Live from Press Row: Storm vs. Atlanta
Dream Has Storm's Number on Kids Day
Final: Atlanta 70, Storm 59
While both teams have different looks than they did a year ago, in part due to injuries, the Storm continues to have as hard a time with the Atlanta Dream as anyone in the WNBA. The Dream's length and quickness really frustrate the Storm offense, which finished the game shooting just 39.6 percent from the field. The starters combined to shoot 11-of-36 (30.6 percent). Atlanta has now won the last three meetings with the Storm, including two at KeyArena. The Dream is the first opponent to come into Seattle and win consecutive trips since the Phoenix Mercury during the 2009 season.
The brightest spot for the Storm was the play of rookie Shekinna Stricklen, who recorded career highs with 16 points and nine rebounds in 26 minutes. Stricklen shot 6-of-9 from the field and consistently displayed the kind of aggressiveness we've seen from her at times during her rookie season. Tanisha Wright (12) was the lone other Storm player in double figures. Sue Bird handed out eight assists and Alysha Clark (7) also recorded a career high.
That's the last home game for the Storm before the Olympic Break. The team will wrap up the first half of the schedule on Friday, visiting the Phoenix Mercury. After that, Sue Bird is off to join the USA Olympic team while the rest of the players (and coaches) get a brief break. There will be individual workouts for two staggered groups of players the rest of the month, with practice officially resuming Aug. 1. Of course, StormBasketball.com will have complete coverage of Sue and Lauren Jackson in London, plus the players here at home. Stay with us until we get ready to come back to KeyArena on Aug. 16.
Not the Storm's Day
Fourth Quarter: Atlanta 70, Storm 57
A couple times in this fourth quarter, the Storm seemed to have the momentum necessary to mount a comeback. However, the nature of erasing a sizeable deficit is that just about everything has to go right, and that certainly hasn't been the case today for the Storm. Atlanta is making too many shots while the Storm has been stymied on offense and is showing signs of frustration with the Dream's length.
Storm Needs Stops
Fourth Quarter: Atlanta 63, Storm 54
The rookies continue to make plays for the Storm. Shekinna Stricklen now has 13 points and seven rebounds, one shy of her career high in both categories, and Alysha Clark has a new career high with seven points. Yet the Storm can't get the stops necessary to cut into this Atlanta lead. The Storm defense is forcing the Dream deep into the shot clock, but Atlanta keeps making big shots at the buzzer to frustrate the Storm's comeback effort.
With 4:39 left to play, we'll see what kind of energy this Kids Day crowd can provide the Storm down the stretch.
Storm Cuts Into Lead
End Third Quarter: Atlanta 53, Storm 46
Atlanta led by as many as 12 points during the third quarter, but the Storm was able to cut that lead nearly in half late in the period, getting a three-point play from Alysha Clark and two free throws with 1.7 seconds left on the clock from Shekinna Stricklen. The rookies have brought a needed dose of energy off the bench with several Storm starters in foul trouble. Ewelina Kobryn, Camille Little and Tanisha Wright all have four fouls. So to does Atlanta's Sancho Lyttle, so fouls will be a storyline to watch in the final period.
Rough Start for Storm
Third Quarter: Atlanta 41, Storm 32
This is definitely not the way the Storm wanted to come out of the locker room. They're scoreless on their first three possessions while Atlanta has gotten a triple from Lindsey Harding (the first three for the Dream) and a Tiffany Hayes jumper to extend the lead to nine points, the largest it has been this afternoon.
Armintie Price has been a big part of Atlanta's success today. Price is having about the best six-point game you'll ever see. She's added four rebounds and three assists and has drawn a couple of charges, including one on Tanisha Wright a moment ago. Price's energy is contagious and a major difference between the two teams.
Mascot Dunk Contest
Halftime: Atlanta 36, Storm 32
During halftime, Doppler and mascot friends celebrated Doppler's Birthday with a little trampoline dunk contest. Doppler and Woody the Wolf (dunking on a special mini-hoop) advanced to the finals, where Doppler emerged victorious despite not quite being able to pull off a dunk over the mini-hoop. The real winner was the young fan in attendance who was paired with Doppler and won a Samsung TV.
Storm Within Four at the Break
Halftime: Atlanta 36, Storm 32
Considering the things that went against the Storm, including foul trouble that limited Camille Little to just eight minutes, all in the first quarter, the Storm can feel OK about trailing by just four. Despite shooting 36.9 percent and getting outrebounded 21-12, the Storm is hanging around thanks to three-point shooting and scrappy play.
We saw some heavy minutes totals for starters on both short-handed size, including Sancho Lyttle playing all 20 minutes and three Storm starters playing 18. Don't expect that to change in the second half.
"We're going to put a high importance on this game," Storm Head Coach Brian Agler said before the game. The team is going all out to win its last home game before the Olympic Break.
