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September 21, 2008 at 1:07 PM

Sparks game thread

M-V-P: The Key has started the MVP chant for Bird, who’s at the free throw line, while Parker and Leslie sit. Guess Cooper finally called it. They’ve cued the “another one bites the dust” music and that’s the game. Seattle won 64-50, holding Los Angeles to a playoff low in points. The decisive Game 3 is Tuesday at 6 p.m. at KeyArena. Bird led all scorers with 20 points while no LA player had more than 11 points. The Sparks had 20 turnovers for 22 Seattle points.
CHARGE IT: Yo took yet another hard hit from Leslie, drawing a charge. The play helped Seattle get three free throws at the other end, one off a Leslie technical foul. Leslie screamed at the refs about a foul called on Parker and had to be held back by the rookie as the vet let loose her rage. After a Bird signature pull-up jumper, the Storm leads 62-50 with 39.2 seconds remaining in the game. But it still feels like there’s plenty of time for LA.
SPARKS FIGHTING HARD: Bird was just called for a turnover, stepping out-of-bounds, and the missed baskets coupled with mental errors have allowed LA to wiggle back into the game. A three-pointer by Bobbitt, her second bucket of the game, cut the Storm’s double-digit lead to 55-48 with 2:45 remaining in the game. Griffith was called for a fifth foul earlier (bad call), which is going to limit her effectiveness. Parker and Leslie are starting the play together to generate things for teammates.
STARTERS BACK: The Storm returned their starters to the game, but LA has started to make its push. Before the free throw, the Sparks are on a 10-2 run to pull within 52-39. Seattle isn’t getting the same calls and LA has picked up some pressure on its defense. There’s 5:55 remaining in the game.
END OF THIRD: The reserves held and the Storm is up 50-29 going into the final quarter. This has to be a record low in playoff points for the Sparks. I’m checking on it.
BLOCK THAT: CP3 got a nice block on Bird, but the rookie couldn’t keep control of the ball with Bird bodying her after the play. The ball dribbled out-of-bounds and eventually A-Rob grabbed a rebound to convert it into a basket for the Storm. Seattle has an odd lineup of A-Rob, Bird, Katie Gearlds, Little, and Wright on the court. They’re making plays and need to at least hold until Agler can put the starters back in for the fourth, but it’s not pretty out there. Seattle leads 45-29 with 1:17 remaining in the third.
KEY ON THEIR FEET: No lead is safe in this series, but the KeyArena crowd is partying like the game is won. Seattle appears in control, keeping Parker out of the game and the perimeter from being a factor, but for some reason it feels like the Sparks have a big run ready to burst. There’s 3:00 remaining in the third quarter.
GIRFFITH HAS TO SIT: Yo was just called for her fourth foul, putting Brazilian Kelly Santos in the game. Santos wants more minutes and can play after a great showing in the Olympics for her country, here’s her chance to carry the Storm for a while because Seattle will need Yo back in the game in the fourth. Also causing trouble to the Storm being able to hang inside is the fact that Little has three fouls. Santos was just scored on by Leslie, though, putting A-Rob (one foul) in the game with Little. That produced a Leslie turnover and Wright bucket. Seattle’s up 38-21.
HALFTIME: Wright is much improved this season, but I’d love to know what was going through her head during the last play of the half. She forced a shot after fumbling with the ball and missed an opportunity for the Storm to get another bucket going into the break. Aside from that play, the Storm has played better defense on the perimeter and continues to keep Parker and Leslie out of the game offensively. Parker is 1 of 4 from the field for two points, but she did block two shots. Leslie has one point, missing all five of her attempts. Bird and Swoopes have combined for 17 points and no assists while Wright has five rebounds and three assists to mask her 1 for 6 shooting. Yo is doing a good job on Leslie, again, forcing the Olympian into four turnovers. Seattle leads 26-15.
BIRD BREATHER: Bird admitted to being tired during Game 1 because of the break Agler gave the starters at the end of the regular season. She said she was fine during the second half, but she’s getting an extended break now as rookie Kimberly Beck steps in. The Storm had a shot clock violation, but still lead 23-14 with 3:30 remaining.
CP3: The rookie is starting to do other things to help her Sparks. Parker collected a steal and drove it down court to dish it off to Milton-Jones for a bucket. LA is still down 18-12, but the play moved Agler to call a timeout. As predicted, both teams are settling into the game and it’s really entertaining. Leslie has two fouls, so she’ll be playing a little more timid and Agler is rotating players in and out to get the best combo on both ends. There’s 7:40 remaining in the half.
ODD COVERS: Agler’s lineup has produced some weird defensive covers for the Storm. Wright is on CP3 at one point Bird was covering the rookie forward. The defensive pressure is working though, L.A. is frustrated at the calls and not getting their offense off like they did Friday. Yo and Swoopes are really ready to play, Yo just taking a charge and Swoopes grabbing a rebound for a turnaround putback to put Seattle up 16-7 at the end of the first quarter. LA shot 15.4 percent from the field (2 of 13).
