Live from Press Row: Storm vs. Indiana
Stunned at the Buzzer
Final: Indiana 68, Storm 66
The Storm led for 19:59 of the second half. Unfortunately, the final 0:01 is all that counts, and in that moment the Indiana Fever stole the lead and the win with a Shavonte Zellous three-pointer at the buzzer. After Jessica Davenport's score brought Indiana within one, the Storm had two looks at the bucket but came up empty. Indiana went without a timeout and had Briann January drive against Lauren Jackson on the right wing. January threw across the baseline to a wide-open Zellous, who calmly knocked down the triple as the buzzer went off. Down 13 with 4:03 to play, the Fever scored the game's final 15 points to come from behind and win.
The finish will be tough for the Storm to take. At this point of the season, however, improvement is more important than wins and losses, and the Storm made strides toward reintegrating Lauren Jackson tonight. It's obviously going to take time for her to get back in form and the team to play off her. Jackson did instantly make a difference defensively, where the Storm held Indiana to the second lowest shooting percentage of 2012 (33.3 percent). On offense, the Storm showed a deeper bench with two players (Shekinna Stricklen, 13, and Ewelina Kobryn, 10) scoring double figures.
The Storm will have a couple days off before returning to KeyArena to continue this extended homestand on Sunday against the New York Liberty at 6 p.m. It's Back to School Night presented by Seattle Children's Hospital as we help prepare young Storm fans for the end of their summer. Join us and see the only visit of the season by Cappie Pondexter and the rest of the Liberty - get your tickets now!
Fourth Quarter: Storm 66, Indiana 63
With 1:23 to play, it's now a one-possession game. The Fever's pressure is causing all sorts of problems for the Storm, which turned the ball over twice in the backcourt and dodged a bullet when only one of them turned into a score. Now the Storm will inbound the ball after a timeout with 14 on the shot clock after a kick ball, badly in need of a good offensive possession followed by a stop.
Not Over Yet
Fourth Quarter: Storm 66, Indiana 58
When the Storm pushed the lead to 13 and a had a fast break, fans at KeyArena were just about ready to put this in the 'W' column. Not so fast. Shekinna Stricklen was going too fast and overshot the layup. On the other end, Tamika Catchings scored followed by an Erin Phillips three-point play, and suddenly it's an eight-point game with Indiana in possession and 2:44 left on the clock. The Storm is still in good shape to take care of business by holding on to the basketball and making free throws down the stretch.
Storm Maintaining Edge
Fourth Quarter: Storm 59, Indiana 50
With 5:57 to play as KeyArena's youngest fans ride the Doppler Train, the Storm still leads by nine points, a margin that looks more comfortable with each passing moment. The Storm has gotten two buckets this quarter from Ewelina Kobryn, who could be one of the beneficiaries of Lauren Jackson's return. While Kobryn will get fewer minutes, especially once the Storm is completely healthy, she's more comfortable in a smaller role coming off the bench. Kobryn has been terrific tonight, scoring 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting in 14 minutes of action. Right now, she's playing alongside Jackson in the biggest lineup the Storm has available.
One of the fans enjoying tonight's game from courtside is King County Executive Dow Constantine, a long-time supporter of the Storm.
Storm Takes Lead to Final Quarter
End Third Quarter: Storm 51, Indiana 42
The Storm took its biggest lead of the night late in the third quarter when Lauren Jackson knocked the lid off the net and made a three-pointer. That followed Jackson grabbing her own rebound on a missed three. She's got four points and five boards in 19 minutes. Indiana did follow with a score, so it's a nine-point Storm lead going into the final 10 minutes. If the Storm continues to play defense like this and takes care of the basketball, that should hold up. Sue Bird nearly gave the Storm a 12-point lead. Her shot from half court at the buzzer was about three inches to the left. Watching from press row with a perfect view of the shot, we thought it was in.
During the quarter break, we got our latest Storm Movie Magic starring Katie Smith as Mary Katherine Gallagher from Superstar. That's going to be a strong contender for the Stormy Award when we vote at the end of the regular season in just a few weeks.
Third Quarter: Storm 46, Indiana 38
Since the last stoppage of play, the Fever has put just two points on the board as the Storm has opened up its biggest lead of the second half at eight points. Lin Dunn wasn't want to see the game get any further away giving the difficulty Indiana has had scoring all night, so she's taken a timeout with 1:44 left in the third quarter.
Tonight's "Sign of the Night" is an appropriate one - a young fan wearing a Lauren Jackson jersey with an "I heart LJ" sign. Perfect.
Third Quarter: Storm 38, Indiana 36
So far, neither team has been able to create any separation since the break. They're even at nine points apiece. Still, there are some interesting developments. The Storm has successfully used Sue Bird off the ball since halftime. She's got five points already in the third quarter after scoring just four in the first half. Also, Lauren Jackson was a big factor on the glass before getting a rest. Jackson pulled down three boards in four minutes and is looking more spry by the moment.
Tonight, the Storm is playing host to Gillian, 11, from the Make-a-Wish Foundation. A basketball player before facing a life-threatening autoimmune disease, Gillian got a chance to attend this morning's Storm shootaround and meet players and coaches afterwards. During tonight's game, Gillian and her sister are sitting courtside right next to the Storm bench. Players really love the chance to interact with youngsters from the Make-A-Wish Foundation and have a chance to brighten their spirits. Look for more on Gillian's day on StormBasketball.com in the near future.
