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Live from Press Row - Storm vs. Minnesota

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Want to enjoy the electricity of at KeyArena even if you're thousands of miles away? stormbasketball.com's Live from Press Row in-game blog is your best bet. All night and all season long, Kevin Pelton will be bringing you pregame quotes, analysis and observations from the game. E-mail Kevin at web@stormbasketball. Make sure to keep coming back or refreshing so you get the latest content.

Storm Wins in Familiar Fashion
Final: Storm 68, Minnesota 64


The script is familiar by now. The Storm struggles in the first half, falls behind, comes back behind a raucous home crowd and hangs on down the stretch. The 68-64 victory continued several streaks. The Storm improved to 16-0 at KeyArena this season, tying the WNBA record for most home wins in a season that the 2008 Storm squad currently shares with the 2001 Los Angeles Sparks (16-0). This was the Storm's 13th win this season when trailing after three quarters. Three of those have come against the Lynx. The two teams hit for the cycle of sorts - games decided by one point, two points, three points and four points, with the Storm emerging victorious in three of the four.

The Storm did it with defense on a night where offensive execution was inconsistent at best. Minnesota finished the game shooting 29.0 percent, including 22.0 percent (11-of-50) after a relatively hot start in the first quarter. Seimone Augustus made just two shots in 18 attempts, the second time she's had a very long shooting night against the Storm in general and Swin Cash in particular.

What offense the Storm did have was generated largely by Lauren Jackson, who scored 24 points on 9-of-18 shooting and has four of the seven three-pointers made by both sides combined in the game. Camille Little finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds, the latter mark one shy of her career high. Cash added 13 points and seven rebounds to her terrific defense. Sue Bird made just one shot all game, but it was a crucial one late in the fourth quarter. That's classic Bird, making the game's biggest shots.

The Storm has the next two days off before heading to Phoenix to take on the Mercury Friday night. Then it's back here to the Key on Saturday to wrap up the 2010 regular season on Fan Appreciation Night against the Los Angeles Sparks. You'll want to be here as the Storm attempts to make history by finishing the schedule undefeated at home. The first 3,000 fans receive a free T-shirt and other great prizes will be given away throughout the game. Get your tickets now! Remember that Saturday's game has a special 8:00 p.m. start time because it will be nationally televised on ESPN2.

Storm Leads in Final Minute
Fourth Quarter: Storm 66, Minnesota 64


Swin Cash's spinning finish in the lane, bowling over Lindsay Whalen and going up with the layup, has given the Storm a two-point advantage at 66-64 with 59.3 seconds left to play. During a timeout, Cheryl Reeve will try to diagram a way to get her team some offense. Minnesota has scored just eight points in the fourth quarter. The way she's played tonight, Whalen will probably be the first option, potentially out of a pick-and-roll.

Storm's Chance to Take the Lead
Fourth Quarter: Minnesota 62, Storm 62


The Storm has led just once since the score was 2-0 - that came a moment ago, when Lauren Jackson's three-pointer briefly gave the home team a 61-60 advantage. Minnesota answered with two points, while Camille Little split two free throws to tie the game. Now, Little is headed back to the line with a chance to put the Storm ahead. Quietly, Little has done yeoman's work on the glass. She's got a season-high 12 boards and has recorded her first double-double of 2010.

Meanwhile, the Storm's defense has been excellent down the stretch, forcing the Lynx into contested attempts from the perimeter. One thing to watch is free throws the rest of the way. Both teams are sitting on four team fouls with 2:49 left and will shoot free throws the rest of the way.

Getting Intense
Fourth Quarter: Minnesota 60, Storm 58


There's a definite playoff feel to tonight's game, which makes sense with Minnesota battling for a spot in the postseason and the Storm hoping to ramp up its level of play in preparation for next week and the start of the playoffs. Tensions are running high on both sides - nothing physical or negative, just a lot of emotions around each close call and bucket.

Lindsay Whalen continues to fire daggers at the Storm. Her last, which gave the Lynx back the lead after the Storm tied it for the first time since 2-2, was a fadeaway jumper over the outstretched arms of center Ashley Robinson, who played phenomenal defense. At the other end, the Storm is getting second chances but having a hard time putting the ball in the basket. The Storm continues to shoot below 40 percent from the field. Minnesota has gone to a zone defense at times, the second consecutive game an opponent has used that against the Storm down the stretch without getting burned.

Storm Down Four
End Third Quarter: Minnesota 56, Storm 52


A Svetlana Abrosimova three-pointer off a Sue Bird feed (Bird's eighth assist of the night) has made it a four-point ballgame heading to the final quarter. This is the closest the Storm has been since very early in the game. The Storm, which has won 12 games this season when trailing after three periods, is in position for another comeback in front of a crowd that has been great and supportive all night long.

One thing to watch the rest of the way: fouls. The referees called 18 of them in the third quarter alone, suddenly clamping down on a game that was not called nearly as tight during the first half. That kind of adjustment can be hard for players to make. Three Storm starters, including Lauren Jackson, have four fouls right now. That could loom large the rest of the way.

Here Comes LJ
Third Quarter: Minnesota 44, Storm 37


At 44-30, the Lynx tied their largest lead of the game at 14 points a moment ago. The Storm needed a spark and found one in the form of Lauren Jackson. While other players (especially Swin Cash) are providing energy defensively and on the glass, Jackson has been the only player scoring consistently. She was responsible for all of the points in a 7-0 Storm run to cut the lead in half, capping it with a three-pointer that forced Cheryl Reeve to take timeout.

Jackson has 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including three hits from beyond the three-point line. This is about what Reeve feared before the game. When she was asked about the MVP race, she reacted with incredulity, wondering whether there was in fact a race. In Reeve's mind, there is no doubt whatsoever that Jackson is the MVP. (We here at stormbasketball.com tend to agree.)

