Live from Press Row: Storm vs. New York
Storm Dominates from Start to Finish
Final: Storm 84, New York 66
The Storm opened tonight's game with a 12-2 run and never looked back, leading by as many as 29 points in an 18-point win over the visiting Liberty, who struggled in the completion of a back-to-back set. With all 11 players seeing action for the first time this season, the Storm demonstrated its potential, rolling up 51 points by halftime and shooting 50.0 percent from the field. The Storm was solid on defense too, holding New York to 38.2 percent shooting.
Tonight was a testament to Sue Bird's ability to control a game from the point. Bird always made the right choice whether to look to score or distribute, and finished with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting and 10 assists in her first double-double of the season. Lauren Jackson and Camille Little controlled the paint, combining for 31 points and 14 rebounds. And Shekinna Stricklen supplied energy off the bench, scoring 12 points.
The Storm will have a few days off to continue to work on getting healthier and improving chemistry before facing the Phoenix Mercury again on Thursday for Women of Inspiration Night presented by Moss Adams LLP. With Diana Taurasi returning to the lineup over the weekend, the Mercury will be a formidable opponent in the last of their three visits to KeyArena this season. Be sure to get your tickets now and join us!
Fourth Quarter: Storm 79, New York 63
It took longer than we expected, but Sue Bird got her 10th assist on a feed to Ann Wauters, who has scored nine points in nine minutes of action. Bird had her first double-double of 2012 and just the second by any Storm player, as well as the 20th of her WNBA career. On the other side, Cappie Pondexter is still playing hard and putting up some big numbers. She's got 23 points, 15 of them coming since halftime, to exceed her season average of 20.7 ppg - second in the WNBA.
Fourth Quarter: Storm 75, New York 52
On Thursday night against the Phoenix Mercury, the Storm will salute this year's class of four Women of Inspiration: Paula Boggs, Bobbe Bridge, Kate Starbird and Patty Stonesifer. Some of the players on the court could be inspired because of this year's first: A former Storm player (Starbird) will be among the honorees. The Lakes High product played for the Storm in 2002 and was also part of the ABL's Seattle Reign. Make sure you read about her and the other Women of Inspiration right here on StormBAsketball.com this week and join us Thursday as they are recognized at halftime.
Back on the court, the Storm scored the first seven points of the final period to squelch any Liberty notion of a comeback. Fans clamored to see Alysha Clark on the floor, chanting her name, and got their wish when the rookie forward checked in for the first time tonight at the seven-minute mark. All 11 Storm players have now seen action.
One Quarter to Go
End Third Quarter: Storm 65, New York 46
The Storm has to be careful not to mark this in the 'W' column just yet. We saw that potentially bite the team on Thursday night, and there's still plenty of time for the Liberty to make a comeback. New York has already shaved eight points off the lead. Brian Agler responded by getting several starters back in the game. Four of them will start the final quarter along with Svetlana Abrosimova. On the other end, New York put all three of its Washington natives on the floor at the end of the third period - Leilani Mitchell (Tri-Cities), Alex Montgomery (Tacoma) and Gonzaga rookie Katelan Redmon (Spokane). Coincidentally or not, the three Washingtonians were all stretching together before the game.During the quarter break, students headed back to school got a chance to play the UPS My Choice Challenge. One lucky fan won a Storm backpack, another a UPS prize package and the last opened a box that contained ... an apple. Well, that might help securing an A?
Getting LJ Going
Third Quarter: Storm 63, New York 36
As hot as the Storm offense was during the first half, Lauren Jackson was not a major factor. She had five points on 1-of-6 shooting. Jackson has been working throughout the game to get her outside shot going. A moment ago, she finally knocked down her first triple, a moment after exploring every inch of the rim on a shot that rattled in and out. Jackson is 5-of-5 at the free throw line and has six rebounds in 17 minutes, so we're slowly but surely starting to see the LJ we know and love. Jackson's score also doubled as Sue Bird's ninth assist, putting her one away from a double-double.
Alas, we might not see a whole lot more of Bird the rest of the way. With a 27-point lead midway through the third quarter, Brian Agler can manage some minutes and rely on his bench the rest of the way. Jackson might get more run than the rest of the starters just to help her get her wind and a rhythm.
A Half Worth Bottling
Halftime: Storm 51, New York 30
Again, the Storm finished the period in style. This time, Sue Bird scored with 4.7 seconds remaining to give the Storm 50 points in a first half for the second time this season, as well as the biggest halftime lead of the year at 21 points. This is the kind of effort you'd like to bottle up and reuse again in the future. The Storm has dominated nearly every facet of the game. Execution really stands out. New York has 11 turnovers while the Storm - playing with a group of 11 players who have never all played in the same game - has just three. The Storm is also shooting 58.3 percent from the field and has made half of its eight three-point attempts.
