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August 4, 2009 at 6:55 PM

Game thread: Phoenix at Seattle

PHOENIX WINS: Agler isn’t using his bench enough and after watching Katie Gearlds fall to her knees on a play, I’m wondering if it’s talented enough. Seattle has to secure at least second in the West because a matchup against Phoenix in the first round would be another early exit. That’s a ways off, but the problems were glaring tonight. Playing all the starters at least 40 minutes, Seattle lost 101-90 in overtime. Taurasi, who has been away from home for two weeks, led her team with 19 and Taylor scored seven of her 18 in extra play. Wright led Seattle with a career-high 25 points.
SCORCHED: Taurasi and Pondexter were jumping and spinning around, happier than KeyArena about overtime. Must be because they knew they could pull it out in extra play. Pondexter is alive and the Mercury has used a 7-0 run to build a 91-84 lead with 3:22 remaining.
MISS CLUTCH: Folks are yelling “Last Call,” but it isn’t bothering Taurasi, who just made two free throws that — nope, Bird just made an awkward leaner three-pointer at the buzzer to put the game into OT. Score is tied at 84 points apiece.
CUE THE OT?: Well, it was a tight fourth quarter that you would have thought the Storm was out of once it pulled within one point at the 2:52 mark and still couldn’t stop Phoenix. But no, Little nailed a three-pointer with 44.7 seconds remaining to tie the score at 81 points apiece.
BONVICINI MENTIONED: Newly named Seattle University coach Joan Bonvicini was recognized during a third quarter timeout. She was seated next to AD Bill Hogan who plans to move men’s games to KeyArena next season. Seattle down 64-59 with 14 seconds left.
A MISS!: Both teams were perfect from the FT line until rookie DeWanna Bonner missed. Seattle is 17 of 17 from the line while Phoenix is 13 of 14. After a Taylor three-pointer, Phoenix has stretched the game out to a 62-55 advantage. Jackson is on the board with 14 points and seven boards. Don’t know where Pondexter is, she’s 1 of 8 and even looks lost.
GOING WRIGHT: With Jackson bogged down, Wright has embodied her offensive prowess. The former Penn State star has 21 points at the break, which ties the season high she set June 6 against Sacramento. Wright is 7 of 11 from the field. But Seattle hasn’t slowed Phoenix enough, trailing 45-43 at halftime. Taurasi leads the Mercury with 11 points and Johnson added eight. Seattle is solid on rebounding and its coverage, it’s just that Phoenix is that good offensively. Even with Pondext going 1 of 7 for five points. Feels like the Key is in store for another entertaining barnburner.
ZONE WORK: Seattle has been playing a little zone to keep Phoenix out of the paint. Thought the Storm would get burned by it, but it has been working to their benefit. Seattle is also getting the rebound, leading that category 13-10. But Jackson isn’t able to get involved offensively. She’s 0-for-2 from the field with one assist. Seattle’s down 32-30 with 5:55 remaining in the half.
AUSSIE CHECK: Taylor is checking in for the first time tonight. Agler also made a sub, placing G Shannon Johnson in for Wright.
WRIGHT STUFF: Obviously Seattle saved its offense for tonight, shooting 54.5 percent from the field after a three-pointer by Wright. The Storm leads 15-13 heading into the first timeout. Wright has a whole row of fans here tonight, each holding up a green letter of from her first name.
MILLE TIME: With Jackson busy under the coverage of Taurasi and Smith, Seattle is finding Little open all over the court. She’s 3 of 4 from the field to help the Storm build a small 12-10 lead with 5:54 remaining in the opening half.
You’ll care more about Storm C Suzy Batkovic-Brown, but we’ve been battling the same virus floating around and that’s why this blog has been erratic since the All-Star break. Batkovic-Brown said she’s literally been on her back the past two days unable to move.
“It’s the pig flu,” teammate Lauren Jackson joked.
Really, it’s a sinus infection. Batkovic-Brown didn’t participate in practice since Saturday’s win at KeyArena. Her first step on the court was this morning for shoot-around.
Storm coach Brian Agler hasn’t played the Australian much this season, claiming trouble balancing minutes for 11 players. But even if he could go to her tonight against Phoenix, he wouldn’t.
“I’m not going to push it with her,” Agler said. “I want to get her back healthy before we really try to push anything in practice or games.”
And that’s fine with Batkovic-Brown.
“It knocked the wind out of me,” she said of the illness. “I’m here to cheer my teammates on and clap louder than scream.”
It’s still an Aussie invasion with the return of Phoenix F Penny Taylor, who had reconstructive ankle surgery on May 4. She was key in the 2007 Finals for the Mercury and a bridesmaid for Batkovic-Brown’s wedding.
“I’m a little bit rusty, I think I threw a ball against the backboard that was supposed to be a pass,” Taylor said of her 2009 debut on Saturday in Minnesota. “By the end of those minutes I was feeling pretty good. It’s been a few months, so I guess I’m where I expected to be.”
Taylor said her body’s response to surgery is why she hesitated to re-sign, despite numerous rumors. Naturally returning to a successful squad made it easy.
Seattle (12-7) has a chance to move closer to first in the Western Conference with a win. Phoenix (15-6) has a two-game lead. So, let’s get to it with your starting lineups:
F Cappie Pondexter
F Le’Coe Willingham
C Tangela Smith
G Diana Taurasi
G Temeka Johnson
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Roy Gulbeyan, Felicia Grinter, and Scott Twardoski.



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