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Another Milestone for Thompson as Storm Down Fever, 77-70

August 17, 2013

With 3,003 rebounds for her career, it’d be hard for Tina Thompson to keep count – or to remember one that was particularly special.

On Saturday night, the only one that mattered was her 3,003rd.

Thompson corralled a missed 3-pointer by Indiana’s Tamika Catchings with 18.5 seconds left, leading to a pair of game-clinching free throws by Tanisha Wright as the Seattle Storm fended off the short-handed but gritty Indiana Fever in KeyArena, 77-70.

Thompson had seven boards for the night and a game-high 23 points for the Storm (11-13), who bounced back from Thursday’s crushing 79-66 loss to Chicago in which they blew a 13-point fourth-quarter lead.

“It feels good that we won,” said Thompson, the first player in league history with 7,000 career points (now 7,324) and 3,000 boards. “I don’t know what 3,000 rebounds says for a career. I’ve played quite a long time, so I think I probably should have grabbed quite a few. I guess it just goes with the territory.”

Thompson is 11 rebounds away from passing Taj McWilliams-Franklin (3,013) for No 2 on the all-time WNBA list. The only one beyond reach before Thompson retires at the end of the season is former Los Angeles Sparks star Lisa Leslie, who finished with 3,307.

“She’s been amazing all year, man,” said Wright, who added 16 points, including those two crucial free throws, and a season-high eight assists. “For her to be able to continue performing like this is absolutely amazing. Tonight, we needed her to play big, and she played like Tina Thompson plays.”

Seattle winds up a five-game homestand on Tuesday night at 7 with a nationally televised game (ESPN2) against Los Angeles. Then, it’s road trip of three games in five nights that could go a long way toward determining playoff possibilities: at third-place Phoenix on Aug. 23, followed by back-to-back contests at fifth-place San Antonio on Aug. 25 and 27.

On Saturday, the Silver Stars beat the Mercury in Texas 88-82, thus staying two games behind Seattle. But the Storm’s victory closed them within 1½ games of third-place Phoenix.

“I was really impressed with how we responded after taking a tough loss on Thursday night,” head coach Brian Agler said. “You just never know how a team is going to respond because we played so well and controlled the game for three quarters, and it totally got away from us. (Tonight) sort of shows the resolve we have, and the toughness – the mental and physical toughness that we sort of possess on this team.”

With the defending league champion Fever (11-14) missing 32½ points of its offense because of injuries (leading scorer Katie Douglas, at 17.5 points per game, was out with a bulging disc; Shavonte Zellous, at 15.0 points, was out with plantar fasciitis), the Storm came out firing. Seattle hit its first eight shots in building a 19-10 lead, and extended that to 27-16 at the outset of the second quarter.

But Indiana, which had won four straight against Seattle, including 71-63 in Indianapolis on June 30, battled back to keep it close the rest of the night.

Fittingly, it was Thompson who put the Storm ahead to stay at 63-61 with two free throws at the outset of the fourth quarter. Seattle clung to a slim lead the rest of the way, and a putback by Noelle Quinn with 1:20 showing for a 73-67 advantage.

Briann January got the last of her 17 points on a 3-pointer from the left of the lane at 1:08, making it 73-70. A 3-point try by Seattle’s Shekinna Stricklen rimmed out with 37.8 seconds left, and the Fever came down looking for the equalizer.

Catchings, who already had 21 points, launched a trey from the right of the lane, but it bounced off the rim, and Thompson came down with the ball in traffic. She got it out to Wright, who was fouled immediately by Karima Christmas with 17.1 seconds showing.

Wright swished both, making it 75-70. The Fever, after a timeout, were unable to get a shot up until just 5.8 seconds remained. But that try, a 3-pointer from 25 feet away on the left side by Christmas, was an air ball that went out of bounds. Thompson was fouled on the ensuing inbounds play and hit two free throws to finish it.

“The difference for us was that fourth quarter,” Thompson said. “Not only did we compete in quarter one through three, we also did so in the fourth quarter. We relied on our defense once again, and that kind of kept us in the game. Tanisha did a great job of controlling the ball, cutting and curling and creating opportunities for us. And we executed when we needed to.”

Stricklen finished with 15 points for the Storm, including seven straight during the third quarter that left them with a 59-53 lead.

Saturday’s game was the 400th as a coach in the professional ranks for Indiana’s Lin Dunn. That included 98 games with the Storm (33-65) from 2000 through 2002, the first three seasons in franchise history.

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