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June 27, 2010 at 12:29 PM

Game thread: Seattle at Tulsa

STORM WINS: Bird is already boarding a flight back to Seattle. She’s in a lot of pain, but has a doctor’s appointment on Monday to examine her lower back. Bird said after the 83-72 win that she has a bulging disk discovered in Russia. She thought it was under control, but Agler said that her knee injury might have caused her to compensate, thus triggering the back spasm. “It happened during warm-ups. It might even be herniated,” Bird said. “I was trying really hard to stretch it, warm up, went to the trainer, try, try try, the minute we started I knew I couldn’t go.” The injury isn’t from an incident, according to Bird, just that she’s susceptible to them and it flared. The Storm played impressively without her, however. Tulsa isn’t overly talented, so I wouldn’t say Seattle could win a WNBA title without Bird. But the way Seattle made adjustments and Adrosimova handled the ball with Wright was impressive. Vesela was the star of the game, however. She made a risky move collecting the steal and the layup opened everyone’s eyes that a win was possible. Seattle shot 53.1 percent in the second half and had nine of its final 25 turnovers. Abrosimova scored 19 of her final 21 points, including 5 of 7 from three-point range. “Those three-pointers were clutch,” Bird said. Robinson led the Shock with 16 points. Tulsa’s losing streak extends to eight games — longest in the WNBA this season. Seattle improves to 13-2.
BREAKTHROUGH: The Storm continued to fight, tying the score at 66 points apiece and holding the Shock scoreless for four minutes in building a 82-68 lead with 51 seconds left in the game. Abrosimova has embodied Bird, hitting three three-pointers in the fourth quarter for a season-high 21 points. If Seattle wins, Agler will be the coach of the WNBA team at the “Stars at the Sun” All-Star game on July 10.
FRIENDS AGAIN: Wright dished to Abrosimova and the latter made a three-pointer to pull Seattle within 60-55 with 30.6 remaining in the third quarter. But Braxton is back on the court.
HALFTIME: Raggedy doesn’t even describe the opening half. Bird’s absence hurts the Storm’s flow, but it still would have been wild play as the Shock just fly around, creating havoc in trying to frustrate opponents and find shots. Without solid ball-handling and good chemistry — Abrosimova didn’t appear to like something Wright said to her at one point — it’s easy to slip into the Shock’s trap. Tulsa forced 16 turnovers, converting them into 17 points, only giving up four points on their own 10 miscues. Seattle is shooting 33.3 percent and the bench is getting outscored 16-7. Jones provided the capper, nailing a layup off at the buzzer off a turnover to close with a 40-30 lead. Jackson has 11 points and three rebounds.
GETTING DIRTY: This is a violent crowd and Braxton is playing like the old Detroit “Bad Girl.” She hit a turnaround on Jackson and her team is on a 12-2 run to build a 37-28 lead with 37.8 seconds remaining before halftime.
BIRD OUT: Bird will not return, diagnosed with lower back pain. She’ll be re-evaluated on Monday.
WRIGHT STUFF: Have to say, this is Wright’s type of basketball. It’s gritty defense and playground offense — elements she honed in college at Penn State and growing up out East. She’s getting the Storm going with two beautiful fast-break assists to Little and reserve Jana Vesela. Wright had another steal, but missed the ensuing layup. Seattle leads 26-22 with 5:06 remaining in the first half.
INJURY UPDATE: Bird is in the locker room getting evaluated, playing two minutes and suffering an apparent back injury. Prior to the game, she was wearing a contraption around her back, stating it was just something to warm her up. Another update is expected shortly.
END OF FIRST: This is ugly basketball and I’m stunned the Storm only trails 19-18 at the end of the first quarter. Seattle is shooting 37.5 percent from the field and committed seven turnovers. Seattle is getting outscored 12-4 in the paint as Tulsa shoots 42.1 percent from the field. Robinson leads with 10 points while Jackson has seven for her team.
DARING: Marion Jones checked in the game with 3:51 on the clock and her first play was a fast-break layin with Jackson defending. The Aussie wasn’t in position to block the 34-year-old rookie, but a fan behind me utter, “Say what?” as the shot bricked high off the glass. Seattle is down 16-15 with 2:20 left in the first.
