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May 22, 2008 at 5:50 PM

Mercury game thread

STORM WINS: Whew! Yet another close one, but the Storm pulled it out — again. Don’t tune in until halftime on Saturday because I have a sneaky feeling they’ll do this against San Antonio, too. LJ refused to admit anything is really wrong with their starts, just that the team is trying to get the offense going. “I don’t think it’s anything to worry about because we’re still able to put up those kind of numbers in the second half,” she said. The Storm outscored the Mercury 50-31 after the break to win 87-83. It’s the first time ever that the Storm has opened a season at 3-0.
SWEET BIRD: Folks are on their feet, but Bird has shut the place up by making a jay to put the Storm ahead by one. LJ added to that, making two free throws for a 84-81 lead with 22.3 seconds remaining. This would be the biggest comeback of the season if it holds.
THE WRIGHT EFFECT: Don’t know if Wright’s camp checks out this blog, but a couple of y’all should be full from eating your words. It’s not pulling out a Storm win, but Wright has four points and two assists with zero turnovers in 10 minutes off the bench.
STRINGER IN THE HOUSE: Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer is seated courtside, just a few people down from Diaw. I’d rather write about her than the two awful airballs Griffith just tossed toward the net. Or was she aiming for the base of the hoop? Couldn’t tell. Storm is down 72-64 with 7:27 remaining in the game.
WHERE’S THE T?: Heard that the officials weren’t going to take much mess from the players this season, but LJ just went right in Gulbeyan’s face and shouted “You guys are terrible!” She wanted a call on Willingham pushing and was upset at missing a three-pointer that would have put the team down by three. The Storm did get the ball and an additional three seconds on the clock for an inadvertent whistle. (Thanks to VanDerveer for explaining that one to me because I was a little lost — along with the refs.)
RUN IN PROGRESS: The Storm is all about second-half comebacks. They haven’t taken complete control of the game, but hot shooting from KG and a surge by LJ mixed with some bad misses by Phoenix has helped the Storm pull within 65-59. Seattle could have tied this game if it weren’t for some missed shots at the hoop by Ashley Robinson and a block on Cash by Taurasi.
GRIFFITH DOWN: Griffith was popped in the face and laid on the court wailing. Then she jumped back up and is going to stay in the game. Guess it can get started now. Storm is down 58-46.
CHELLE IN PHOENIX: Former Storm F Chelle Thompson is at the game. She’s about to give an interview to radio now. Thompson is living in Phoenix and said she’ll be in Seattle soon for a visit. The Storm is down 52-37 at the half and just returned from the locker room.
PILATES ANYONE?: Gotta ask Taurasi if Pilates is part of her offseason routine. The woman looked like she was falling out of bounds, but bent back like the Matrix and saved the ball to her own teammate — all underneath the Storm basket. Later she made a three-pointer at the top of the key to give her team a 44-24 lead, capping a 20-2 run. Yes, 20-2. Good thing it’s the opening half and the Storm only shows up for the second.
GONE COLD: All of those good vibes are gone for the Storm. The Mercury has opened the second quarter on an 8-0 run and the Storm hasn’t scored a FG since the 1:45 mark of the opening quarter. The team’s shooting percentage has dropped to 37.0 and the players are getting frustrated at the lack of fouls called. Sound familiar? Agler is bringing Kelly Santos in for some muscle inside.
GETTING CLOSER: The Storm isn’t clicking on all cylinders, but looks a lot better. Maybe they’ll play three solid quarters tonight instead of two. It’s a slow progress. The team is down 24-22 at the end of the first quarter.
WRIGHT OUT: At SG, Wright looked good for the brief stint she was on the court. She had an assist to Cash and played well on defense, her specialty. Swoopes checked back in the game for her. The Storm overall is shooting better than in their past two games, a 55.6 percent showing so far. Phoenix is also hot, though, at 56.3 percent.
WRIGHT CHECKS IN: Here we go with Wright, she’s playing SG.
PLAYING SOME D: The Storm looks good on the defensive end, really aggressive and forcing the turnovers. On offense, LJ still can’t get a three-pointer to fall, but Cash is starting off strong by driving to the hoop for buckets. Taurasi had the sweetest pass of the night, thus far, though. She wrapped one around Jackson out to Tangela Smith on the wing for a jumper. The score is 10-9 Phoenix with 4:47 remaining in the opening quarter.
SUNS IN THE HOUSE: Suns F/C Boris Diaw is seated courtside. The crowd is sparse, but the Mercury is off to a good start. They’ve made both of their opening three-point attempts and are ahead 6-2.
LINE PLEASE: The woman singing the National Anthem forgot the lines and had to be helped out by the crowd. She had a pretty voice, though, hitting the “free” part nicely.
LONG NIGHT AHEAD: We haven’t even tipped off and already this fan behind the media is going nuts, cheering the Mercury on. “That’s it, that’s it!” is what he’s saying over and over. And screaming “Yes!” for made layups — during warmups. Wait until it counts, buddy. At least it’s not ThunderStix, y’all know how I feel about those things.
MORE ON VANDERVEER: Former Storm assistant Heidi VanDerveer is here tonight. And it’s not because she’s a super fan. She’s doing some scouting work for the Washington Mystics. When she attended the Storm’s game against Sacramento, she was scouting for New York and she’ll be scouting again for the Liberty when the Storm plays at San Antonio on Saturday. “Just keeping myself entertained,” she said of the offseason work before her head coaching season at Occidental College gets started. Storm owner Anne Levinson is here, too. UPDATE: Dawn Trudeau and Lisa Brummel are here, also. The trio is seated right behind the Storm bench.
OK, whoever sent the rain out of jealousy of my basking in the sun on Wednesday, thanks. Forget about it ruining my plans, I just feel for the dude washing Cappie Pondexter’s SUV in the U.S. Airways Arena garage during shootaround. He put in extra work, making the shoes (tires for all of you old-school types) pop and the paint shine so well, I could do a hair check from 10-feet away. Then she had to roll out into a pseudo monsoon. Bummer.
“It was you guys that brought the rain,” Diana Taurasi said. “It sucks.”
Yeah, a Storm is rolling through.
Phoenix is warming up as a unit and Lauren Jackson is doing some shooting with assistant coach Shelly Patterson, the three-pointers still aren’t falling with consistency, however. Allie Quigley, who the Storm drafted in the second round and cut during training camp, is with Phoenix and coach Corey Gaines had nothing but positive things to say about her. More on her landing in the desert in tomorrow’s notebook.
Everyone expected to play in both camps is healthy, especially Taurasi, who had to be taken to the emergency room prior to the Mercury’s debut last Saturday. Storm F Sheryl Swoopes is fine after rolling her left ankle and is expected to start along with Swin Cash.
Here are tonight’s starters
STORM
F Lauren Jackson
F Swin Cash
C Yolanda Griffith
G Sue Bird
G Sheryl Swoopes
INACTIVE: C Florina Pascalau
MERCURY
F Diana Taurasi
F Le’Coe Willingham
C Tangela Smith
G Kelly Miller
G Cappie Pondexter
INACTIVE: F/C Brooke Smith and F/C LaToya Pringle
Tonight’s officials are Tony Dawkins, Felicia Grinter, and Roy Gulbeyan.

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