Halftime Dunk Contest
Halftime: Minnesota 39, Storm 28


For tonight's halftime entertainment, the Storm invited a handful of fans to compete against Doppler and the Assistant to Doppler in a dunk contest. Doppler came close twice (despite putting a headband over his eyes on the second one, a la Cedric Ceballos), but put both dunks off the back of the rim. It was fan Mike who walked away the winner by throwing down a pair of high-flying finishes. Congrats, Mike!

Whalen Responds to Storm Rally
Halftime: Minnesota 39, Storm 28


This is what the Lynx figured they were getting when they traded for Lindsay Whalen prior to this season - not only a great point guard, but also a veteran whose leadership and sense of the moment would benefit a young Minnesota team. That's precisely what Whalen delivered after the Storm got within seven, scoring back-to-back buckets to quiet (though not silence) the crowd. Whalen delivered throughout the half, scoring a game-high 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting, grabbing five rebounds and handing out four assists. She's not far off the pace for a triple-double.

The Storm is still not at all sharp. The team committed 12 turnovers in the first half, including an uncharacteristic three from a frustrated-looking Sue Bird, who was scoreless in the first half. Bird handed out five assists, but she wasn't herself. Also unusual for the Storm is being outdone on the glass. Minnesota has eight offensive rebounds to the Storm's five and has a 6-0 advantage in second-chance points.

There's time for the Storm to turn things around. We'll see what kind of execution the Storm brings out of the locker room.

Crowd Comes Alive
Second Quarter: Minnesota 31, Storm 24


We've got a really good crowd for a Tuesday night here at the Key tonight, and they just exploded to the feet after Lauren Jackson's three-pointer brought the Storm within seven points. Sensing the fans becoming a potential issue, Cheryl Reeve immediately signaled for Lindsay Whalen to dribble the ball up and take a timeout.

Crowd Comes Alive
Second Quarter: Minnesota 31, Storm 24


We've got a really good crowd for a Tuesday night here at the Key tonight, and they just exploded to the feet after Lauren Jackson's three-pointer brought the Storm within seven points. Sensing the fans becoming a potential issue, Cheryl Reeve immediately signaled for Lindsay Whalen to dribble the ball up and take a timeout.

The crowd is still on its feet during the break in the action, moving and grooving as part of the Storm Fan Dance. The Storm fans have been amped up all night, waiting for something worth really getting excited about, and that could help the Storm maintain this run the rest of the quarter.

Storm in Standstill
Second Quarter: Minnesota 31, Storm 19


The second quarter has been like running on a treadmill for the Storm. It feels like they're working hard and getting somewhere, but really they haven't advanced at all. The deficit is still the same - 12 points - as it was at the start of the quarter. The good news from the Storm's perspective, besides the fact that the team is unlikely to keep shooting this poorly (32.0 percent) forever is that Minnesota has had a tendency to give up leads lately. The Lynx had double-digit first-half advantages against both Washington and Los Angeles last week and ended up losing both games. According to Cheryl Reeve, the team lost focus and stopped doing the things that built up the lead in the first place.

Storm Still Not Sharp
End First Quarter: Minnesota 24, Storm 12


The Storm has done a better job of matching Minnesota's energy after the first timeout, but still is not nearly as sharp as we've come to expect from the Storm this season. I think we may be seeing what several players talked about last week as far as the difficulty of turning it on and off, which last week's road trip required the team to do to some extent.

The Storm shot just 27.8 percent in the first quarter and did not make a single shot outside the paint (0-of-7). Camille Little, having a difficult time dealing with Minnesota's physical play down low, came up with four offensive rebounds but missed six of her seven shot attempts. The Storm also had five turnovers.

Lynx Blitzes Start
First Quarter: Minnesota 10, Storm 2


At the same time, if there was any question how badly the Minnesota Lynx wants to win this game, that was answered in the first 2:10. Playing with terrific energy at both ends of the floor, the Lynx has built an early 10-2 lead, scoring the last 10 points after Lauren Jackson made a layup to open the game's scoring. Lindsay Whalen has been especially aggressive thus far, going to the hole twice for scores, one of them a three-point play.

Brian Agler takes an early timeout to try to settle things down and get the Storm back on track. There have been opportunities for the Storm early, but the execution has been lacking.

No Rest for Storm
Pregame


If there was any question remaining about the Storm's mindset entering tonight's game, Head Coach Brian Agler quickly put it to rest during his pregame media availability, saying the Storm would play, "as close to normal as possible" tonight. Agler later amended that to note starters would not play "big, big minutes." What we might see is a situation like the first half of Sunday's game in Washington, where some starters got a bit longer rest than usual at the end of the first and start of the second quarters, but the rotation itself was essentially what we've become accustomed to seeing from the Storm.

Agler noted that he felt resting starters at the end of the season left the Storm a bit rusty in the opening game of playoff series the last two years against Los Angeles. That, along with the fact that the team was on the road, explained why he wanted to get starters rest a little earlier and then get refocused on playing the best basketball possible going into the playoffs.

Signing On
Pregame


Welcome back to KeyArena, where the Storm returns after a three-game road trip to face the Minnesota Lynx. If the Lynx has their way, this might be a preview of the first round of the playoffs. The Lynx are one of three teams battling for the last two spots in the Western Conference postseason. Tonight's game isn't exactly a must-win, as Minnesota Head Coach Cheryl Reeve pointed out, but it would certainly help Minnesota to get a victory tonight with both other teams in competition in action tonight. (In fact, all 12 WNBA teams play today.) Because of the Lynx's strong motivation, this should be a great game. Stay with us all night long for the latest.