Live from Press Row - Storm vs. Minnesota
Storm Pulls Out a Win
Final: Storm 79, Minnesota 76
It was a nerve-wracking fourth quarter, including the final seconds as Minnesota had a chance to tie with a three-pointer. Sue Bird gave the foul the Storm had to give with 5.1 seconds left. The Lynx ran the same play, isolating Charde Houston on the left wing. She forced a three over Camille Little that was dangerously close, banking long as the Storm held on for the three-point win. It was far from a perfect effort, but the Storm was able to grit out a victory against a Western Conference rival thanks to another fourth-quarter comeback - Seattle won the final period 24-16 after trailing by five points through three.
Swin Cash was phenomenal all night long, scoring 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Cash got to the free throw line 12 times, making nine of them. Of course, the Storm got plenty of other contributions. Camille Little overcame a slow shooting start to finish with 18 points and six rebounds in just 24 minutes of action. Lauren Jackson also scored 18, blocked four shots and grabbed eight rebounds, none bigger than her offensive board and second-chance score with 8.1 seconds left. Sue Bird was dangerous as a distributor tonight, handing out 10 assists and scoring eight points.
The Storm gets another very difficult test on Saturday, traveling to Phoenix to take on the defending WNBA champions, the Mercury. Follow that game on 1150 AM KKNW as well as LiveAccess right here at stormbasketball.com. The Storm will be back here at the Key six days from tonight, hosting the 2-0 Washington Mystics, who added Katie Smith this offseason. Get your tickets for that game now!
Big LJ Bucket
Fourth Quarter: Storm 79, Minnesota 76
After a Nicky Anosike reverse made it a one-point game, the Lynx chose to play defense. Camille Little got a nice left-hand look in traffic with a lot of contact. It bounced off and there was no call, but Lauren Jackson was there for the offensive board and the putback to make it a three-point game with 8.1 seconds left.
Fourth Quarter: Storm 77, Minnesota 74
Swin Cash leads all scorers tonight with 24 points, and she has key scores on the Storm's last two possessions. Cash drew a foul while shooting a fadeaway jumper and then made both free throws after the timeout. Following a Nicky Anosike score, Cash got deep post position and scored to push the Storm's lead back to three with 39.5 seconds left. Minnesota will have possession after a full timeout, the Lynx's last (they still have two 20s; the Storm has a full and a 20).
Fourth Quarter: Storm 73, Minnesota 72
Camille Little's three-pointer gave the Storm its first lead since the first quarter with 2:10 left in the game. We've now got just under a minute and a half remaining and the Storm holds a one-point lead with possession after a Brian Agler 20-second timeout.
Down the Stretch We Go
Fourth Quarter: Minnesota 70, Storm 68
The Storm tied the game briefly on a Camille Little runner in the paint, though Minnesota regained the lead with a Hamchétou Maïga-Ba layup on the ensuing possession. Sue Bird will have a chance to tie things up again as she's headed to the free-throw line with 2:42 left in the game. The intensity is rising in such a close game. Tonight's crowd may not be as large as Sunday on Opening Night, but it's making plenty of noise. We'll see if that can be a difference-maker for the Storm.
There is a streak on the line right now. The Storm has defeated the Lynx six straight times at KeyArena, last losing here in overtime in June 2005, a game Bird missed due to injury.
Can't Claim the Lead
Fourth Quarter: Minnesota 68, Storm 66
The Storm has been tantalizingly close at times, but just can't seem to tie this game or take the lead. The last time we were tied was 14-14 with 2:30 left in the first quarter. Since then, Minnesota has been playing from ahead the entire time - but never by a significant margin. The crowd is read to explode when and if the lead changes. The Storm's last chance to tie came on the possession before the timeout, when Sue Bird overthrew Lauren Jackson in the post for a turnover, just the Storm's 10th of the game.
Still, at this point we've established this game is going down to the stretch. Give Le'coe Willingham credit for her energy off the bench. Willingham can't seem to find the finish in the paint (she's 1-of-6 from the field), but she had two big offensive rebounds early in this quarter (and I'm pretty sure I saw a couple more that didn't make the boxscore).
Bench is Key
End Third Quarter: Minnesota 60, Storm 55
If ever there was a time for the Storm's bench to step up, it's now. The Storm can't seem to get over the hump, getting as close as three with a Lauren Jackson three-point attempt that could have tied it, but the Lynx continues to maintain a lead of about five points. To stay this close, the Storm needed back-to-back transition scores with Sue Bird (who has nine assists) feeding Swin Cash for left-hand finishes.
Now, reserves are going to get their chance. Svetlana Abrosimova, Le'coe Willingham and Ashley Robinson will all be on the floor to start the fourth quarter. Can they provide some energy to spark the Storm?
Storm Staying Within Striking Distance
Third Quarter: Minnesota 54, Storm 49
I wouldn't say that this third quarter has been ideal for the Storm, which has turned the ball over a couple of times and taken quick shots, but thanks to transition opportunities and a big three from Lauren Jackson, the deficit remains the same as it was starting the quarter - five points. If the Storm can make a little run here, the lead is within striking distance.