EARLY TIME: The chants have started and Griffith has already forced Leslie into a foul and turnover to help the Storm go up 4-0 with 8:01 remaining in the opening quarter. The start made Cooper call time. LA just needs to settle into the crowd, which is definitely wild.
SPECIAL REQUEST: So, there are a slew of things that happen to me backstage and the most popular line is, “You should blog about that.” Like when Strom radio broadcaster Adia Barnes almost ruined my white shirt by pinging a tomato at me during pre-game dinner or when Sparks center Lisa Leslie elbowed me after a “frosty,” according to Kevin Pelton, pre-game interview session. But I don’t because I feel this blog should be about the WNBA and not me. But my stupidity on one thing is too much to let slide. Especially for creators Carla Christofferson and Kathy Goodman, the Sparks owners. Story goes like this, I love the free pens the Sparks gave media at the beginning of the season. As a writer, it has the perfect circumference and a grip strip at the bottom. The ink is black, my preferred color for notes and it fits in the rings of my notebook. But there’s this silver thing on one side that I could not figure out the point of — since June. Seriously, every day I’ve played with this thing not knowing what in the world it was. Well, on Friday, when I raved about the pen to Goodman and Christofferson, they pointed out this great feature, a pull-out schedule. “What?!” Goodman just walked away laughing. “You didn’t know?” she said upon returning more gathered. “No, all this time and no, I had no clue,” I responded. And I’ve played with it daily. Just never thought to pull the thing. So, that’s it. The Sparks even pulled one over me. Hopefully that’s the only one!
TEXT CITY: OK, so I finally asked Parker’s fiance Sheldon Williams, a Sacramento Kings post, what in the world he’s texting during games. Scratch that, as soon as he gets in the arena. “We text about the game,” he said. “I’m texting her things I see.” But no, Parker isn’t checking for texts during the game. She reads the list of insights after the game and does the same for her future hubby during his game. So, if she’s able to make adjustments to go off offensively today, thank Williams and Cooper, of course. I’m just happy Williams is not texting friends, bored by watching the WNBA as was rumored from some media in L.A.
Storm F Lauren Jackson doesn’t believe in God, but she did try to practice on Saturday. As expected from anyone who knows the Australian, watching her team go down by 19 points in Game 1 of the first-round series against Los Angeles nearly killed her. She promptly tried to run and do cut moves on an adjacent court while the Storm practiced and she was able to do some things, but pulled up sore this morning, preventing her from playing.
Jackson, the Storm’s leading scorer (20.2) and rebounder (7.0), had arthroscopic right ankle surgery on Aug. 28 and was told she’d be out three to four weeks. It’s been about 3 1/2-weeks and Saturday’s session was the first time she tried movement on the court.
“She tried to accelerate her rehab a little bit,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “She got out on the court a little bit and it’s part of the process she’s going through. She’s not going and I didn’t anticipate her going. It doesn’t mean as a competitor that she didn’t want to. It doesn’t mean that at all and if there’s any way possible she could be out there to benefit us, she certainly would.
“Her trying to push it, push, it, push it is definitely coming from her. She has a great love for this franchise and it was real hard for her to sit there and watch that the other night knowing that, if at all possible, she could help us. But it’s just not time.”
Sparks coach Michael Cooper still isn’t living in reality as far as Jackson is concerned.
“I have a daughter,” he said. “Usually women when they’re hurt, it’s hard for them to wear two pairs of the same shoes. And she had two pairs of the same shoes on.”
Alrighty then. But Jackson is not active for tonight along with F Kristen O’Neill and that cannot be changed.
Agler did alter his starting lineup for Game 2, placing F Sherly Swoopes among the starters in place of C Ashley Robinson. A-Rob will still see considerable minutes, according to Agler, but he moved to start Swoopes because she’s appearing like she’s ready to go. Game 1 was Soopes first game since Sept. 6 when she suffered a concussion against Minnesota.
Swoopes played 25 minutes in Game 1 and although was 2 for 7 from the field, missing all four of her three-pointers, she played solid defense and had five rebounds with two steals and two turnovers.
The Seahawks have already kicked-off across town, but the KeyArena lower bowl is already starting to fill with fans. The organization handed out two-sided placards that read “Beat L.A.” and “There’s no place like home!” The Storm finished the regular season at a franchise-best 16-1 at the Key. Electricity is low right now, but I suspect that to change as the afternoon progress.
Well, here’s the starting lineups:
STORM
F Tanisha Wright
F Camille Little
C Yolanda Griffith
G Sheryl Swoopes
G Sue Bird
SPARKS
F Candace Parker
F DeLisha Milton-Jones
C Lisa Leslie
G Keisha Brown
G Shannon Bobbitt
Tonight’s officials are Daryl Humphrey, Michael Price, and Shelley Nakasone.

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