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July 3, 2010 at 2:00 PM

Game thread: Seattle at Los Angeles

STORM WINS: I’m not sure what to think. Not about the Storm’s 75-62 win. It’s Seattle’s sixth consecutive victory and the Sparks would have won if they continued to pressure the Storm inside. In the second half, Toliver and Wisdom-Hylton helped complement Thompson, Toliver finishing with 18 points and Wisdom-Hylton getting 10 boards. But Cash simply worked her way in the paint, hitting layins as Bird and Wright hit three-pointers to assure the Storm (15-2) another win. What’s confusing is Milton-Jones. Jackson, who was diagnosed with a concussion after the game due to the first-quarter hit, called her a “thug.” Milton-Jones was oblivious to there even being a whack; just that she turned around and there was Jackson bent over bleeding. I thought I was going crazy, I wanted to go all Jill Zarin: “Let’s go to the tape!” Milton-Jones feels unfairly pegged by teams and officials while teams and fans continue to see her as a villain. It’s difficult to really go that route because she really turns on the southern charm postgame, but I see elbows, too. I see them from Jackson, too, but not as much this season. So, which is it? “I can’t be the nice, caring, serviceman person out there on the court, I’d be demolish,” said Milton-Jones, who had five fouls to Jackson’s one. “Can you imagine if I was that nice girl and playing against Lauren Jackson? No, I have to step up to the plate and have an amour around me the same way that she does. I have to match her intensity or supersede it. We are undersized and that’s not an issue. The issue is us taking advantage of what we have. Over the course of the games that we’ve played, we really haven’t been getting the ball inside. We need to put the pressure on the other team and see what they’re going to do.” The Sparks (4-12) did outrebound Seattle 36-31, but Jackson (20 points) said she didn’t remember the game after the first quarter. She’ll be re-evaluated when the Storm returns to Seattle and no one has to worry about a rematch until Aug. 21 in Seattle.
BOXOUT?: Sparks GM Penny Toler is giving a mouth full behind me on press row. The organization understands the team’s situation, but some things are basic — like boxing out. At least that’s Toler is calling for. Trade deadline is July 25, wonder if she’ll make some big moves. Seattle up 72-59 with 2:53 remaining in the game. That’s a 12-2 Seattle run to make it embarrassing, again.
TIMELY: Wright was beat on a drive by Wisdom-Hylton that put LA within 60-57, but Bird and Wright connected on three-pointers in the ensuing offensive possessions to keep Seattle ahead. LA is making it entertaining, but Seattle is not letting go of control no matter how bad its defense struggles this afternoon.
IT’S ALIVE: There are people in Staples Center. Sparks pulled within 54-51 after a three-pointer by Toliver and jumper by Wisdom-Hylton. Then forced a turnover and the nose in the building is no longer forced. LA came back against the Storm in the outdoor game, but Seattle buckled down on defense and pulled out the win. We’ll see if the Storm can repeat. There’s 2:35 remaining in the third quarter. Oh, and Jackson received a tech for spouting off after milton-Jones fouled her. The latter is on the bench with four personal fouls.
BIRD NOT BACK: Bird looks like her normal self, but isn’t 100 percent back from suffering from back spasms this week. She has six assists, but is 1 of 5 from three-point range. No worries, back-to-back three-pointers by Cash to nullify Milton-Jones’ shooting has Seattle up 54-42 with 5:01 remaining in the third quarter.
CLOSER: LA drew Seattle into an expired shot clock and Penicheiro teamed with Milton-Jones for a 6-2 run to pull within 48-39 with 7:22 remaining in the third quarter.
MINI RUN: If it weren’t for a Jackson block and three-pointer by Svetlana Abrosimova, the Sparks might be within more than 10-points of Seattle’s lead. LA stitched together a couple a FTs and a rebound putback and three-pointer to make it slightly interesting, trailing 43-33 at the break. Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton, Kristi Toliver, and Thompson did most of the work. LA is still shooting 27.3 percent from the field and getting outscored 16-6 inside the paint. A lot is running through Thompson with Parker out, but with the Sparks taking breaks on rebounding and defense, it’s not clicking as desired. Thompson also isn’t the shooter she once was, going 2 of 10 from the field for eight points and five boards in the opening half. Jackson leads all scorers with 15 and five boards while teammate Le’coe Willingham has five off the bench. Bird has six assists.
