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July 6, 2010 at 11:54 AM

Game thread: New York at Seattle

STORM WINS: The Storm can breath a little bit, knowing they set themselves up perfectly for the break. Seattle is 16-2 after sweeping New York 78-70 on Tuesday. Thank Cash, a timely three-pointer by Willingham, and some impressive post play by Little and Vesela. The latter had a season-high 10 points on 4 of 4 shooting from the field, nailing two three-pointers and grabbing three boards. Abby Bishop is joining Jackson, Cash, Bird, and Agler in Connecticut. Bishop is training with her national team while the remainder are participating in the WNBA-USA Basketball showcase. Jackson is questionable, however, due to her concussion. She may stay out of Aussie training, too. That works because she said she’s thinking about this Storm season, not the World Championships and she wants the title. Seattle is 18-22 all-time without her during the regular season, but has dropped the past two postseason series without the two-time MVP. Willingham is a championship starter, finishing with 13 points and eight boards against the Liberty, yet it was tough pulling it out. It’s still a grind with Jackson, but if she can keep from being hacked, the play is much more fluid. “I’m thrilled that we’re sitting where we are, but in the second half of the season, a lot can change,” said Bird, who scored 11 of her final 16 points in the fourth quarter. “Taking a week off is not always the best thing. We definitely have to come back focused and ready to go.” The players not participating in the “Stars at the Sun” are going their separate ways, but will practice on Sunday together. The entire team will hold a session on Monday, then travel to Phoenix to pick-up the final stretch of the season – a three-game stint on the road. Agler wants to get rookie Alison Lacey shooting her signature three-pointers, acclimate Vesela into the rotation more, and continue developing Robinson. But he left the training aspect to the players until Sunday. “It’s time for some of them to get refreshed and some of them need to keep working at it,” said Agler of his final speech to the team on Tuesday. “But it’s an interesting point in the season. We feel real good about where we’re at, but we want to come back trying to finish this thing off.”
CLOSING IN: The Liberty haven’t scored a FG since a three-pointer by Mitchell with 6:18 on the clock. Cash’s defense and some sprinkled scoring by Bird has built Seattle’s biggest lead at 76-66 with 45.7 remaining in the game. Looks like the Storm will win its 10th home game and seventh consecutive.
CASHING IN: Well, the Storm found someone to rebound — Cash. She’s had five huge boards in the fourth quarter to keep the Liberty from regaining the lead. Add a three-pointer by Willingham with 2:33 remaining and the Storm is up 70-65 with 2:16 on the clock. Cash leads Seattle with 17 points and nine3 rebounds overall.
END OF THIRD: Vesela has a season-high 10 points, making some big plays in the third to help keep the Storm in the game. But a turnover by Wright and her late decision to shoot at the buzzer have the Storm down 58-54. Rebounding is still key. Seattle needs to play stronger in the paint in order to pull this game out.
LIKE BOARDS?: Rebounds are nice. They prevent the opponent from scoring and give you more chances if you miss on the first try. New York understands that. They sustained a 16-5 run by Seattle, holding New York without a FG for 5:44. But the Liberty started getting rebounds and the hustle has them back up 48-45 with 5:24 left in the third quarter. Agler called time to discuss.
HOLLY RUN: The Storm bolted out of the locker room after the break, crashing the boards and connecting on shots to stitch together an 8-1 run to go up 45-42 with 6:50 on the clock. The last time New York scored a FG was the 2-minute mark in the opening half.
BREAKING NEWS: Jackson was named Player of the Week on Tuesday. It’s the 18th time in her 10-year career to be honored by the WNBA. Seattle is down 41-37 at halftime. Vesela help with a small run, nailing a three-pointer. She has six points off the bench while Cask leads with 10. Pondexter has 12 points for her team, which is outscoring the Storm 13-6 in second-chance shots. The Liberty has also forced 10 turnovers, getting 13 points from the miscues.
OLD SCHOOL: McWilliams-Franklin, the oldest player in the WNBA at 39, is having a breezy night in the paint against the Storm’s frontline. Back-to-back turnaround layins have the Liberty up 33-23 after Cash and Wright worked to chop the lead to single digits. There’s 4:38 left in the opening half.
TECH CITY: Agler received his third technical foul of the season, appearing to want a foul call on a play regarding Bird. Mitchell missed the ensuing FT, so perhaps Agler’s point is justified. Bird is running a better offense with Vesela and Abrosimova joining Little and Willingham on the court. Storm down 27-18 with 7:29 on the clock.
DIFFERENT LOOK: The Liberty used a 11-2 run to help build a 23-13 lead with 1:32 remaining in the opening quarter. The Storm is usually on the other side of a 10-point deficit. The team isn’t crisp, however, so after this Agler-imposed timeout, hopefully the play gets better. New York is shooting 52.9 percent from the field.
SILKY: Pondexter nailed a three-pointer, the team’s third of four attempts, to keep the Liberty ahead. But C Ashley Robinson responded with a nice hook shot that always goes in at practice, finally finding its way in during a game. Seattle down 19-11 with 3:06 left in the first.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Somebody on Twitter just got their B-Day wish from Cash, who hit a three-pointer to put the Storm on the board with 7:35 remaining in the opening half. The All-Star has both of Seattle’s buckets as the team figures out getting the ball around without Jackson. New York is up 9-5 with 6:04 on the clock.
Well, here we go into another WNBA midseason break with questions rising about Storm star Lauren Jackson. She’ll miss the matinee against New York as a precautionary measure due to suffering a concussion in a win against Los Angeles on Saturday.
Jackson, who averages a team-leading 21.4 points, continued to play. But afterward she said she began to feel the symptoms of a concussion building, suffering one once when a teenager.
Storm reserve Le’coe Willingam is replacing Jackson in the lineup, but stated the goals are the same against New York. Then playing the second of a back-to-back set, the Storm defeated the Liberty on the road in June due to the play of PG Sue Bird and rebounding.
“We need to control the boards, that’s the most important thing,” Willingham said. “The last time we played we looked like our legs were stuck in mud a little bit and I don’t think our defense was as active as we wanted it to be. Our focus is rebounding the ball better and our defense up-starting us more – we can get a lot of energy from our defense.”
Storm coach Brian Agler also spoke of getting F Jana Vesela more minutes on Tuesday. Yet, the native of Czech Republic normally plays behind All-Star Swin Cash or with Cash when the latter is posting up inside. New York doesn’t have the biggest frontline, but Agler will have to be timely when he runs the small lineup against the Liberty.
The Storm (15-2) is the only WNBA team left not to lose at home and is on a six-game win streak. We’ll see if both remain without Jackson offering her normal guarantee.
Let’s get it started with your starting lineups:
F Janell McCarville
F Nicole Powell
C Taj McWillimas-Franklin
G Leilani Mitchell
G Cappie Pondexter
F Swin Cash
F Le’coe Willingham
C Camiile Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Michael Price, May Forsberg, and Marcus Clayton.



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