Nobody has been better than Sue Bird. Controlling the game from the point, Bird has scored 11 points and handed out eight assists. She's well on her way to her first double-double of the season. Rookie Shekinna Stricklen also has 11 points in 13 minutes off the bench. Stricklen has made five of her six shot attempts, which have ranged from a three to an athletic putback to a pair of layups in transition when she simply outran the difference. Don't overlook Camille Little, who scored 10 points in 11 minutes on 5-of-7 shooting.
Two Truths and a Lie
Second Quarter: Storm 40, New York 26
Tonight marked the debut of a new Storm video feature: Two Truths and a Lie, starring Storm players. Fittingly on Back to School Night presented by Seattle Children's Hospital, Tucker from Capital Hill Elementary School was our contestant. Tucker correctly identified that Tina Thompson doesn't eat stake and that Alysha Clark can't do a backflip. Look for that video on StormBasketball.com in the near future.
On the court, New York is making a bit of a push, getting the lead down to 14. The Liberty has been able to use its strength in the frontcourt to create some opportunities around the rim. Give credit to the New York bench for staying in the game and encouraging the players on the floor.
Wauters Returns to the Lineup
Second Quarter: Storm 35, New York 18
Ann Wauters considers this a home-and-home series. There were just nearly two months between games. Wauters last took the floor against these same Liberty on June 30 in New York. During that game, Wauters strained her left Achilles, an injury that kept her out nine games in addition to the Olympic Break. After ramping up her action in practice, Wauters made her return to the court during the second quarter to a loud ovation from Storm fans happy to see her again.
"We just really go on how she's feeling," Storm Head Coach Brian Agler explained before the game. "Not trying to push it with her, but if she feels like she can give it an attempt, we're going to try."
Dominant Quarter of Hoops
End First Quarter: Storm 28, New York 9
The Storm never took its foot off the gas pedal during the first quarter. Tina Thompson, seeing her first action in a week, knocked down a three-pointer just before the buzzer to give the Storm a 19-point lead - its largest after one quarter this season. The Storm shot 57.1 percent, outrebounded New York 11-6 and forced eight turnovers in about as complete a quarter of basketball as you're going to see in the WNBA. The Liberty is already frustrated with the situation and the referees, and Head Coach John Whisenant drew a technical foul after Kara Braxton was stripped in the post for the second time with no call.
The Storm's energy might have been the best part of the first quarter. Shekinna Stricklen was tremendously active, coming up with two offensive rebounds and scoring six points. Sue Bird had six points and four assists and Camille Little led the team with eight points and three rebounds, all of them offensive.
Strong Start for Storm
First Quarter: Storm 12, New York 2
Just the kind of start the Storm hoped for to tonight's game. With great energy at both ends of the floor, the Storm has outscored New York 12-2 to start the game. One trend worth watching is the Storm creating second-chance opportunities. In four games since the Olympic Break, the team had just 14 offensive rebounds. Already tonight, the Storm has three, leading to four second-chance points.
At the other end, New York can't even get up shots. The Liberty has committed five turnovers, including a pair of three-second violations. John Whisenant will try to settle his team down during an early timeout.
11 Players in Uniform
For the first time in 2012, the Storm will have a full complement of players on the bench. Tina Thompson and Ann Wauters will both be dressed and in uniform tonight as they return from their injuries - a sprained left knee for Thompson and a strained left Achilles for Wauters.
"I want to make sure that you heard available," emphasized Storm Head Coach Brian Agler before the game. "I didn't say they're going to play and play big minutes."
Thompson and Wauters have both been practicing with the team and are making progress, which opens the possibility of them playing. At the same time, Agler doesn't want to rush anything.
"I just think we've got to keep in mind that Ann has very limited practice time," he said. "Tina has practiced some through our secondary training camp, but we slowed her way down in the past week or so. I don't want to put them in a bad position. But I do want to emphasize that they are really improving and are getting to the point where they can go through a practice and see game minutes."
The additional depth, which comes as Lauren Jackson is able to ramp up her minutes as she works through jet lag and gets comfortable in the Storm lineup, should help project against foul trouble or other issues that could crop up during the game. Agler hasn't had the luxury of all 11 players since the end of last season, so this is an adjustment for the better.
Welcome back to KeyArena, where the Storm will continue its homestand and try to get back on track tonight against the New York Liberty. This is the fifth of seven home games in a row over this stretch, which continues through Sept. 6. After a brief two-day break, which included yesterday's annual Season Ticket Holder party, the Storm returns to the court against a New York team that lost to the Los Angeles Sparks less than 24 hours ago in L.A. Before that, the Liberty had won three of its first four games since the Olympic Break to claim fourth place in the Eastern Conference, so this should be a competitive game. Stay with us all night for the latest coverage from courtside.