Anybody's Game at the Break
Halftime: Storm 29, Indiana 27
Two Camille Little free throws with 20 seconds left on the clock give the Storm a two-point advantage heading to the locker room. Still, this game is there for the taking if either team gets hot offensively. In a battle this low scoring, a couple of baskets strung together qualifies as a run. We'll see if the Storm can get Lauren Jackson more comfortable after halftime. She's missed her only shot attempt from the field in 10 minutes. Jackson's on pace to play a bit more than the 10-15 minutes we initially heard, though she's gotten plenty of rest thus far. Look for more minutes for Shekinna Stricklen, too. The Storm is +13 with the rookie on the floor so far.
During halftime, the Seattle All-City Marching Band is performing for the crowd.
Second Quarter: Storm 24, Indiana 23
Both teams are having a tough time generating offense on a consistent basis tonight. The Storm went into an extended drought with Lauren Jackson and Shekinna Stricklen on the bench. Indiana has always been as tough to play against as any opponent in the league for Sue Bird, who faces bigger defenders (mostly Shavonte Zellous tonight) and traps off pick-and-rolls designed to take the ball out of her hands. Bird has just one assist tonight. However, when she is able to get the ball out of the trap, it will set up opportunities on the weak side like the three Stricklen just knocked down a moment ago.
On the other side, the Fever is shooting just 29.6 percent from the field and has seven turnovers to the Storm's four. This is still a game almost entirely because of Indiana's offensive rebounding. The Fever has six offensive boards to the Storm's none and has gotten extra shot opportunities as a result.
Second Quarter: Storm 19, Indiana 12
Shortly into the second quarter, Fever Head Coach Lin Dunn took a timeout after Shekinna Stricklen's transition layup. Dunn needed to stop the action with the Storm in the midst of a 16-0 run dating back to midway through the first quarter. Indiana has gone more than six minutes without scoring. The Fever has gotten some decent looks in there, though switching has helped the Storm avoid the wide-open three-pointers on which the Fever feeds.
Besides Tamika Catchings, the other Indiana players are struggling. Everyone else is a combined 3-of-15 from the field.
Stricklen Sparks Storm
End First Quarter: Storm 15, Indiana 12
Down by as many as nine points early, the Storm finished the quarter with 12 unanswered points to take a lead to the break. Rookie Shekinna Stricklen played a key role off the bench. Shortly after checking in, she made a nice cut to the basket for a layup. With time running out, Stricklen knocked down a three-pointer to break a tie and give the Storm the edge. Stricklen's five points lead the Storm in scoring, while reigning MVP Tamika Catchings has five points for Indiana.
Tonight is also Take Your Health by Storm presented by Group Health. During the quarter break, we had a fun pushup contest. I thought the Assistant to Doppler might have the edge over his younger competitors, but Doppler evened things up - and then some - by sitting on his back as a furry weight.
Storm Finding a Rhythm
First Quarter: Indiana 12, Storm 7
During the first couple minutes of this game, the Storm looked like a team playing with Lauren Jackson for the first time. Jackson has not been on the court with the team yet, since yesterday's practice and this morning's shootaround were just non-contact walkthroughs. Indiana got off to an early 12-3 lead. Since then, the Storm has fought back, with Sue Bird finding some space on the perimeter and knocking down a pair of buckets.
Jackson scored her first point of 2012 at the free throw line. Indiana is paying a lot of attention to her in the post, fronting and bringing a second defender behind at times, which should open things up for her teammates. For now, Jackson is on the bench getting a well-deserved rest. Head Coach Brian Agler would have preferred to get Jackson out earlier but the only break in nearly three minutes of action came when Jackson went to the foul line and could not be replaced.
Managing Jackson's Minutes
While Lauren Jackson will make her 2012 debut tonight, don't expect Jackson to play her regular minutes right away. Storm Head Coach Brian Agler has said he'd like to keep Jackson to 10-15 minutes. Before the game, he did not offer the number but did explain the game plan with Jackson.
"I'll have constant dialogue with her," he said. "I would guess she would go in and out so we don't try to put her in a major fatigue factor tonight. She just got here and she's not really done anything since the bronze-medal game."
Count Agler's Indiana counterpart, former Storm Head Coach Lin Dunn, among those skeptical just how limited Jackson's minutes will be with a game potentially on the line.
"I'm glad she's playing," said Dunn, who drafted Jackson while in Seattle. "We want to play them at their best. After I had heard she was coming back, I thought, 'She'll play.' It made sense to give her a couple days. I expected her to play tonight - and I expect her to play more than 10-15 minutes too, knowing Lauren."
Hello from KeyArena, where the Storm is preparing to take on the Indiana Fever in Lauren Jackson's 2012 WNBA debut. It was a welcome sight to see Jackson on the court shooting around with Camille Little well before game time, as is the custom for both players. Little has been missing her opponent for shooting contests all season, but no longer with Jackson's return This is a matchup of two of the most consistently successful teams in the WNBA and we expect a great game, so stay with us all night long for the latest from courtside.