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September 20, 2009 at 1:31 PM

Playoffs Game 3: Los Angeles at Seattle

STORM LOSE: Some players and fans are crying as the team gathers at half court for the final word to the crowd. It was a rough game and end of the season. Seattle lost its fifth straight first-round series 75-64 to L.A. Cash was incredible in the series, scoring 21 points with 10 rebounds tonight. But the second quarter killed the Storm. Cash helped close the gap to 10 points with a bucket with 1:04 left, but it was too much to overcome. CP3 led the Sparks with 22 points and eight boards. Leslie added 13 and eight. They go on to play the winner of the Phoenix-San Antonio series, which plays a Game 3 on Monday. The Storm will have exit interviews this week and prepare for overseas play.
A WRAP: Johnson scored a layin with 3:58 remaining to inch the Storm within 68-54. But the refs called her for a foul with 3:09 remaining, her sixth. That’s the way she finishes her career — fouling out in a playoff loss to LA. For some reason all I can think of is the scene from “Forget Paris,” where Billy Crystal’s character fouls out I think Kareem on his final night. Only that was funny. This is sad. Fans gave PeeWee a standing ovation as she slowly walked to the bench. Storm down 70-56 with 2:59 on the clock.
SEASON OVER?: Officiating has chilled a little. I think Katner made a call at the half and there aren’t many reserves to carry on the game if the refs kept going. Still, Seattle can’t make baskets consistently. Agler is surprisingly calm. He said he hasn’t been getting much rest, but it’s not unusual for a WNBA season. With Seattle down 60-40 headed into the final quarter, I think he’s headed to a second postseason loss. And this one isn’t because Seattle is without Jackson and Katie Gearlds, although depth would have helped with foul calling.
END OF HALF: CP3 was bent over in pain well after the final horn sounded, trainers checking on her knee and hip area. It seemed like she hurt her leg, but walked off under her own power. The Sparks have a dominate 41-25 lead. Owner Kathy Goodman said it would be over by the half and she’s right. Don’t bet against this woman, she’s normally right. Anyway, a 13-0 run where the Storm didn’t hit a single FG after the 7:45 mark of the second quarter is really the story. Numerous fouls were called — many bad — stopping any flow either team could build. Seattle is 6-for-30 from the field and lifeless. Not good for a playoff game. Sparks are dazzling, though. Just shooting a bit better (37.9 percent). The Storm is improved on limiting their offensive rebounds and their own turnovers. But, again, the free throw shooting makes it a moot point. Cash has 10 to lead Seattle while CP3 has 11 for LA.
EXTENDED TIME: This wonderful crew is trying to figure out the timeout situation, causing more of a delay than usual. Sparks up 34-21 with 3:19 remaining in half. Wonder what string of commercials ESPN2 is playing. Dee Katner where you at? Seattle penalized with “excessive timeout” technical. CP3 made shot and Storm is down 37-21. It’s an 11-0 LA run.
ROLE REVERSAL: L.A. now is getting tagged with fouls, drawing out this opening quarter. Thompson picked up her third to equalize the fact that Wright had three. Bird is also being aggressive and Seattle is down 20-13 at the end of the first. The Storm is shooting a paltry 17.6 percent, but the Sparks are that much better and have been limited to just two second-chance points.
SINKING SHIP: Seattle is going down quick. Quinn just hit a three-pointer off a steal and assist by Thompson and the LA advantage is 14-5 with 3:52 remaining in the opening quarter. The Storm doesn’t have any options and officiating is awful. In the games I’ve watched, Gulbeyan has always had it in for Wright and Brooks isn’t one of the WNBA’s best. You still have to play through that. We’ll see if Seattle can find a way to do so.
SPOTTED: Sonics legend Lenny Wilkens is seated courtside by Storm CEO Karen Bryant. Former Storm assistant coach Jenny Boucek, who was fired earlier this season by Sacramento, also is in attendance. “I never knew how liberating it was to cheer for your friends,” she said. WNBA legend Sherly Swoopes is also here, recieving another standing ovation from the Key when introduced.
WRIGHT GONE: Well, Seattle’s X-Factor is on the bench with three fouls. The fans don’t appreciate the call on Wright and replays supported their complaints. Seattle down 8-5 with 5:22 remaining.
ONE-DIMENSIONAL?: Cash made the Storm’s first bucket with 6:22 remaining in the opening quarter. Seattle is down 5-2, playing great defense. But the team is 1-of-8 from the field. LA 1-of-4. To help get something going, Agler put in Suzy Batkovic-Brown or, as one fan creatively put it, Downtown Aussie Brown.
MVP RETURN?: Storm PF Lauren Jackson said she’s thinking about returning if Seattle can get past the opening round. She’s out with two stress fractures in her lower back. She’s not concerned about people going after the injury, saying it doesn’t hurt then. “It’s mainly running and jumping,” Jackson said of when it hurts. It takes three months for stress fractures to typically heal and she’s almost been out a month.
IT’S HOT: Forgot to mention Clarence Lennox made a return to KeyArena to support his sister Betty, a former Storm star. But big bro is still tied to his Seattle allegiance. While he wore gold for Game 2, he and his wife decided to wear fuchsia today. It’s spectacular. Clarence Lennox took it a step further, too, donning the hot pink suit with a powder pink fedora, polka dot pink dress shirt and tie and powder pink leather shoes. I hope ESP2 gets a shot.
ADD ANOTHER: The official stat crew gave Wright another assist today, missing the call in the wild finish on Friday. Wright collected a steal tipped by Little and threw it down court to Little for the winning bucket. Now Wright has a double-double for Game 2, finishing with 15 points, a career-high 10 assists and six rebounds.
Found it funny that in an interview on Saturday, Los Angeles coach Michael Cooper said Seattle just rides its fans to victory. Hmm, isn’t that part of the game Mr. Showtime?
Press row thought it was more mind games, which Cooper is notorious for, can’t wait to see how it plays out on the college level when he takes over for USC. But he’s not planning on that being anytime soon. It’s Game 3 of the opening round series against the Storm and the Sparks are planning to boot the home team out of the postseason for the second consecutive year.
On the line are the impending retirements of Cooper (to coach USC), WNBA original Lisa Leslie, and Storm PG Shannon Johnson. LA native Tina Thompson said she’ll wait until well after the season to think about any plans. She has a three-year contract, but isn’t obligated to play.
Cooper altered his lineup, starting UCLA star Noelle Quinn in place of Australian Olympian Kristi Harrower. At 6-foot, the addition of Quinn gives LA a massive lineup that Seattle had its most trouble defending on Friday in Game 2’s miraculous win.
But the Storm is getting great play from Australian Olympian Suzy Batkovic-Brown and Swin Cash while G Tanisha Wright’s aggressive nature in driving the paint has paced the team. Storm coach Brian Agler isn’t altering his starting look, however. C Janell Burse will get the nod and hopefully she can stay out of foul trouble to pull the Storm over.
As well known, Seattle has lost four consecutive first-round series and is trying not to make it a fifth. In the WNBA overall, the home team is actually 27-10. So Coop, you may have to deal with it this afternoon at the Key.
Here are your starting lineups:
F Tina Thompson
F Candace Parker
C Lisa Leslie
G Noelle Quinn
G DeLisha Milton-Jones
F Swin Cash
F Camille Little
C Janell Burse
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Denise Brooks, Kurt Walker, and Roy Gulbeyan



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