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June 7, 2009 at 5:44 PM

Game thread: Sacramento at Seattle

STORM WINS: Sacramento never pulled any closer than 10 in the fourth quarter as Seattle won 80-70. It’s the Storm’s four consecutive home-opening win. They are 5-4 all-time. Jackson led with 25 points and four blocks while Bird added 15 with eight assists. Four players had five rebounds and Johnson managed 17 minutes, saying she was “stiff and dragging” out there. Next up is a three-game road trip against Indiana, Minnesota and Chicago.
LAWSON HURT: Lawson is wincing on the bench after colliding with Cash, who picked up the foul. Lawson is holding her left thigh, but is walking around. Seattle ahead 72-59 with 3:11 remaining.
PENICHEIRO OUT: Penicheiro went to the locker room during a time out with 6:02 remaining in the game. She had an ice bag under her left armpit and was wincing on the bench before leaving. More later. Seattle is ahead 67-56 with 5:28 on the clock. UPDATE: Now the ice is on her right hand and she’s on the bench. UPDATE: Penicheiro has a sprained right thumb and will not return.
KEY ATMOSPHERE: When I asked if he’d seen any celebs in the crowd, columnist Jerry Brewer joked “There’s Big Lo.” Yeah, I was thinking a littler bigger than that. And since Lo says he’s now a medium, dropping 140-pounds, he doesn’t really qualify. Seattle doesn’t draw the glitz and glam off the court like Snoop Dogg in LA (Betty Lennox reports that she was able to speak with him and he’s cool), but the crowd is solid. Not a sellout like in 2000, but at least 9,000. They’re getting ready to do the “Train” now, my favorite part of Storm games — outside of wins. It’s always easier to cover wins.
LITTLE QUARTER: Taking advantage, again, of the paint, Little helped the Storm nullify a Monarchs run to end the quarter ahead 63-50. Little scored nine of her 11 points in the stanza to help Seattle. The Storm is shooting 49 percent. The Monarchs are better now offensively, shooting 42.2 percent, but have 19 turnovers for 26 Seattle points.
WHOA: Took a bathroom break and the Storm is back up by 10 — 53-43.
RUNNIN’ MONARCHS: Sacramento is starting to click, piecing together an 11-3 run with 5:00 remaining to pull within 48-43. C Janell Burse stopped the drought with an inside shot and a timeout has the score frozen at 50-43 with 4:32 remaining.
STILL AWESOME: Bird is almost like an official. If they’re doing their job, you don’t notice them. Bird is the same. Sure, she’s racking up the assists in the stat book, but most just see the scoring and wins. Well, she created a splash in the second quarter with a breakaway layin a couple of steals and a jumper that she flung at the hoop with 2.4 seconds remaining. Seattle headed into the break with a 41-32 lead, staving off an enthusiastic effort by Scholanda Robinson, which pulled Sacramento within 36-31 with 55.9 remaining.
FORGET PARIS: OK, so rookie Courtney Paris’ debut wasn’t spectacular (one rebound) and she still looks a little lost on the court. But she’s helping the Monarchs get inside for buckets. She caught a hi-low pass for two points and Kara Lawson was left open for a way-too-easy bunny. Following a three-pointer by Katie Gearlds, the Storm leads 34-27 with 2:24 left.
LITTLE REBOUND: After going 0-for-8 in the road opener, Little is more productive tonight (granted she did have a key steal to get the opening win). She has five rebounds and is more active in the paint to keep the Monarchs from scoring inside. Seattle leads 24-17 with 7:49 remaining in the half.
TIRED?: Boucek just made mention to her team about how tired Bird is and to keep the defense up on her. But Agler pulled out his plan to combat that this season and exchanged Johnson in for Bird. Bird talked pregame about how the three-guard lineup is really helping her keep her stamina. But Seattle still plays better with her on the court. She’s going to get about a five-minute breather in between quarters, though. Seattle leads 22-15 at the end of the first quarter.