BIRD DONE?: Bird appears to be done for the night, putting on her shooting shirt and releasing a pissed off sigh on the bench. Things could change at the break, she did stand during a timeout, but the Storm is managing with Abrosimova and Wright sharing PG duties. Tulsa leads 10-9 with 4:42 remaining in the opening quarter.
BIRD OUT: Bird is on the bench, replaced by Svetlana Abrosimova, she appears to be in pain, wincing and explaining what happened to her back on a offensive move when she was covered well by Tulsa. Seattle down 6-4 with 7:11 remaining.
TIME: The Shock is starting strong and the Storm has already been forced into a turnover and a bad shot. Tulsa leads 4-0 with 8:13 remaining in the opening quarter.
NOW LET US PRAY: The lights cut off and a spotlight shone at centercourt, but instead of singing the national anthem, the woman gave an invocation, asking everyone to bow their heads in prayer. I’m Catholic, so the demand to recognize God on Sunday isn’t a problem, but had to wonder about everyone else in the building who was asked to thank God whether on the court or behind the scenes. It ended with a loud “Amen,” so obviously plenty were on board. Cash was reading a book of prayers prior to the game, after all. The Shock held a Faith Night on June 4. Minnesota and San Antonio have had religious functions after games to link with the community’s beliefs.
I’M FINE: Bird wasn’t liking her knee after the game on Friday, but was going her normal workout routine prior to Sunday’s matchup. She said she’s fine and really didn’t want to discuss the injury. Her play will do all the talking.
Vacant downtown streets are only filling up with people headed to the BOK Center for the Sunday’s game. Tried to do some mingling among the natives in the stifling heat and a lot of randomly selected do know about the new Shock.
Tulsa is a town of about 400,000 people, many who remember coach Nolan Richardson from his days leading the university’s men’s team. The women are struggling and most give a sigh when talking about them, “they’ll get it turned around” is the closer.
“It’s going to be an element of surprise,” said Storm F Swin Cash of facing the Shock. She played with the Detroit version of the team, winning two championships. “I played with Kara Braxton and she’s always right there on the edge of being able to dominate. It’s really up to her taking that initiative on a day-to-day basis. And Amber Holt, the style she plays in moving around and being very active, you never know. When you have a team like that and everyone feels there’s not a star, anyone on any night could step up.”
In exhibition play, the Shock forced the Storm into 30 turnovers in a 10-point win. “We were reminded of that,” Storm PG Sue Bird said. Yet, both rosters are vastly different from that May game. The Shock is the worst at 3-10, ridding a seven-game losing streak .Seattle is the top team in the WNBA at 12-2, but had an hour to prepare for the game due to all-day travel on Saturday.
Half the team, including the starters and coach Brian Agler, arrived at 11:30 p.m. due to missed connections and other mishaps.
“They seem to be refreshed and ready to go,” said Agler of this morning’s meeting at the hotel before departing for the game. “There were storms in Denver, so we had to circle for a while, then we had to re-fuel in Colorado Springs, then we flew back to Denver and then we missed our connection. Lauren (Jackson) wasn’t feeling very good on the way in and we had some bad turbulence, so Le’coe (Willingham) and Lauren were not dealing with it very well.”
Jackson and Cash, who’s already suffering from a sinus infection, said they’re fine while Willingham said her issues are with flying in general.
“I’m just very afraid and the older I get, the worse I get,” she said. “Leaving out of Denver it was so bumpy and shaky and turning and dropping — I started crying. I’m just a baby when it comes to flying, but once we land, the smile is back on my face.”
Another flight awaits Monday, but first the game against the Shock. Let’s kick this off with your starting lineups:
STORM
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
SHOCK
F Scholanda Robinson
F Tiffany Jackson
C Chante Black
G Kiesha Brown
G Amber Holt
Tonight’s officials are Daryl Humphrey, Felicia Grinter, and Tom Mauer.

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