Dancing with the Storm
Halftime: Minnesota 45, Storm 40
The Storm Dance Troupe probably doesn't have to worry about competition from Doppler and the Assistant to Doppler, but they both participated in the special halftime "Dancing with the Storm." Despite some good moves (you know how Doppler likes to shake the belly), their two pairings with young kids were defeated by a pair of Storm fans.
Storm Makes a Run
Halftime: Minnesota 45, Storm 40
A 12-2 run late in the first half got the Storm as close as one point inside the final minute. Minnesota then scored the half's final four points to lead by five, 45-40, at the break. The highlight of the first half for the Storm would have to be the team's balanced scoring. All five starters scored at least six points, with just one player (Swin Cash, 10) in double figures. Sue Bird had six points and five assists running the attack. The bench didn't score any points, but Le'coe Willingham and Alison Lacey both got extended runs that should help them feel more comfortable.
Where the Storm needs to pick things up is at the defensive end. The Lynx isn't shooting a tremendously high percentage (44.4 percent from the field), but the Storm forced just three turnovers and Minnesota shot 11-of-13 from the free throw line, so the Lynx scored a very efficient 45 points on 38 possessions. The defense was better down the stretch and the Storm will look to maintain that effort throughout the second half.
Trading Buckets (and Free Throws)
Second Quarter: Minnesota 37, Storm 28
The Storm hasn't been able to make up much ground during this second quarter and still trails 37-28 at a Minnesota timeout with 4:45 left in the period. In part, both teams have been scoring from the free throw line. The Storm is now 10-of-12 at the charity stripe, while Minnesota is 7-for-7. Both teams are in the penalty, so we could see a lot more free throws over the second half of the quarter.
If you've been waiting to watch tonight's game on LiveAccess, it is up and running now. Check it out here.
Second Quarter: Minnesota 26, Storm 16
Very emphatic timeout there as Brian Agler stopped play just 53 seconds into the second quarter. The Storm turned the ball over on its first possession and Minnesota followed with a Nicky Anosike three-point play, allowing the Lynx to extend their lead to double-digits on a 14-2 run. Usually, we see the Storm play a lot better after one of these Agler timeouts.
The TO also gave the Storm Dance Troupe a chance to take to the floor during the timeout. At the quarter break, we saw a funny interview between a member of the Dance Troupe and rookie Alison Lacey. Those interviews will air all season long.
Flying Ws Leading Lynx
End First Quarter: Minnesota 23, Storm 16
Before the game, Storm Head Coach Brian Agler emphasized the importance of containing Minnesota guards Lindsay Whalen and Monica Wright. In case anyone didn't believe him then, they must now. Whalen and Wright combined for 13 points as the Lynx got going on offense to take a seven-point lead after one quarter. The Lynx is shooting 52.4 percent from the field and did not have a first-quarter turnover while the Storm gave it up five times.
We'll see if the Storm, a bit sluggish so far, can get it going with the bench entering the game. Svetlana Abrosimova and Ashley Robinson will both be on the floor to start the second quarter, with Le'coe Willingham getting some run at the end of the first period.
First Quarter: Minnesota 10, Storm 7
The Storm started quickly, scoring three points on the game's first possessions, but since then it's been a drought of nearly four minutes as Minnesota has gone on a 6-0 run to take the lead. What I don't like here is that the Storm seems to be playing at the Lynx's pace as opposed to executing the offense. The shot selection has been poor thus far. I'm sure Brian Agler will emphasize that during the timeout.
Liking the Look of the Lynx
Minnesota had arguably the best offseason of any WNBA team, adding veteran Lindsay Whalen, All-Star Rebekkah Brunson and No. 2 overall pick Monica Wright. As a result, new Head Coach Cheryl Reeve is setting the bar high.
"It's not about making the playoffs," Reeve said before the game. "We want that to be an expectation. It's about how far we can go in the playoffs. Whalen is key to that."
Storm counterpart Brian Agler likes what the Lynx has put together.
"They've got good young players," he said. "They've got the pieces in place."
Not all those pieces are here. Actually, Seimone Augustus and Candice Wiggins are here, but they are in street clothes and will not play due to surgeries during training camp. Reeve says the team is "just trying to hold the fort down" until they return and forward Rebekkah Brunson arrives after an extended offseason playing in Italy. Even at less than full strength, though, Minnesota is dangerous.
"It will be quite a challenge for us," said Agler.
Welcome back to KeyArena, where the Storm is hoping to move to 2-0 on the young season by defeating the Minnesota Lynx tonight in a Western Conference matchup. This is a battle of two teams expected to make the playoffs in the West, as well as two of the league's top point guards in Sue Bird and Lindsay Whalen. It should be a lot of fun, so stay with us all night long for the latest action on and off the court.