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July 14, 2010 at 12:14 PM

Game thread: Seattle at Phoenix

STORM WINS: Taurasi can sell all she wants, the Storm found a different way to win — with a real three-pointer by Bird with 6.4 seconds remaining in the game. “All I said to the refs is to, ‘Look back,'” Cash said of the questionable call to end the second overtime. “The same way we watch film and say, ‘Oops, we made a mistake,’ hopefully they’ll look back and realize that obviously was a mistake as well. In a game like that, it’s (throwing up a shot just to get the call) nothing you should reward. But before I get fined, I’m just going to leave it alone.” Agler said he probably made the wrong call in yelling for his players to draw a foul. He doesn’t expect to play the possession the same in the future. “If we had it to do over again, we probably would have played it straight up,” He said. “Diana is extremely cagey. She knows what’s going on. She was waiting and baited Swin to come out and shot. It’s no one’s fault. We did in and had to deal with the consequences. We’re fortunate we won.” The Mercury is now 2-7 in games decided by four points or less while the Storm is 4-0. A nod has to go to Willingham, who had four offensive rebounds to go with eight points. Her one defensive board setup Bird’s winning play. All of the Storm starters finished in double figures, including Jackson, who had 31 points and a season-high 18 boards. Taurasi finished with a season-high 44 while DeWanna Bonner had 18 points and seven rebounds off the bench. “It was a regular-season game, money-time comes later,” Phoenix coach Corey Gaines said. “No let down, sometimes you lose games, sometimes it’s a good loss. I take it as a good loss. They fought hard, they didn’t quit when we were down ten, that’s a good loss.”
KIDDING, RIGHT?: Taurasi could probably sell some waterfront property in Arizona. She surely sold a three-pointer with 7.9 seconds remaining that wasn’t. Cash was defending and wanted to foul with the Storm up by three with time winding down. Taurasi flung her arms as contact was made, but on a replay, it didn’t appear to be a shooting motion. She made all three FTs, however and we’re headed to the third overtime tied at 100 points apiece. Technically Seattle shouldn’t have been in this position. Cash threw a bad in-bound pass that Bird couldn’t track down leading to the questionable officiating call.
AUTOMATIC: Jackson was put on the line to shoot two FTs and made both, shooting a perfect 6 of 6 from the line on Wednesday. The score is tied at 90 points apiece with 2.6 seconds remaining in the second OT. Seattle’s seven-game win streak is on the line, the longest since 2008.
OVERTIME: Wright and Cash bobbled a pass in the paint, causing a shot clock violation. That gave the ball to the Mercury, which was down two. As the Storm jumped all over the place, defending the passes, Taurasi pinged the ball to Taylor, who zipped a pass to Dupree. The latter made a jumper in the paint over the outstretched arms of Cash to tie the game with 2.4 seconds remaining. Jackson missed a long three-pointer and now we’re headed into overtime tied at 78 points apiece.
LITTLE HURT: On a rebound attempt, Little appeared to sprain her ankle. Willingham tried to get in the game for her, but didn’t reach the score’s table in time. She’s in now and Little is being tended to by the trainer. Seattle is up 77-74 after a FT by Wright.
DEE’S HOUSE: Taurasi swished a three-pointer after making a jumper on Willingham to pull the Mercury back into the game 72-68 with 4:00 remaining. Taurasi has 32 points, her seventh 30-plus point game of the season — second back-to-back.
TOUCHY: The officials are knocking out the physical play in the fourth. It’s whistle city as calls are called on touches, reaches, and phantom pushes. It’s benefiting the Storm, whose in the bonus. A Bird three-pointer gave the team a 70-63 lead with 6:27 to go. It’s going to be a slow finish with all of these calls.
TIGER LILEY: Former Oregon star Taylor Lilley has really become an asset on the Phoenix roster. In pregame practice, she was sinking three-pointers from well beyond the NBA line. But in the game, she played well running the ball against Seattle. Lilley had one sloppy turnover, but collected a steal and made some smart moves. Seattle still leads, however 64-57 at the end of the third quarter. Taurasi was held to 2 of 5 shooting in the quarter.
FUN STUFF: Wright has a new ‘do, French braiding her twists into a faux hawk…The kids are in their traditional rainbow of colored T-shirts, spread across the arena…Jackson’s parents joined her in Connecticut, playing a lot of black jack. Mom won…The Mercury will visit the White House on Monday. It’s Taurasi’s fourth trip. Johnson is particularly happy, making her first trip. “I never thought we’d have one (a black president) and definitely never thought I’d get the chance to meet him,” she said. Seattle is up 54-52 with 3:28 remaining in the third quarter.
