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September 19, 2008 at 7:01 PM

Sparks game thread

YOU’RE OUT: Griffith just fouled out on a tacky reaching call. The Storm is down 75-67. There was a spurt where they played well against LA and they’ll probably use that as a confidence builder going into Sunday. If Seattle hadn’t had so many costly errors early, this would be a different game. Too bad, because the defensive effort on the Olympic trio was pretty good. Parker, Milton-Jones, and Leslie have accounted for a combined 32 points and 18 rebounds. But Leslie has about five blocks. Seattle lost 77-69.
PLAYOFF RECORD: It’s in the midst of a losing record, but Bird’s last basket gave her a playoff-high 23 points.
BIRD CALL: Bird is finally inserting herself into the game, getting her offense going and helping the Storm close within 64-57 with 6:39 remaining in the game. She’s hit her signature jumpers and layins for six points during a 9-2 Seattle run. It forced LA to call time. Bird has 21 points on 8 of 13 shooting from the field. Seattle’s frontline is playing great defense against the Olympic trio.
CLOSING IN?: Seems the Storm is figuring out the Sparks and hitting some shots. They’ve cut the lead to single digits off back-to-back baskets from Wright and A-Rob, but Italian Rafaella Masciadri just put LA back up 55-44 with 2:19 remaining in the third quarter.
HALFTIME: If any team ever needed a halftime, it’s the Storm. Seattle needs a break to calm down. The plays are there, able to get open for shots, but they look jittery as they force passes and moves. LA, meanwhile, is very comfortable, just playing their game. G Temeka Johnson is hitting and Bobbitt is taking cheap shots at Bird. The Sparks are shooting 51.4 percent to Seattle’s 33.3. Here’s hoping the real Storm shows in the second half or at least on Sunday. Seattle is down 44-27.
NBA FRIENDS: Yes, the LA crowd is late-arriving like the male counterpart. Giving a prime example is Sasha Vujacic, who just took his courtside seat with 2:43 remaining in the opening half. Sparks are playing a solid team game to lead 37-23.
END OF FIRST: Katie Gearlds popped off the bench and did what she’s supposed to do, hit three-pointers. The shot as the shot-clock was winding down made the Staples Center crowd go “Ohhh!” in unison. Storm is down 25-15, however.
CASHING IN: After another Wright turnover, Agler is going to Cash. Seattle is down 23-10 after a Bobbitt three-pointer.
ANOTHER TO: Agler called another full timeout after another Wright turnover was converted into a basket for Ferdinand-Harris. The Storm has five total turnovers for eight LA points. The Storm did score out of the last timeout, a Little layin, but keeping control of the ball is giving Seattle fits and preventing them from being able to score. The Sparks are clogging passing lanes, but really Wright is making sloppy plays. Storm is down 18-7.
ROCKY START: Wright is having a bad start to this series, seemingly trying to do too much. Agler just subbed Sheryl Swoopes in for Wright, who has three turnovers and one foul that LA converted into an old-fashion three-point play. After a Marie Ferdinand-Harris three-pointer, the Storm is down 14-3 with 4:53 remaining in the opening quarter.
STARGAZING: Director Penny Marshall is seated courtside with the LA owners. Storm is down 6-1 with 7:20 remaining in the opening quarter. Actor Jack Black and singer Stephanie Mills are also here.
IT’S ON!: Leslie was just called for her first foul against Griffith, who was trying to strip Leslie of the ball. It forced the first turnover of the game and Griffith crashing to the court means the playoffs have started.
IT’S ROBINSON: Wow! Agler went with C Ashley Robinson as the fifth starter. He never mentioned her in all of his talks about combos he could run. This is Robinson second start of the season and my guess is Agler is using A-Rob’s 6-4 height to combat LA’s Olympic trio on Leslie (6-5), Parker (6-4) and Milton-Jones (6-1). On the Sparks’ side, Margo Dydek, the 7-2 August pick-up, is not dressed.
TOUGH DRAW?: Maybe it’s the annual “Sound of Music” sing-a-long at the Hollywood Bowl, but the Sparks have a sparse and late-arriving crowd for Game 1. They only had two sell outs this season, odd because just about wherever they went, they were a guaranteed sellout for opponents. We’ll see if they’re like the Lakers — late arriving.
Storm center Yolanda Griffith simply turned and cracked up when I asked my simple question of whether the Storm was ready to play tonight. Sometimes you just throw stuff out there like spaghetti on a wall and see what kind of quote comes back at you. No worries if it’s egg platter.
Thank goodness tip-off is finally around the corner. Storm coach Brian Agler has changed his demeanor, returning to a stone-cold facial expression, making final tweaks for the game. And the Storm locker room was moderately quiet. Seems everyone is locked in.
Staples Center is back to being an icicle. They’ve returned the NHL ice under the court, which is making it cold. “That’s our strategy, freeze them out,” joked Sparks owner Kathy Goodman. She was walking around with another one of co-owner Carla Christofferson’s creation, a foamy No. 1 finger with defined fingers. Renee Brown, the league’s VP of player personnel teased that it could be used to flip someone off. Then Christofferson, who designed the mascot Sparky, promptly showed Brown how she uses it to yell at official Kurt Walker. And yes, Walker is working tonight.
Well, it’s now fifteen minutes before game-time and Agler “refuses” to give a fifth starter, according to the official score keeper. I’m suspecting it’s going to be vet Sheryl Swoopes, but we’ll see. Storm F Swin Cash is participating in warm-ups. She’s been out since playing against Minnesota on Sept. 6 with lower back troubles.
Here are tonight’s starters:
STORM
F Camille Little
F Ashley Robinson
C Yolanda Griffith
G Tanisha Wright
G Sue Bird
SPARKS
F DeLisha Milton-Jones
F Candace Parker
C Lisa Leslie
F Keisha Brown
F Shannon Bobbitt
Tonight’s officials are Jeffery Smith, Sue Blauch, and Kurt Walker.

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