Dream Maintaining Lead
Second Quarter: Atlanta 33, Storm 30
The Storm has rallied to tie the game multiple times in the second quarter, but still is looking for its first lead of the game. It seems like every time the Storm is poised to go ahead, Atlanta comes up with a big play. Lately, those have mostly been coming from Sancho Lyttle. As if her size advantage in the paint wasn't enough, Lyttle has it going from outside. She's scored 14 points on 7-of-12 shooting and is headed to the free throw line after this timeout to try to complete a three-point play.
The Storm's salvation in this game has been the three-point line. While the Dream is still looking for its first triple in seven attempts, the Storm is 4-of-10 from beyond the arc. Tanisha Wright knocked down the most recent one and has scored 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting in a strong effort to lead the Storm.
Second Quarter: Atlanta 23, Storm 20
After the Storm tied the game by scoring the first six points of the second quarter, the Dream has opened back up a three-point lead before Tanisha Wright goes to the free throw line. One reason Atlanta is playing so well is rookie Tiffany Hayes, starting in place of injured Olympian Angel McCoughtry. Prior to the game, Atlanta Head Coach Marynell Meadors raved about Hayes, saying the decision to take her in the second round was "a no-brainer."
As Storm Head Coach Brian Agler scouted the Dream, he noticed that Atlanta is using Hayes in a similar fashion to McCoughtry.
"They get her in space and let her attack and play," he said. "Not that I'm comparing Tiffany Hayes to McCoughtry, but they're sort of letting (Hayes) take (McCoughtry's) place in the offense."
Well, today Hayes is taking McCoughtry's place as the Dream's leading scorer. She's got nine points on 3-of-5 shooting to go along with six rebounds midway through the second quarter as she sits down for a well-deserved break.
End First Quarter: Atlanta 18, Storm 12
Our friends from Radio Disney joined Doppler and members of the Storm Dance Troupe to teach the kids in attendance the "Platypus Walk," the latest dance craze, during the quarter break. As a StormCrazy pointed out on Twitter, the last time the Storm adopted an official dance, it translated into a championship. Perhaps the Platypus Walk this year?
Before the break, the Storm did a better job of getting turnovers under control and got a much-needed three-pointer from Sue Bird. Still, the team shot just 28.6 percent from the field during the first quarter. Foul trouble has also emerged as an issue. Camille Little picked up three fouls in the first quarter and the other healthy post player, Ewelina Kobryn, had two. Both players need to make good decisions to stay on the floor as long as possible today.
First Quarter: Atlanta 14, Storm 7
Storm head Coach Brian Agler did not like the way his team responded coming out of that last media timeout. The Storm turned the ball over and had a bad shot attempt, both of which led to Dream runouts at the other end of the floor. To try to get the offense clicking, Agler took another timeout to be able to offer some reminders in the huddle.
The timeout does get an opportunity for the Sign of the Day competition at the Key. Naturally, your winner is a banner wishing "Happy Birthday, Doppler!"
Storm Looking for Holes in Atlanta Defense
First Quarter: Atlanta 10, Storm 7
The Dream boasts the league's best defense on a per-possession basis this season, and we've seen why during the first five minutes of the game. Atlanta's length takes away some of the passing lanes the Storm is used to having. Seattle is shooting just 2-for-7 from the field, but five big points from Ewelina Kobryn have helped the Storm maintain contact despite the slow start.
The festivities for Doppler's Birthday - at least in the arena - got under way during the timeout with some mascot friends, including Blitz from the Seahawks, the Seattle Thunderbirds' Cool Bird and Woody the Wolf. In-arena emcee Shellie Hart and her little assistant, Eva, are both sporting birthday hats with Doppler's face on them.
Wauters Out for Storm
Storm center Ann Wauters will miss her fourth game with a strained left Achilles. There was an outside shot Wauters might be able to return for today's game, but she'll continue to focus on getting healthier and potentially playing Friday in Phoenix.
"She's still not ready to go yet," said Head Coach Brian Agler. "Getting closer."
With veteran forward Tina Thompson also out of the lineup, that means the Storm will again be lacking in size up front off the bench. Alysha Clark and Katie Smith will swing down to the power forward spot at times in relief of starters Ewelina Kobryn and Camille Little. That means the Storm will have to pay extra attention to Atlanta's Sancho Lyttle, the team's leading active scorer at 14.8 points per game with Angel McCoughtry (sprained left ACL) out today.
"She's really expanded her game," Agler said. "She's shooting the three-point shot now, she's putting the ball on the floor, she's offensive boarding, she's in transition. They try to isolate her, post her up, throw lob passes to her. It's going to be quite a challenge."
Hello from what is already a noisy KeyArena. Youngsters are filing in as part of their day camps for our annual, one-of-a-kind, Kids Day. Preparations by the Storm and the Atlanta Dream are well under way for the special 12 noon tip time. This is a rematch of the 2010 WNBA Finals and a chance for the Storm to far better against Atlanta after being swept by the Dream a year ago. It should be exciting - and high-pitched - so stay with us all day long for updates from courtside.