-point play in transition. Loree Moore and Camille Little have been very active defensively, helping the Storm force four turnovers.
Doppler and Shellie Hart just moved two fans courtside as part of the Alaska Airlines first class upgrade.
@seattlesuzuki asked on Twitter about the PA announcer today. Nick Beckman, a veteran local PA announcer, is working today because Matt Pitman had a conflict and usual backup Stephen Kilbreath was unavailable. Pitman will be back on the mic starting on Opening Night.Starters
As expected, the Storm will start Alison Lacey and Loree Moore at guard, Ashley Walker and Camille Little at forward and Ashley Robinson in the middle. Phoenix counters with Ketia Swanier and rookie Tyra Grant at guard, rookie Nyeshia Stevenson and Candice Dupree at forward and Brooke "The Hook" Smith in the middle.
Mercury Head Coach Corey Gaines is keeping things very casual today, wearing a Phoenix polo without a jacket. Also, Gonzaga Head Coach Kelly Graves is right behind media row, here to cheer on his former player Heather Bowman.Signing On
Welcome back to KeyArena! It's like the first day of school as Storm fans and employees get back here for the first time since the 2009 season ended last September. There's lots of catching up and stories from the offseason. Now, it's about time to get down to basketball as the Storm tips off the preseason against the Phoenix Mercury. The Storm will have 10 players in uniform today and all of them should see extended action as Brian Agler evaluates training camp invitees as well as keeping an eye on the team's execution. The Mercury, like most teams, is in a similar position to the Storm with just one starter (newcomer Candice Dupree) in camp. So we'll have a good chance to find out more about the youngsters and newcomers on both teams.
There is no live radio or LiveAccess coverage of today's game (those will begin with Opening Night two weeks from today on May 16), so stay with us for updates throughout the afternoon. I really want to involve fans in the blog as much as possible today since our readers haven't yet had a chance to see the team in action, so I'll be checking the web@stormbasketball account throughout the game and you can also send your questions via an @seattlestorm reply on Twitter.