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Women's Hoops

The latest news and analysis on college and pro women's basketball.

May 16, 2010 at 5:51 PM

Game thread: Storm home opener vs. Los Angeles

STORM WINS: Agler called the defense Jackson played on Parker as unbelievable. And it was in the 81-67 win before a lower-bowl sell out of 9,686. Jackson had a game-high 23 points with 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals while helping to hold Parker to 4 of 11 shooting for 10 points and 11 boards with five turnovers. Jackson’s only blooper was playing Parker too aggressively once, getting a foul when Cash already had a wicked block on the LA stars’ baseline layin in the second half. “It bothered me,” Cash said with only a hint of playfulness at her ESPN-worthy highlight being squandered. “From what I heard on Twitter, people and fans said it was a good block.” There are still some overall kinks that have to be worked out on Seattle’s side — like only having nine assists with 11 turnovers. It’s a number Agler said he wants flipped, obviously. Bird was 1-for-4 from the FT line and the newcomers need to get adjusted. Luckily it’s just a matter of getting more time together to practice before putting on the big show. Seattle won’t see that kind of time until June when the team has four days between playing Phoenix and Los Angeles the week of June 6. Agler said fans will see the team improve and newcomers Abby Bishop and Jana Vesela get more minutes because they understand their roles. Neither played on Sunday. A-Rob did, helping Seattle outscore LA by 10 points when on the court. The Storm has defeated the Sparks in six consecutive regular-season openers. Next up? Off day on Monday and Minnesota on Wednesday.
BREAKTHROUGH?: The Storm offense has caught up to its defense, going on a 13-4 run to build a 72-64 lead with 3:43 remaining in the game. The spurt started with officials crediting Bird with a three-pointer from an earlier play. She hit another with five minutes remaining and Wright had the sweetest turnaround fake jumper ever.
END OF THIRD: Well, Seattle responded from LA’s run to build its own 9-2 spurt. The game has been tight since, with the help with faulty officiating. LA up 58-57 headed into the fourth quarter.
NOT EUROPE: Parker has been called for traveling twice while being guarded by Jackson. Posting up inside, Parker was looking for an angle to the hoop and Jackson, a former Defensive Player of the Year, wouldn’t give it to her. Seattle up 52-47. Parker played in Russia, winning the SuperLeague title with Abrosimova in April. Over there, those steps may have worked.
TIME: Agler had to call a timeout after LA ran over his team to open the third quarter. LA is on a 9-0 run with gimp Penicheiro scoring on the prized defense. Seattle has yet to click on offense. The Sparks didn’t make many adjustments, just are connecting after shooting 34.6 percent from the field in the opening half. LA up 45-43 with 6:08 remaining.
ROBBING FOLKS: A-Rob said she wanted to show she earned her spot fair and square, doing so in the second quarter. Foul trouble forced her on the court and she grabbed a rebound for a put back to keep the Storm rolling. The rowdy KeyArena crowd gave her a huge cheer. Wright added to the mania, driving the lane while being fouled for a bucket. Seattle is up 37-34 with 1:43 remaining in the half.
STORM-TV: Heard there were some glitches to KONG’s debut. Anyone have stories to share? Maybe they want to drive you batty to force you to buy a ticket and attend the game. And for the computer folks, Live Access wasn’t working before the game. It’s being worked on for the next outing against Minnesota.
AND WE’RE BACK: Cash hustled down court after getting a steal to connect on a fast break layin. She was fouled by Quinn. The play capped an 11-3 run to give Seattle a brief 24-23 lead. The offense is clicking, with everyone contributing, and Jackson’s defense on Parker has kept the phenom scoreless. There’s 7:06 left in the second quarter and the Storm is back up 26-25.
END OF FIRST: Things got ugly quick, not a good way to debut the new television deal. Heck, the season. Seattle is shooting 21.7 percent after one quarter of play. Little is 0 for 4 and Jackson is 2-for-5. LA isn’t much better, shooting 33.3 percent from the field. But they lead 15-13 behind eight points from Milton-Jones.
NUMBER CHANGE: Lack of space in the Sunday paper cut the story about Willingham’s jersey number. As you may know, Ashley Robinson kept her No. 43 and Willingham had to switch to No, 34. Willingham said, “It’s tough, but it’s a new beginning,” in regards to the change. She picked the number by chance in AAU ball because the jersey fit. Then her father told her to take a closer look at his old football pictures – it was his number. It stuck from high school on, but not in Seattle. A-Rob is in the game because of two quick fouls to Willingham. Storm down 15-13 with 1:10 remaining in the first quarter.
