Live from Press Row - Storm vs. New York
Storm Extends Streak
Final: Storm 74, New York 66
Throw whatever kind of adversity you want at the Seattle Storm this season - travel, injuries, deficits. Through the first half of the 2010 season, which ends today as we prepare for Saturday's midseason classic, The Stars at the Sun, the Storm has handled it all. Without Lauren Jackson, the Storm came back from a deficit as large as 11 points and a four-point disadvantage entering the fourth quarter to win by what looks like a fairly comfortable final margin. With the win, the Storm goes into the break at 16-2 and riding what is tied for the longest winning streak in franchise history at seven games. Of all the amazing statistics the Storm has generated so far this season (including aperfect 10-0 at home), I think this impresses me most. Today's win improved the Storm to 7-2 (.778) when trailing going to the fourth quarter. Nobody in the league has a winning percentage so good overall.
It took several players to replace Lauren Jackson's production. Swin Cash was outstanding today, leading the Storm with 20 points and a season-high 11 rebounds for her first double-double of the year. Sue Bird came up clutch in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of her 16 points. Le'coe Willingham had 13 points and eight rebounds, both season highs, in her first start and Camille Little contributed 12 points and eight rebounds while Jana Veselá came off the bench for 10 points.
On Saturday, you can watch Cash and Bird play for the U.S. National Team in WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Stars at the Sun. We'll see later this week whether Jackson is able to play for the WNBA team. That game will air on ESPN at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. The Storm will come back from the break for a lengthy three-game road trip and our next home game isn't until July 25. Between now and then, be sure to follow the Storm right here on stormbasketball.com with updates and LiveAccess coverage of road games.
Fourth Quarter: Storm 74, New York 66
The last minute-plus went about as the Storm would have hoped. After Taj McWilliams-Franklin split her two free throws, the Storm came down and used the shot clock while getting scores from Camille Little and Swin Cash to make it an eight-point game. The Storm will have possession after at imeout, and with a three-possession margin New York will surely have to start fouling.
Biggest Lead for Storm
Fourth Quarter: Storm 70, New York 65
Huge three-pointer a moment ago from Le'coe Willingham, who gave the Storm its biggest lead of the game at five points, 70-65. However, the advantage figures to be short-lived with Taj McWilliams-Franklin headed to the free throw line after our final mandatory timeout. The Storm has been excellent on defense in the fourth quarter, holding New York to just seven points over the first 7:44 of the period. That means if the team takes care of the basketball and gets a bucket or two on offense, it has a good chance of stealing a win without Lauren Jackson.
Speaking of Jackson, PA Announcer Matt Pitman just shared that she has been named the WNBA's Western Conference Player of the Week for the fourth time in seven weeks of the season, which earned a huge round of applause.
Storm in the Lead
Fourth Quarter: Storm 64, New York 63
Do you think the Storm wants this one? After hitting a jumper to put the Storm in the lead and drawing a foul (she'll shoot the free throw after the timeout), Sue Bird pumped a fist and screamed in joy. Actually, she turned around after the foul was called and before the shot actually dropped through the net. Great shooters know when they've made it. Bird has eight of the Storm's 10 points in the fourth quarter. Earlier, the Liberty was going without a true point guard so Kalana Greene could defend her fellow UConn alum, but right now Leilani Mitchell is on the floor because New York needs her leadership and passing.
The Doppler Train is always extra wild on Kids Day and today was no exception. I'm not sure we quite had enough room on the entire 94x50 KeyArena court for all the kids who stormed it during the timeout.
Fourth Quarter: New York 60, Storm 60
The Liberty netted the opening basket of the fourth quarter to push its lead to six points, but Sue Bird has answered with back-to-back three-pointers to tie the game at 60 apiece. Anne Donovan takes a quick 20-second timeout to quiet the crowd.
Liberty Retains Lead
End Third Quarter: New York 58, Storm 54
Despite some good stretches for the Storm in that third quarter, New York's lead is exactly the same now as it was at halftime - four points. The Liberty didn't panic when the Storm took the lead and the crowd got energized, continuing to play its game. Taj McWilliams-Franklin is just pounding the Storm inside. She's got 17 points, three away from her season high, and four of New York's 13 offensive rebounds.
To come back, the Storm also needs to cut out the turnovers that have been an issue at times. The Storm has 14 of them leading to 19 Liberty points.
Uglying it Up
Third Quarter: New York 48, Storm 45
The Storm has enjoyed more success in this third quarter, even briefly taking the lead, largely by turning this game into a defensive struggle. That's not the kind of basketball the Liberty or Anne Donovan want to play, and with Lauren Jackson out of the lineup it probably plays to the Storm's advantage. New York went several minutes without a field goal before finally getting a transition layup.
With the Liberty back on top, Brian Agler has gone back to his bench. Svetlana Abrosimova, Ashley Robinson and Jana Veselá will all return to the game after this timeout.
Halftime: New York 41, Storm 37
Fun halftime activity as Doppler and mascot friends took on a group of kids from the crowd in a game of basketball. Any time you get the mascots involved, basketball is a bit chaotic. I think they also benefited from a friendly whistle from the Assistant to Doppler, who refereed the game, but the mascots ended up victorious.
