Live from Press Row - Storm vs. Los Angeles
Storm Ends Opening Night a Winner
Final: Storm 77, Los Angeles 64
We got the sound we wanted to end Opening Night here at KeyArena, the strains of Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" that mark all Storm home victories. If you look at the final score, you'll think that this was an easy victory for the Storm; it was anything but, as the Storm trailed 62-59 with eight minutes left. The rest of the way, the home team outscored Los Angeles 22-5 to win going away.
The Storm did it with defense, holding the Sparks to 36.8 percent shooting, forcing 22 turnovers and allowing just five offensive rebounds. Lauren Jackson and company did an outstanding job defending Candace Parker, who had more turnovers (five) than field goals (four) and finished with 10 points. Jackson was, as you might imagine, key at the other end as well. Her 23 points led the Storm, as did her 10 rebounds. Tanisha Wright and Swin Cash scored 17 apiece and Sue Bird came up big in the fourth quarter, scoring eight of her 14 points. The Storm lived at the charity stripe, making 30 free throws in 37 attempts to cover for an off shooting night that is to be expected early in the season.
The Storm will get a chance to work on some things in practice before returning to KeyArena on Wednesday to host Lindsay Whalen and the new-look Minnesota Lynx. That game will air on the Universal Sports Network, but hopefully you'll join us. Get your tickets now!
On the Verge
Fourth Quarter: Storm 77, Los Angeles 64
The Storm has extended the run to 18-2 and the lead to 13 points with 2:38 left to play and is close to putting the Los Angeles Sparks away. Jennifer Gillom, looking to settle things down, just took her final timeout.
Storm on the Run
Fourth Quarter: Storm 72, Los Angeles 64
The Storm has put together a 10-2 run since the last timeout by Los Angeles, opening up an eight-point lead with 3:43 remaining. Brian Agler wanted to steal some rest for Lauren Jackson and got Ashley Robinson in the game and saw the Storm extend the lead, with Sue Bird knocked down a pull-up jumper off a nice Robinson screen a moment ago.
Bird has found her shot during the fourth quarter, scoring eight points (that's more than the Sparks have a team, six) on 3-of-4 shooting. It looks like the Storm may find just enough offense on an off night to pull this out, though the Sparks have rallied every time the Storm seemed to have control tonight.
Back and Forth
Fourth Quarter: Los Angeles 62, Storm 62
Neither team can take control of this game, in part because neither of them can consistently get anything going on offense. They've traded two buckets apiece so far in the fourth quarter, keeping the Sparks a point ahead with Swin Cash headed to the free throw line after this timeout and the Doppler Train.
Some more names in the crowd tonight: Sonics legend Slick Watts, Seattle University Women's Basketball head Coach Joan Bonvicini and Sparks co-owner Kathy Goodman.
Update: The referees used replay during the timeout to determine that Sue Bird's bucket a moment ago a three-pointer, so we are in fact tied.
L.A. Leads After Three
End Third Quarter: Los Angeles 58, Storm 57
Thanks to Noelle Quinn's jumper late in the period, the Sparks will take a 58-57 lead to the final quarter of play. Los Angeles found a lot more offensive rhythm during the third period and shot better than 50 percent from the field. The Sparks are also 7-of-15 now from three-point range.
At the other end, the Storm is still having issues dealing with L.A.'s length. The Storm's shooting percentage has only barely crept up to 31.4 percent from the field. Again, the Storm has the edge in other areas of the game, so if the shooting evens out just a little, this is the Storm's game to lose.
Storm Reclaims the Lead
Third Quarter: Storm 52, Los Angeles 47
The offense is still not pretty, but the Storm has come back from the timeout with a 9-2 run thanks to tough defense to reclaim the lead with 2:58 left in the third quarter as we take a 20-second timeout. The foul trouble right now is on L.A.'s side - DeLisha Milton-Jones picked up her fifth personal foul not long ago and will have to sit for an extended period.
Storm Searching for Offense
Third Quarter: Los Angeles 45, Storm 43
Jennifer Gillom could not have scripted the start of the second half any better. The Storm has gone scoreless for nearly four minutes, leaving the KeyArena standing (per tradition of not sitting down until the first Storm basket) and going on a 9-0 run to reclaim the lead. Credit L.A.'s interior defense with contesting every Storm attempt around the rim, but Seattle's shot selection has also been somewhat questionable at times. The offensive flow isn't quite there, which is why the Storm is continually playing against the shot clock.
Brian Agler will try to get his team going on offense after a timeout, which brought the Storm Dance Troupe back to the floor for another great performance.
Doppler ... Dunks?
Halftime: Storm 43, Los Angeles 36
During halftime, the Dunking Ushers took to the floor to entertain fans with their acrobatic above-the-rim dunks. At the end, they called for Doppler to join them, and Doppler threw in a one-hand dunk off the trampoline. I've been around since the 2002 season, and I can't say I remember Doppler dunking. That may have been a first worthy of the postgame notes.
