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August 8, 2009 at 7:00 PM

Game thread: New York at Seattle

STORM WINS: The Storm won 70-69, ending a two-game backslide. Bird scored nine of her 12 points in the fourth quarter, told by Agler to be more aggressive in driving to the hoop. That’s a good coaching move. Keeping Burse out of the fourth quarter? Little is an incredible player, but Burse was jamming, too. Somehow it still seems Agler and his staff need work on balancing the post rotation because they had a size advantage that could have prevented the Storm from even needing last-second heroics. Liberty’s bigs impressive, however. Kraayeveld finished with season-high 16 points, making all four of her three-pointers. McCarville finished with 22 points, 10 in the fourth quarter, and six rebounds. Seattle’s next stop is a three-game road trip against Eastern teams beginning Thursday.
STORM DEFENSE: Nice defense by Cash and Jackson has the Storm clinging to a 70-69 lead with 4.8 seconds left in regulation. Carson stepped out-of-bounds underneath the basket to prevent the Liberty from getting a solid chance to steal the game. Seattle called a time out.
LIBERTY LEAD: Seattle is crumbling behind the Liberty’s young legs. The visitors are partying on the bench and have taken a 65-64 lead with 4:45 remaining after a McCarville jumper. New York went on a 7-3 run to pull ahead. Agler called a timeout.
DEJA VU?: New York is hitting and Kraayeveld is playing good defense on Jackson to help the Liberty pull within 59-55. A three-pointer by Kraayeveld made it 61-58 with 6:37 remaining and it seems the Storm could be headed for another overtime or loss after once leading this matchup by 12 points.
END OF THIRD: The Liberty have won the second and third quarters to inch within 55-49 entering the fourth quarter. Seattle is still shooting well (51.2 percent).
BLOCK THAT: Burse is getting some good minutes and has back-to-back blocks to help the Storm build a 43-33 lead. She’s getting extra play because of Little’s four personal fouls.
POST EFFECT: The Liberty is a young team, part of their problem. But Donovan could be a good long term addition. With talented post players like Kraayeveld, Vaughn and McCarville, she could work wonders like with Jackson. The Australian was naturally gifted and has had plenty of great coaches hone her, however. Not sure if the Liberty’s posts are on that level, but we’ll see…
CASH PAID: A jumper by Cash put the Storm back up 37-27 with 9.3 seconds left in the second quarter. Scratch that Kraayeveld made a three-pointer to make the score 37-30 at the break. Jackson is Seattle’s leading scorer with 13 points and five rebounds. The Liberty is pretty even. Carson and McCarville lead with six and the New York bench is outscoring Seattle 12-8.
LIBERTY RUN: New York is on a 9-2 run to pull within 28-23 of the Storm’s lead. The team is shooting better, but really Seattle has had some costly turnovers and fouls called against them.
SAY WHAT?: Here’s a play you haven’t seen outside of practice. (And even that was a long, long time ago). Batkovic-Brown dished off to Burse in transition for a layin with 9:26 remaining in the second quarter to make the score 26-14. Then Agler pulled Burse. This is a move I question. Yes, Jackson is your best player. But if you’re getting good minutes from the other two and up, why toy with it just yet. Heaven knows Jackson could use a rest.
END OF FIRST: Seattle’s offense is moving well, getting seven assists on nine made field goals. Jackson is rocking, leading with 13 points. Bird is the only player that has seen minutes that hasn’t attempted a shot, but has two assists. The Storm leads 24-15 and is shooting 64.3 percent.
DYK: Just thought of this. All of the coaches in Storm history are currently coaching this very minute. With Donovan back, going against Agler, and Indiana coach Lin Dun (the original) coaching the Fever against the Mercury in Arizona tonight. Indiana is up 11 on Phoenix (27-16) in a matchup of the WNBA’s best teams.
AUSSIE FIRE: Jackson said she wished the team would “bloody win” after the LA loss and is taking matters into her own hands tonight. She’s getting crowded by the Liberty defense, but finding a way to hit turnaround jumpers and three-pointers to put the Storm up 10-3 with 5:03 remaining in the first quarter. The trey forced Donovan to call a timeout.
WARM OVATION: Donovan received a warm applause and ovation when introduced to the KeyArena crowd during player introductions.
New York coach Anne Donovan dished out hugs and high-fives as she made her way around KeyArena, returning for the first time as coach since leaving the Storm following the 2007 season.
Fans packed her favorite tomatoes but the arena switched to Pepsi products, so some concessions were made on the diet beverage. Otherwise Donovan is enjoying her comeback.
“It’s always great to come back to Seattle, a lot of fond memories here,” said Donovan, who meekly hoped fans remembered she was the coach that led the team to the 2004 championship.
Hometown products Catherine Kraayeveld (Kirkland) and Leilani Mitchell (Richland) are also making a return. Kraayeveld was offered a contract by Seattle, but New York countered the offer for the restricted free agent.
“The only bad part is that it’s barely 24 hours there,” Kraayeveld said. “But it’s good to play in front of friends and family.”
The Liberty snapped a five-game losing streak on Friday, defeating Sacramento 84-66. Donovan replaced good fried Pat Coyle on July 31 and has been on the road since, trying to turn New York’s fate around. Once a perennial playoff team, the Liberty are last in the Eastern Conference at 7-13.
“We’ve just been inconsistent from the beginning of the season,” Donovan said. “We had all of these returning players and expectations for the Liberty was high. We’ve just been very inconsistent throughout the course of a game, throughout the course of a week. Everybody realizes we have to be more consistent and we did that last night for the very first time in a long time — start to finish.”
Donovan doesn’t have any assistants, spending part of her pregame working out the post players. She has an edge in knowing the Storm roster very well, playing a part in two-time MVP Lauren Jackson’s development and coaching six of the players.
“She got me going in 2003, that was fun,” said Jackson of her first MVP trophy.
But the Storm is looking to get itself rolling as a unit. They’ve played three consecutive overtime matchups, losing the past two to Phoenix and Los Angeles. Minnesota, which trails Seattle in standings, won this weekend so a Seattle loss would put them in a tight race with the Lynx, (11-10) Sparks (7-11), and San Antonio (9-11) for the final three playoff spots.
Storm coach Brian Agler is relying heavily on the backcourt, but with G/F Katie Gearlds (knee) out, he still plans to move F Camille Little to the small forward position. She played well there in-game at the start of the season. Agler still says he’s going to play the posts, too, possibly even Australian Suzy Batkovic-Brown, who hasn’t had a practice since returning from illness due to Seattle’s schedule.
Well all of the players are calling this a must-win game. Let’s get to the competition.
Here are your starting lineups:
F Shameka Christon
F Tiffany jackson
C Janelle McCarville
G Loree Moore
G Essence Carson
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Clarke Stevens, Michael Price, and Shelley Nakasone.



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