Storm Takes Momentum to the Break
Halftime: New York 41, Storm 37
The Storm scored the last five points of the first half to cut the margin to just four points at the break. For the first time today, the Storm really seemed to have the Liberty a bit confused ("playing on the back foot," I'm compelled to say after watching a ton of English soccer announcers over the last month). The big key was Jana Veselá checking into the game at center along with the Storm's regular starters. Veselá has the length the Storm needs without Lauren Jackson and also stretched the floor with a pair of three-pointers from the left corner. The Storm has outscored New York by five points during Veselá's seven minutes of action.
Good Minutes for A-Rob
Second Quarter: New York 35, Storm 27
The Storm has settled things down a bit at the defensive end sine Ashley Robinson returned to the game. Robinson's size is a difference-maker on defense without Jackson. We're also seeing Robinson play more confidently and patiently at the offensive end, which tends to be the case when she gets more minutes. This is more like the Robinson we see in practices.
During the timeout, we had three young contestants showing their stuff in the Pirate's Booty "Shake Your Booty" contest. The crowd really enjoyed their efforts.
Second Quarter: New York 33, Storm 23
While the Storm's offense has been inconsistent and has played deep into the shot clock several times, the real place Lauren Jackson's absence is being felt is on the defensive end of the floor. New York has scored 33 points on just 24 possessions, a rate that is much higher than we're used to seeing. Taj McWilliams-Franklin has really controlled things down low thanks to her size. McWilliams-Franklin has scored a game-high 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting and both of her rebounds have come on the offensive end.
During the timeout, Storm players wished Doppler a Happy Birthday on StormVision. Earlier, Doppler received birthday presents from mascot friends and was nice enough to share some T-shirts with the crowd.
End First Quarter: New York 24, Storm 15
A very strong offensive first quarter for New York, which shot 50 percent from the field, had five offensive rebounds and also knocked down three shots beyond the arc. The Liberty is second in the league in three-point shooting, so defending the perimeter will be very important for the Storm today. Anne Donovan talked before the game about how one reason New York has played better basketball of late has been Nicole Powell getting going on offense. The All-Star forward, who spent the last five seasons in Sacramento, has been figuring out how to get her shots while playing with Cappie Pondexter. That's not been a problem so far, as the two have all three Liberty makes beyond the arc.
First Quarter: New York 23, Storm 13
With New York opening up an early 10-point lead, Brian Agler has taken timeout. I'm not sure if it's the margin that concerns Agler so much as the way the Storm is having a tough time executing. Besides the obvious problems caused by not having Lauren Jackson, the team looks flustered right now. A moment ago, the team turned the ball over on an inbound pass with relatively little pressure. I suspect Agler's message is for the team to slow down and run the offense, something that should not be affected by whether Jackson plays or not.
Storm Adjusting to Jackson's Absence
First Quarter: New York 14, Storm 9
Through the first six minutes of this game, we're seeing where the Storm has missed Lauren Jackson's All-Star play in the middle. With Le'coe Willingham stepping into the lineup, the Storm is undersized in the paint. That has turned perhaps the team's greatest strength this season - rebounding - into an early weakness. New York has three offensive rebounds out of five misses. Willingham and Camille Little are more effective on the offensive glass, where height is less of a factor.
After the timeout, Ashley Robinson will check in to give the Storm more size.
Bird Recognized Pregame
Before the game, Sue Bird was presented at center court with a check for $5,000 for the Geno's Cancer Team foundation. The WNBA made the donation in Bird's name after she was selected as the league's WNBA Cares Community Assist Award winner for the month of June.
Jackson Will Not Play
The Storm will not have Lauren Jackson in the lineup after an examination yesterday showed she was still showing symptoms related to the concussion she suffered on Saturday at Los Angeles.
"She's making progress, but she still had symptoms last night," said Head Coach Brian Agler. "We've got a series of days here we've got to let pass before she can get involved. She's going to get tested again today. It's going to be a daily thing until she leaves for Connecticut."
Jackson may not be able to return for Saturday's showcase in Connecticut, The Stars at the Sun.
"A lot will depend on what happens today," explained Agler. "There's a series of days how you lead up back into full contact. She needs a certain amount of days. We're right now on the border of whether she can play in the All-Star Game or not, depending on what happens today."
As for today, the Storm will move Le'coe Willingham into the starting lineup. Jana Veselá, Ashley Robinson and Abby Bishop could all see increased action as the Storm seeks to fill in for Jackson.
"I think we just sort of have to approach it with all hands on deck right now, sort of open," Agler said. "We have a little bit of versatility because we have Jana. We'll see."
The Storm is 17-22 all-time without Jackson, but has gone 13-8 during the extended stretches she missed last year. The team also showed the ability to play without one of its stars recently, winning a pair of games where Sue Bird played only briefly due to back spasms.
"I think our team has confidence in each other," said Agler. "I have confidence in our team. That doesn't make me feel any better with those two out or any player out, but there's not a whole lot you can do about it. You can't sit around and think about it a whole lot. You just try to prepare as best you can."
Happy Kids Day presented by Pirate's Booty! KeyArena is filling up with youngsters who were enjoying all sorts of fun activities themed around Doppler's Birthday on the concourse prior to the game. Our annual 12 noon start is always a lot of fun (and quite high-pitched). The New York Liberty is the Storm's opponent today, and Liberty Head Coach Anne Donovan is no stranger to KeyArena, having coached the Storm for five seasons, winning the 2004 WNBA championship. It's always good to see Coach Donovan, but the Storm hopes to hand her and New York a loss today.