DOMINATING: Storm is shooting 61.9 percent with Jackson going 5 of 5 from the field for 13 points. That’s with Milton-Jones’s “defense,” which has led to three fouls and one bloody nose. LA is shooting 25 percent from the field.
IT’S ON: Jackson is trying not to have individual battles now that Lisa Leslie is gone, but D-Nasty is working up a lather. Jackson got a good block as the two bumped and swatted each other, but Wright was tagged for a foul on Milton-Jones, trying to clear space for Jackson on a screen. Seattle up 32-18 with 5:58 remaining in the opening half.
BLOODY AGAIN: Last time it was Thompson blooding Jackson’s nose. Saturday contact with Milton-Jones has Jackson on the bench tending to a bloody nose. They slapped at each other after the initial hit, but play resumed at other end. No foul was called, just on Bird, who fouled intentionally to stop action so Jackson could gather herself. Storm up 27-16 at end of second quarter.
STRANGE SOUND: I hear Storm fans cheering in Staples Center.
CHECK THAT: ESPN2 has picked up the game. Apparently MLL is like NFL in whoever scores first, wins. Learned something today. Seattle up 23-11 with 2:53 remaining in opening quarter.
STARTED: Not that you’d know it by watching ESPN2, but the WNBA game between Seattle and LA has started. From the 55 seconds I watched of the MLL game, it’ll be halftime before basketball is aired. To bad for Seattle, Storm up 11-0 with 7:09 remaining in opening quarter.
WAITING: Lacrosse has 35 seconds remaining on ESPN2, so tip-off has been pushed back until three-minutes after the hour. Teams waiting on benches since intros and anthem are done.
If you haven’t been to Staples Center lately, it’s worth another trip. Los Angeles has finally put the last touches on a Seattle Center-esque mega plex complete with affordable and ritzy hotels, restaurants, movie theater, parking, and plenty of walking space.
If it weren’t a concrete jungle, it’d be an urban oasis.
Saturday, participants for the Sparks’ “Downtown Dribble” camp and characters dressed for a nearby Anime convention enjoyed the sights and sounds. With the team giving away Candace Parker bobbleheads, the afternoon should have a good draw despite the holiday weekend.
On the court, there’s amazingly still plenty of purpose despite the Storm holding an eight-game lead over the Western Conference and Los Angeles starting at 4-11 with injuries to All-Star Candace Parker and reserve Betty Lennox.
For Seattle, the Storm (14-2) wants to win every series and have overall homecourt advantage in the postseason, should Seattle make it that far. The team returns PG Sue Bird, who missed all but two minutes of the past two games due to lower back spasms.
“There’s three teams in the Eastern Conference who are sitting there with 13, 10 wins,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “We’re foolish if we decide to put anything in cruise control because that’s not what this is about. This is about us getting better right now and try to collect as many wins as possible.”
For LA, the upcoming two games are important to the Sparks heading into the All-Star break. Parker had shoulder surgery and Lennox is out at least six weeks due to a knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. This is really the fifth game without both and second with LA seemingly understanding how to win with the new formatted lineup.
The Sparks lost in the previous three meetings against the Storm, yet are 0.5-games from reaching the postseason. Playing Phoenix on Tuesday, LA could really move up in standings and make their recent four-game losing streak a distant memory.
That would ease the stress around coach Jennifer Gillom. Message boards claim the former WNBA standout can’t coach, but LA almost defeated Seattle in the outdoor game and if not for injuries, there may be more wins.
A lot will be known Saturday. It’s doubtful the Storm has its five-game win streak broken, but it’s still a rivalry game that historically has had more fireworks than, well, the Fourth of July.
“I look at them with the same seriousness as I did Game 1,” Bird said. “When things like that happen, teams really come together and people really step up. The last game, Tina (Thompson) had 24 (points) and 10 (rebounds). They’re starting to figure out what’s working for them. You get to a certain point in this league where things are going your way and you’re like, ‘Let’s just go out there and play!’ That can be a dangerous team.”
Let’s get it started with your starting lineups:
STORM
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
SPARKS
F Marie Ferdinand-Harris
F Tina Thompson
C DeLisha Milton-Jones
G Ticha Penicheiro
G Noelle Quinn
Tonight’s officials are Scott Twardoski, Denise Brooks, and Maj Forsberg.

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