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June 6, 2010 at 5:55 PM

Game thread: Phoenix at Seattle

OFF DAY!: The 97-74 win was the Storm’s best showing this season, giving the team its best combined start after nine games since 2004. And when trying to find the trigger, Agler offered this nugget — he promised the team two days off if they won. That kind of stretch without an All-Star game as the reason is almost unheard of, especially among Seattle coaches. Seattle left no doubt they were the superior team on Sunday, shooting 48 percent from the field and handing out 26 assists. Bird led with 11 to complement her 12 rebounds. Phoenix was awful offensively, Taylor missing all four of her attempts and finishing with two points while Taurasi had 11 on 3 for 11 shooting. Seattle led by as many as 41 and my favorite stat is that the bench had the opportunity to play the fourth quarter with Wright, Vesela going off for a season-high eight points with four rebounds and two blocks. “I was really happy for her,” Agler said. “She did today what I’ve been seeing the last two winters over in Europe watching her play. I think she can really help us.” C Janell Burse would have been solid, too, but Vesela and Co. make the strongest bench the Storm has ever had collectively. At times, Abrosimova makes you feel like the Storm is cheating, having such a talent play off the bench. “We don’t lose anything at all,” said Jackson of when the reserves enter the game. “There are a lot of smart and veteran players. It’s good their confidence is up so they can come in and play better.” Little feels the Storm still can play better. That’s bad news for LA, who’s up next at KeyArena on Friday.
STARTERS OUT: Uh, yeah, the All-Stars for both teams are on the bench as Seattle is up 89-53 with 8:26 left in the game. That reminds me, have you voted for your Storm All-Stars. I can think of five who should go.
SCORE IT: Reserve Jana Vesela caught an in-bound pass from Svetlana Abrosimova and scored with 0.5 seconds remaining to give Seattle a 87-48 lead at the end of the third quarter. The Storm outscored the Mercury 37-13 in the quarter.
SCARY MOMENT: The Storm is putting on a show, up 72-45 with 4:43 remaining in the third quarter. But Johnson suffered a right ankle injury, walking gingerly to the bench. She has her foot up as the team trainer tends to her.
DIFFERENT PAGES?: It appeared like Taurasi and Johnson had a disagreement with Phoenix coach Corey Gaines about the defensive strategy at the end of the opening half. Especially since Bird took a couple dribbles and drilled a jumper in Taurasi’s face, capping a 10-0 Storm run. Phoenix was lagged back as eight seconds ticked off the clock. Bird nailed her shot shortly before the buzzer, which ticked Taurasi off. Both players had words with Gaines on the sideline and he stayed behind as the team went into the locker room to talk with his assistants. Phoenix is down 50-35 at the break, giving up 10 offensive rebounds. Cash leads Seattle with 11 points and three boards. Willingham has six against her former team. Johnson leads the Mercury with nine points while Bonner has six off the bench.
REBOUNDING CASH: With her last board, Cash collected her 1,500th career rebound. The Storm showed the achievement on the jumbo screen and there was a light applause as some read the caption. Seattle’s up 40-33 with 1:39 remaining in the quarter.
COOL STAT: Anybody take a look at Sunday’s photo of the Storm in The Seattle Times? It’s a picture perfect depiction of working for the Storm and its fast start. All five players are around the hoop as Sparks star Tina Thompson takes a shot. On Sunday, in the opening quarter, all eight players who saw action had at least one board to help the Storm outrebound the Mercury 14-6. Currently Seattle is up 36-28 with 3:29 remaining in the half.
YAY DIANA!: KeyArena still has no love for Taurasi. Don’t know if it started when she spit on the court or the DUI or shoving around the beloved Jackson. But Taurasi was called for two fouls in the second quarter and the crowd cheered like it was a Storm basket. Seattle has the reserves in, so the offense is a little slow, but the Storm is up 33-26 with 5:43 remaining in the second quarter.
WHAT JETLAG?: The Storm used a 8-0 run to build an early 14-6 run. Bird and Cash played well off each other, the PG spotting Cash inside for a spinning layin while Cash grabbed a steal and beamed a baseball pass down court to Bird for an open layin with 5:30 remaining in the opening quarter.
TUNED IN?: The Storm is back on television Sunday and a few said the broadcast should be better, but will still have some kinks. KING-TV moved from a converted suite to a hallway spot in between the two locker rooms. The location should help lower the sound level among the crew so they can hear each other when calling which camera to pick up and cuing commercials. As for NBATV, the LA game was blacked out, I was told, because of a contractual obligation with FSN. For LiveAccess, if your feed is bad, upgrade your computer and equipment. Seriously. those who have — and there are plenty — don’t have any problems.
IN ACTION: Bird and rookie Alison Lacey are dressed and ready to play against Phoenix. Bird felt her kneecap slip in a a fourth-quarter collision against Los Angeles on Saturday and was slightly concerned about swelling or aftereffects, but said Sunday that she’s fine. Lacey suffered from flu-like symptoms last week, missing the trip to LA. She walked slowly out of the locker room, stating she’s getting better. “Sometimes these rookies, it’s either hitting the wall or they’ve gone for so long straight,” Agler said, generalizing the newcomers. “It just kind of (catches) up with them.” NOTE: Lacey felt ill, again, shortly before tip-off and did not play.
LEGEND RECOGNIZED: The Storm displayed a photo of legendary coach John Wooden on its jumbo screen and held a moment of silence prior to the national anthem on Sunday. Wooden, a fan of the WNBA because of its purity to the game, died on Friday at the age of 99.
Storm F Le’coe Willingham’s son Derrick is shooting hoops and he appears to be the most energetic of Seattle’s camp. Coach Brian Agler opted to take a later — as in 8-ish — flight out of Los Angeles after the outdoor game ended at 10 p.m. on Saturday.
The thinking was it’s best to sleep and deal with the rest later. “The rest” being a rested Phoenix, which rolled into Seattle on Saturday to prepare for Sunday’s rematch at KeyArena. The Mercury, off to a rocky 3-3 start after winning the WNBA championship in 2009, defeated the Sparks at home on Friday. They’ll travel to LA to play the Sparks on Tuesday and the Sparks travel to Seattle to play the Storm on Friday.
It’s a wild triangle stretch of games between the teams. And while the Sparks are 1-6 and the Storm is 7-1, Agler is confident about the future of the trio.
“It’s hard to say what’s going to happen…but if I had to guess, I would say these two teams that we played over the weekend are going to be playoff teams,” Agler said. “(Phoenix’s) an improved team since the last time we played them. They turned the ball over quiet a bit the last time we played them (24), which is typically not how they like to play. (C DeWanna) Bonner is more of a focal point for them in their offense. Even though she doesn’t start, she’s sort of a go-to player when she comes into the games. So, we’ll have to put some emphasis there. But they’re still trying to do the same thing. It’ll be a challenge.”
Seattle plays LA and Phoenix five times this season due to the WNBA contracting to 12 teams, so wins early gives the Storm an edge before teams typically settle in by July.
But, as PG Sue Bird notes repeatedly, as fast start can easily fizz out. And a slow start can easily catch fire. Bird is simply trying to keep pace with her teammates.
So, here are your starting lineups:
F Penny Taylor
F Candice DuPree
C Brooke Smith
G Temeka Johnson
G Diana Taurasi
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Cameron Inouye, Scott Twardski, and Branda Pantoja.



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