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May 17, 2008 at 7:08 PM

Sky game thread

STORM WINS: It was rough, but the Storm won 67-61. They’re off tomorrow and will prepare for Sacramento and a national TV game on Tuesday. The Key is still packed, carrying on the tradition of wanting to hear the women speak after the game. In a twist, the owners joined the Storm in the post-game huddle and Times photographer Rod Mar told me Sheryl Swoopes told the women, “We want to thank you guys for keeping us here.”
BECK CHECKS IN: Cash is the only starter on the court as rookie Kimberly Beck and Brazilian Kelly Santos have checked in. Romanian Florina Pascalau was on the inactive list tonight.
FOWLES OUT: Fowles wasn’t pleased at the call and just fouled out with 4:41 remaining. She played 16 minutes and didn’t even get a whiff at a dunk.
FOWLES FOULS: In case you’re wondering, No. 2 overall draft pick Sylvia Fowles is a non-factor due to five personal fouls. The rookie has six points and seven boards. The Storm is ahead 64-48 — starting the quarter on a 11-1 run — with 5:58 remaining in the game and the scoreboards just started working. Guess everything is a little late to arrive tonight.
SWEET SWOOPES: The real Swoopes, I mean the money player circa 2005, has just arrived. She caused Sky C/F Chasity Melvin to look stupid, dribbling without the ball because Swoopes had stolen it and passed ahead to Bird for a layin with 58.7 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Then Swoopes grabbed a rebound and put it in for a layin, drawing a foul, giving the Storm a 54-47 lead heading into the final 10 minutes. Folks are on their feet and it’s super loud in the Key. Police officers are wearing earplugs.
BREAKTHROUGH: Shyra Ely made a layin to tie the score at 38 points apiece. This is the team you expected, but knew it would take time to evolve. The ball is moving better and the Storm is getting aggressive on defense. Just to be clear, though, the Sky is no joke. Agler said prior to the game that he expects the third-year expansion team to be in the playoffs and I completely agree.
GOOD D: LJ deflected a bad Dupree pass, which Cash collected as a steal. The defensive play eventually was converted into Jackson’s second bucket of the game, putting the Storm behind 38-31 with 8:03 remaining in the third quarter. Add a three-pointer to the list. Score is now 38-36 and Seattle seems to have revived itself.
AT THE HALF: Orender spoke to the media, but nothing earth shattering there. The Storm is down 35-29 at the break. Nickles declined to speak with the media, just wanting to “be a fan” with his family, a PR rep said.
MAILBAG: Was asked about the defense and LJ’s defense of that title isn’t going so swell, either. The Storm is getting outscored 14-4 in the paint and 6-1 in second-chance points. Attempts at blocks just end up in made baskets for the Sky and Chicago is in the midst of a 10-2 run to take a 35-29 lead with seconds remaining in the half.
OFFICIAL VISITS: WNBA President Donna Orender is seated courtside with U.S. Senator Patty Murray. I’m told Seattle Mayor Greg Nickles is also in attendance, but I haven’t spotted him, yet.
OFFENSE?: OK, we heard all training camp that offense wasn’t going to be a problem, but we’ve got a problem. The Storm is shooting 32.1 percent from the field after Katie Gearlds hit a three-pointer to inch the Storm closer at 24-23. Jackson is 1-for-10. Guess this is what happens when the team only gets three days to train together. Yet, Phoenix didn’t have a problem today.
SWEET PASS: Cash is really doing some work inside. She’s only grabbed two boards, but is helping to at least create attempts for Seattle. She just had a smooth bounce pass around her Chicago defender to Griffith in the paint for a layin. The score is 20-18 with 8:24 remaining before halftime.
END OF FIRST: The Storm is down 18-16 after one quarter of play. The Storm could be ahead if it could hit a free throw, they have missed three of their six attempts. Chicago is a perfect 6-for-6 from the line. The Sky is also shooting 40 percent compared to the Storm’s 28.6 percent.
FROZEN AUSSIE: Reigning MVP Lauren Jackson isn’t off to one of her better starts. She’s 1-for-6 from the field with 2:18 remaining in the opening quarter. Agler has only gone to his bench twice, playing A-Rob and Wright. Bird is leading with five points and the Sky is ahead 14-13.
HEY REF: Chatted with Dee Kantner, supervisor of officials, and you can put her down as another member of the blogger society. “We’re trying to humanize the officials,” she said. “We’re not the enemy. I’ve never blogged before, but it will be a day-in-the-life of a WNBA official.” You can checkout her first entry here. There are six new officials this season due to some injuries and Bob Trammel retired. One thing Kantner said the refs will be focusing on this season is sportsmanship. While the players aren’t complete potty-mouths (yeah, we know what you said today Cappie Pondexter), Kantner said the complaining has gotten a little out of hand, especially with more mics that pick-up the sound. “That’s not good for our league,” she said.
A little late to start this, opening night glitches. Anyway, sorry you missed this one if you didn’t make it to KeyArena. The place is sold out and rocking and the team busted out with a new system in team intros, placing a platform trimmed with a black curtain at center court and have the Storm emerge with smoking rising. In a word, awesome.
Some pregame notes are that Storm coach Brian Agler wants to limit the play of vets Sheryl Swoopes and Yolanda Griffith, which was expected. But he said that will depend on the play of C Ashley Robinson for Griffith. Tanisha Wright will see time at the point, but Agler does plan to play third-round draft pick Kimberly Beck.
Here are the starting lineups:
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Yolanda Griffith
G Sheryl Swoopes
G Sue Bird
F Candice Dupree
F Dominque Canty
C Sylvia Fowles
G Armintie Price
G Jia Perkins
Tonight’s officials are Clarke Stevens, Amy Bonner, and Penny Davis.



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