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July 15, 2009 at 6:46 PM

Game thread: Detroit at Seattle

NOT AGAIN: Reeve rushed over to me and asked when was the last time Seattle lost two games at home. Man, it’s been since July 2007. Seattle lost 66-63 when Smith did her usual thing at the end of the game, scoring six points to give Detroit the win. The Shock have won back-to-back road games while Seattle is reverting to its old defensive ways. Don’t know what’s up with the team and they don’t have answers either. One thing is certain from Bird’s perspective. It doesn’t have to do with close friend Diana Taurasi and her DUI charge. “Katie Smith is her close friend, too, and it didn’t bother her,” Bird said. Smith led all scorers with 19. Bird finished with 10 while Wright had another awesome night nullified by a loss, finishing with 10 points and three assists, fouling out with 3.6 seconds left.
TENSING UP: Wright missed a driving layin, but the Shock had another passing turnover to give Seattle another chance to pull ahead. Score is Shock 64-63 with 19.6 seconds remaining.
ROCKIN’ KEY: Officials don’t know what a travel is in this quarter, but that’s working in Seattle’s favor. Using a rare lineup up of Bird, KG, Burse, Little, and Johnson, the Storm has stringed together a 4-0 spurt to pull ahead 59-55 with 5:44 remaining in the game. KeyArena is alive and the Storm has the right defensive attitude to possibly pull out the win. Johnson is in the game due to five fouls against Wright.
JACKSON OUT II: Jackson will not return due to a strained left calf. That appears to be fine because KG is popping off like she’s supposed to. She’s hit back-to-back baskets to tie the score at 55 points apiece with 7:14 remaining in the matchup.
JACKSON OUT: Jackson hobbled back to the locker room, apparently hampered by her ankle. She has yet to score in this quarter. Seattle down 46-44 with 2:45 remaining in the third.
BLOOD AND FOUL: Braxton is on the bench being tended to like a boxer. She has cotton stuffed in her nostrils after a hard hit inside. She told coach Rick Mahorn that she’s alright. Seattle took a 44-43 lead after a free throw by Little, who has finally arrived to the game.
STORM RISING: OK, now the Storm looks like a team with two WNBA all-decade players and three All-Stars (a first for Seattle and seventh team all-time in the WNBA). Out of the break, Seattle continued with the defense that picked up in the second quarter and got some needed scoring from Wright and Little. Add an old-school three-point play by Cash and Seattle has inched within 41-40, forcing Detroit to call a timeout. The Shock may be breaking down. McWilliams wasn’t happy with the help defense that Ford was giving, which caused McWilliams to pick up her fourth foul. She’s seated on the bench steamed.
NO DICE: Seattle looked like they might burst out of a timeout to piece together a mini run, sparked by their defense. The team helped force Detroit into two turnovers and Ford only made one of two free throw attempts. But after a three-pointer by Katie Gearlds, Jackson, Bird, and Burse (foul) couldn’t convert. Seattle is down 39-30 at the break. Jackson leads the Storm with 11 points while McWilliams and Nolan have eight points apiece for their squad. The Strom is being outrebounded 16-11.
HUFF AND PUFF: Jackson is breathing hard at the free throw line. Detroit’s frontline came to play tonight and Braxton, McWilliams, and Ford are some tough brick houses to deal with. Little isn’t playing like her normal self, shortening the Storm’s options to counter. Add the Shock shooting an impressive 59.3 percent besides being draped by defenders and you see why the Storm is down 38-27 with 1:02 remaining in the half.
ANOTHER TECH: Wright was called for her second technical of the season, high-stepping toward ref Clarke Stevens before briskly walking past him. She didn’t appear to say anything, getting her last tech for not responding the officials. Wright felt she justly blocked a shot, but was called for a foul. Agler sub her out of the game. The Storm is down 30-19 with 4:40 remaining in the half.
CAL HOF: Storm rookie Ashley Walker is spending her game days soaking her right foot in a bucket of ice water before wrapping up the injured big toe and sitting on the bench. But she’s still the first player from the University of California to break into the WNBA. Never injured in college, she was the Pac-10’s leading scorer and helped lead the Golden Bears to the Sweet 16. The school is conducting a Hall of Fame vote and Walker is on the list. You can vote her in here.
SLOW CRANK: The Storm is getting it going, but expending a lot of energy on defense. The Shock look a lot better than they have on TV, moving the ball around and hitting shots. On defense, a few bad passes by Cash inside to Jackson made Detroit’s defense look good. Bird is taking matters in her own hands, running around to get an open shot. Seattle is down 18-14 at the end of the first quarter.
LIFELESS?: Detroit is its normal physical self and the Storm already appears agitated. There isn’t much life on the defensive end and some whopper miscues on offense. Detroit leads 10-6 with 4:57 remaining in the opening quarter. Seattle shooting 25 percent to Detroit’s 55.6. Little was particularly off, pulled early for Burse.
Former Detroit Bill Laimbeer keeps in touch with his old team, according to assistant coach Cheryl Reeve, sending “sarcastic e-mails” like complimenting the Shock on looking like a championship team.
Enter chuckle here. Due to injuries, coaching change and the WNBA not waiting for Detroit to get it together, the team is a miserable 3-7 — bottom of the Western Conference. The Shock would have to win about 60 percent of their games to pull out of the muck, which probably won’t happen.
But the team does return star Deanna Nolan to the starting lineup tonight. Nolan didn’t play July 11 at Connecticut due to a right hamstring pull. Reeve, who is also the team’s GM, said Nolan’s minutes would be limited.
For the Storm, it’s their first outing with an All-Star lineup in forwards Swin Cash and Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird. With those type of accolades, you wouldn’t expect the Storm to be 8-5, but the key to their success is defense. In the games lost, their defense or interest or both was pathetic.
Coach Brian Agler had the team watch the entire loss to Chicago on Sunday, going over the defensive miscues. The word “switches” was the first written on the dry-erase board in the locker room, meaning working on not letting a shooter like Nolan pop out on a pick-and-roll to bank on in Seattle’s face ala Kristi Toliver.
We’ll see if the team is focused on defense tonight. So, let’s get to it.
Here are your starting lineups:
F Katie Smith
F Taj McWilliams
C Cheryl Ford
G Anna DeForge
G Deanna Nolan
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Clarke Stevens, Penny Davis, and Shelley Nakasone.



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