WHOA!: Alert! Bird missed her first two free throws. Milton-Jones nails a three-pointer and Sparks are up 12-11 with 3:10 remaining in the opening quarter.
SUBS IN: Agler has made his firs substitutions, putting Willingham and Abrosimova in the game. Storm is up 9-6 with Jackson scoring the first bucket to lead with four. There’s 5:09 on the clock in the opening quarter.
PICK ME UP?: First-year LA coach Jennifer Gillom said she was excited about the addition of G Kristi Toliver via trade from Chicago, she just hopes the player’s confidence is restored while with LA. Toliver wasn’t valued with the Sky, but tore up KeyArena in her debut last year, playing 27 minutes and nailing six three-pointers. Yet, the introductions this season won’t help. She followed former Seattle star Betty Lennox and the crowd was cheering so long and loud for their 2004 Finals MVP that you couldn’t hear Toliver’s name.
SPOTTED: OK, the notables are rolling out like its 2000 and the inaugural season debut. NBA legend Bill Russell is here along with Sen. Patty Murray, who brought her hubby along. Clarence Lennox, Betty’s older brother is here, with his wife and decked out in full-on gold. (not the tacky yellow Tulsa coach Nolan Richardson wore on Saturday. Sorry, I’m still not over that). Seattle U. coach Joan Bonvicini and her assistants are in the house and Force 10 Hoops, the Storm’s ownership group. Sonics legend Slick Watts showed at halftime, participating in a celebrity gold tournament in Tacoma early today. He said he’s heard of people still working on an arena deal to land another NBA franchise, including Sonics legend Fred Brown. “I surrendered,” Watts said.
Rock is blaring from the KeyArena speakers and the teams are warming up on the court. The Storm is pretty low-key, the starters having gone through at least three of these nights as a unit together.
Los Angeles either has the edge having got the kinks out in a one-point loss to Phoenix on Saturday as their season opener – not to mention an attitude boost since it was a tough way to lose after dominating the entire game. Or the Sparks are tired from starting the season with a road back-to-back, arriving in Seattle on Saturday night.
The Sparks, which lost in the 2009 Western Conference Finals to the eventual champion Mercury, already suffered one casualty in veteran pickup Ticha Penicheiro from the disbanded Sacramento roster. She said both Achilles tendons are hurt, suffered in the opening exhibition game, but the left is the real bugger – re-aggravated in the Phoenix loss. Penicheiro wants to give the team at least 10 minutes to help in the PG role. Rookie Andrea Riley is the only true PG backup, “I’d like to show her the ropes a little more,” Penicheiro said.
Storm coach Brian Agler was impressed with the additions LA made to compensate for the loss of Lisa Leslie (retired), but he said his team is going to focus on itself for at least a week because the final unit just came together Monday with international players Jana Vesela and Svetlana Abrosimova arriving from overseas play.
“Opening night creates its own distractions and you don’t just focus on your opponent because you’ve got things that are different,” Agler said. “I have a lot confidence in our defense, but that doesn’t mean we won’t tweak things along the way.”
The main issue for the Storm in 2009 was lack of consistent bench play and health. Because posts Janelle Burse (rest) and Suzy Batkovic-Brown (family) opted not to return, Agler was able to immediately switch things up with Abrosimova, an eight-year veteran, and Le’coe Willingham, who won a title with Phoenix last summer.
He said he’s going to have to be mindful of playing the bench, a move he was leery to do in 2009. But everyone knows the Storm needs to preserve themselves early to be healthy and give itself a chance come the postseason.
Of course, that’s if the team reaches the playoffs. Sure, there’s only six teams in the realigned West, but it’ll be brutal. Seattle already has to play LA and Phoenix five times.
It all starts tonight and it appears the near sell out crowd is ready. So, here’s your 2010 opening day starting lineup:
SPARKS
F Tina Thompson
F DeLisha Milton-Jones
C Candace Parker
G Ticha Penicheiro
G Noelle Quinn
STORM
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Kurt Walker, Scott Twardoski, and Penny Davis.

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