Storm Opens it Up
Halftime: Storm 43, Los Angeles 36
After the Sparks got three free throws on one possession to get back within one point, the Storm scored the final six points of the first half to take a solid seven-point lead to the locker room. The Storm still isn't shooting the ball well from the field (11-of-38, 28.9 percent) but is controlling every other aspect of the game. The Storm has nine offensive rebounds to just two for the Sparks, has forced 10 turnovers while committing just five and has made 19 free throws in 22 attempts.
Again, the Storm's defense on Candace Parker is deserving of notice. The 2008 WNBA MVP was held to two points on 1-of-5 shooting. Lauren Jackson had the main defensive assignment, but this was really a team effort. Jackson also led the Storm with 17 points and five rebounds. Swin Cash has 11 and Tanisha Wright eight, and again Ashley Robinson was excellent in a reserve role. The Storm was +10 with Robinson on the floor
Storm Taking the Lead
Second Quarter: Storm 36, Los Angeles 33
With Tanisha Wright headed to the free throw line to complete a three-point play, the Storm holds a three-point lead with 1:56 left in the first half. The Storm has taken advantage of the free throw line, making 14 shots in 17 attempts. Lauren Jackson has made six of those free throws and leads all scorers with 13 points. Counterpart Candace Parker is nearing double-figure rebounds, but is sitting on two points. The Storm is contesting everything Parker gets. By the way, credit Ashley Robinson with some nice minutes off the bench to pick up for her teammates in foul trouble. The Storm is +6 in Robinson's six minutes of action.
Second Quarter: Storm 36, Los Angeles 33
With this being Opening Night, lots of big names in the crowd. NBA legend Bill Russell, who lives in the area and has been a supporter of women's basketball, is in attendance. U.S. Senator Patty Murray is sitting at courtside with members of the Storm's ownership group, Force 10 Hoops L.L.C. Renee Brown, the WNBA's chief of basketball operations and player relations, is representing the league tonight. Candace Parker's mother is courtside along with Parker's daughter, Lailaa, and her Seattle-based agent Aaron Goodwin. Lastly, a familiar face at KeyArena, Betty Lennox's brother Clarence is sitting behind the Sparks bench decked out in yellow and black.
Storm Foul Trouble
Second Quarter: Los Angeles 29, Storm 28
A lot more offense in the second quarter, though it's come at a cost - more frequent whistles slowing the game down and keeping it from developing much of a flow. The Sparks are already in the penalty with 5:29 left in the period, while the Storm has been whistled for four fouls. Los Angeles is spreading things around, while the Storm has two frontcourt players with three fouls, Camille Little and Le'coe Willingham. Ashley Robinson will check in at the break to replace Willingham.
Alison Lacey was in at the start of the second quarter for her WNBA debut. A special shoutout to Lacey's assistant coach at Iowa State, Jodi Steyer, who e-mailed after the preseason game to say she was following Live from Press Row.
End First Quarter: Los Angeles 15, Storm 13
I like the Storm's defensive effort in the first quarter. Candace Parker was held scoreless on 0-of-2 shooting, though she grabbed seven rebounds. The Storm forced L.A. to the perimeter. Eight of the 12 Sparks shot attempts were three-pointers, with the team going 3-of-8 from beyond the arc. In general, that's the way you want to defend Los Angeles. It can be painful when those threes go down, but it's a matter of playing the odds.
To reclaim the lead, the Storm will have to get going on offense. Things have been organized, with just one Storm turnover thus far (the Sparks have five), but the Storm is shooting 5-of-23 from the field. This is fairly typical for an opening game, but let's hope the Storm works through it. In the bizarre outcomes department, Sue Bird missed both free throw attempts after being fouled in the act. You don't see that every day. Bird shot 85% from the line last season.
Storm Leads Early
First Quarter: Storm 11, Los Angeles 7
Nice start for the Storm, which has really been active early in the game. A couple of offensive rebounds helped lead to a layup, and the Storm has gotten 13 shots to seven for Los Angeles thus far. Head Coach Brian Agler is quickly showing his faith in the veteran newcomers on the bench, subbing in Svetlana Abrosimova and Le'coe Willingham midway through the first quarter. Abrosimova will help the Storm match up with the size of the Sparks, who are starting 6'0" Noelle Quinn at shooting guard.
Opening Night Festivities
Lots of excitement as the Storm begins the season. Players were introduced as they ran down aisles to the floor, greeting fans with high fives along the way. After that, Ashley Robinson took the microphone to thank fans for coming and now we're ready to get going.
Penicheiro to Start
Sparks guard Ticha Penicheiro, who missed almost the entire second half of yesterday's opener against the Phoenix Mercury with a sore left Achilles, will play tonight and is in the starting lineup for Los Angeles.
"She will play, but how much, that will be determined by her," said Sparks Head Coach Jennifer Gillom before the game. "We definitely want to play it safe and not stress it further. I'm sure she will have limited minutes tonight."
It's Opening Night, and an expected sellout crowd is filing into KeyArena as the Storm prepares to take on the Los Angeles Sparks to kick off the 2010 season. The excitement level is high as the Storm debuts a new-look bench to go along with one of the WNBA's strongest starting lineups. I'm told the "Bring It." T-shirts that were handed out to the first 3,000 fans went in a matter of minutes, and now fans are getting ready to cheer the Storm to "Beat L.A.!"