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July 19, 2009 at 5:01 PM

Game thread: Minnesota at Seattle

Minnesota coach Jennifer Gillom let loose a small laugh, but is it so outlandish to consider her for Coach of the Year honors? Everyone, including former coach Don Zierdan, expected the Lynx to finish last in the Western Conference. Make that last in the league once star Seimone Augustus suffered a season-ending knee injury.
But the Lynx (9-6) can take ownership of second place in the West with a win against Seattle (9-6). Minnesota will have to overcome a seven-game losing streak at KeyArena, however. It dates back to June 2005.
Gillom set a goal for the team to win 10 games by the All-Star break this week (20 for the season) and, although they’re playing Seattle and Phoenix, Minnesota has a chance. Phoenix is playing without G Diana Taurasi, who is serving a two-game suspension for a DUI charge.
“They’re definitely more focused,” said Gillom, whose players still setup an Augustus bear to sit in the locker where the player would normally be. “I am surprised where we are right now. I had no clue and I’m sure a lot of people didn’t. For us to be sitting tied for second? I’m extremely elated. I’ve very proud of these girls.
“We have a balanced squad. We’re not just relaying on one person. We get production inside from Charde [Houston] and Nicky {Anosike]. Then we get production from Roneeka [Hodges], Candice [Wiggins] and Renee [Montgomery] comes off the bench to give us boost. That’s the only way we’re going to win. No one person can carry us like Seimone.”
The Storm will play its second game without All-Star forward Lauren Jackson, who suffered a left Achilles strain on Wednesday in a loss to Detroit. She said the injury is feeling better, but the two-time MVP remains unable to jump. She’s aiming for a Wednesday return against Los Angeles at KeyArena.
“It’s a little easier to walk,” Jackson said of her progress.
Agler is going to start C Janell Burse in Jackson’s place. Even though the team played 16 games without its star last season and returned a bulk of the roster, guard Sue Bird said it’s not the same. She was more aggressive offensively on the road against Sacramento to help the team win, but said the key is defense and rebounding.
“I’ve got confidence in the people we have on our team,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “[Lauren] gives you the ability to do so many things. I guess the best way to put it is that we’ve got experience playing without her. When you get experience in just about anything, you learn from it.”
Well, let’s see if Seattle can make it three straight this season against Minnesota.
Here are your starting lineups:
F Roneeka Hodges
F Charde Houston
C Nicky Anosike
G Candice Wiggins
G Renee Montgomery
F Swin Cash
F Janell Burse
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Denise Brooks, Penny Davis, Eric Brewton.



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