WALK THIS WAY: Monarchs F DeMya Walker, who returned from knee surgery, finally scored on the Storm’s interior with a layup. Sacramento is still down 19-8 with 2:54 remaining in the quarter.
CENTER ISSUE: The paint is wide open for the Storm today. The team jumped off to a 15-2 lead and are up 17-4 after a layup by Wright. Seattle has outscored Sacramento 10-0 inside. Boucek threw her clipboard to the court, getting after her team. There’s 4:49 remaining after a timeout.
CASHING IN: Cash just checked in for Johnson. After scoring from Jackson, Storm is up 8-2 with 6:36 remaining. Sacramento is still having trouble guarding her.
CAN’T READ LIPS: Johnson is starting.
FATHER’S DAY: Agler’s daughter is a baller too and she’s in town a long with her mother. Here’s hoping ties are on the list as Father’s Day gifts. Agler has a striped orange and yellow one that looks great, but he wears it for every big occasion. So, yes, I’m tired of looking at it. On the other end, Sacramento assistant coach Monique Ambers out did herself styling head coach Jenny Boucek today. Boucek is in a black-and-white polka dot sheath dress with pumps that appears to be tailored just for her. Ambers also is in black and white — a pantsuit number. According to an article I once read, Ambers is Boucek’s stylist. The latter certainly wasn’t dressing like that as a Storm assistant in 2004.
STORM DAY: Seattle City Council members Jan Drago and Bruce Harrell just proclaimed today Storm Day. Remember the name Harrell. He has been telling me the past two years that his daughter, Joyce, will be on the court in a WNBA uniform soon. Joyce is 12 and had a sixth-grade rotary-league game today where she reports that she scored 20 of her team’s 28 points. Drago, who was instrumental in securing a team in 1999, plans to run for mayor.
PEEWEE HUDDLE: Doctors, trainers, Agler and Johnson all huddled on the court during pregame and it appeared the decision was made to not start the guard. She tapped Cash on the rear and said a few words to her. If I can read lips, it was “You’ve got the start.” But I’ve joked with Johnson before about being the fastest speaking southerner I know, so we’ll see later.
For a split second I thought I was back at Arco Arena. On second look it was just the KeyArena staff’s new uniforms — purple long-sleeved Polo’s. They stand out, the purpose of security-type staff, but with the purple Sacramento Monarchs in town, it’s odd timing.
In real news, G Shannon Johnson is questionable to start due to a left knee sprain. Exams were negative, but she declined to really talk about the injury after warming up, wanting to leave decisions up to team doctors. If Johnson is unable to go, F Swin Cash will start.
Cash said she woke with a smile because her surgically repaired back didn’t have any adverse reactions to playing 17 minutes on Saturday. “You have the little soreness from just playing in general. But I’m very happy with where I am right now,” she said.
In addition to where Cash is, Storm coach Brian Agler is really happy C Suzy Batkovic-Brown is in Seattle. She arrived this afternoon and shot-around with F Lauren Jackson before doors were opened to fans. Agler is uncertain when she’ll be worked into the system because the team leaves for a three-game road trip on Monday and there isn’t much time for practice to get the Australian Olympian acclimated.
“There are so many factors,” Agler said. “We’re going to try to get her ready as quick as we can. It’s one of those things where you look at the season two different ways, you look at game-by-game and you look at it of where you want to be at the end of this month. I would hope that once we get a week of practice here by ourselves under our belt, I would hope that we could have her feeling comfortable to be out on the floor to play extended minutes.”
Here’s tonight’s starters:
STORM
F Tanisha Wright
F Camille Little
C Lauren Jackson
G Sue Bird
G Shannon Johnson
MONARCHS
F Nicole Powell
F Crystal Kelly
C Laura Harper
G Scholanda Robinson
G Ticha Penicheiro
Tonights officials are Michael Price, Scott Twardoski, and Byron Jarrett.

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