SELF DESTRUCTING?: Agler made a huge lineup change, yelling “We’re self-destructing” after the team couldn’t convert on multiple offensive possessions after the Mercury botched their own plays. Vesela, Svetlana Abrosimova, and Le’coe Willingham are in the game with Cash and Bird. Seattle leads 51-47 with 4:51 remaining.
HALFTIME: Taurasi went off in the second quarter whether guarded by Wright or Jackson, scoring 10 of her 18 first-half points to help the Mercury take a 43-41 lead into the break. Aside from Taurasi, the Storm actually leads most categories like rebounding (20-16), points in the paint (20-16), and getting 12 assists on their 16 made field goals. Defense and waiting for the shots to fall have to be Agler’s talk at the break. Jackson leads her team with 13 points and eight rebounds while the bench is outscoring Phoenix’s reserves 9-5. Seattle is 5-2 when trailing at halftime.
TIME: OK, that lineup didn’t work so well. Lacey bobbled the ball a few times and Seattle gave up two splashy buckets that have the kids going wild. The Mercury is back up 36-32 with 1:39 on the clock and the jumbotron just asked everyone to scream — thanks!
MINI RUN: The Storm’s trio of All-Stars are a combined 3 of 17 from the field, but Cash hit a layup under the basket and Wright nailed a long two-pointer to give Seattle a 32-31 lead with 2:36 remaining in the half. Jackson, Bird, and Cash look tired. Vesela is having a solid game and Alison Lacey is in for Bird.
TECH CALLED: Storm assistant Nancy Darsch said she was talking to the players, but Price didn’t hear it that way. She was tagged for her first tech of the season. Turned out to be a four-point play as Taylor nailed a three-pointer and Taurasi made the free shot. Phoenix leads 27-24 with 5:54 on the clock.
WASTED SCREEN: It’s rare to see Bird set a screen in the paint, but she had a perfect one for Jackson. All the Aussie had to do was turn around and hit the shot inches from the hoop, but Jackson missed. It’ll be a new moon before Bird is in there, again. Agler doesn’t like the way the Storm is playing, calling a timeout with 7:42 remaining in the half after two failed offensive possessions. Seattle still leads 22-21.
END OF FIRST: The Storm is taking a 20-19 lead into the second quarter, holding the Mercury to 36.8 percent shooting and outscoring Phoenix 12-8 in the paint. Little leads with six points while Jackson has added five. Taurasi has eight for the home team.
BENCH PLAY: The bench got the Storm moving in the right direction, with Jana Vesela making baskets with Le’coe Willingham and the duo making some solid defensive moves. The Storm leads 17-13.
ROCKY START: Lost of airballs and turnovers to get things going in this matchup. Seattle leads 11-10 with 3:45 remaining in the opening half, but the chemistry isn’t there.
ELSEWHERE: The West may be heating up. Well, Chicago defeated San Antonio, but Minnesota got a good 83-81 win against East-leading Atlanta. The Lynx face the Storm on Saturday — another afternoon game.
Well, the downside of having so many high caliber players may be apparent Wednesday afternoon against Phoenix. The three of the Storm’s starting five and reserve Abby Bishop traveled to Connecticut for the WNBA Stars versus USA Basketball festivities, suffering inconveniences from travel to slight injuries.
Storm PG Sue Bird didn’t practice on Tuesday while teammate Swin Cash took Monday off to recoup from strenuous training with the national team. Bishop, who’s Australian, played in a scrimmage against the Americans, suffering a thigh bruise.
Phoenix also had three of its starting five participate, but didn’t suffer the same aliments.
The positive news is that PF Lauren Jackson has been out since July 3 healing from a concussion. She returned to practice on Monday and is starting against the Mercury.
But it’s a rough game to make a comeback. The WNBA overall is physical and Phoenix is one of the toughest teams behind Los Angeles. Storm coach Brian Agler said Jackson was cleared, but will continue to be monitored.
“We always have to watch out for physical play against her just from the standpoint that that’s how some people have to contend with her,” Agler said. “Unfortunately we have people in this league that go overboard. There’s a history here (Phoenix), there’s a history in LA and there’s a history with other people. It’s up to the officials to understand that.”
The Mercury won two games prior to the break and appears to be playing like its roster of stars would suggest. Phoenix (7-11) is second in the Western Conference, nine games behind Seattle’s lead.
“Sometimes a record can be deceiving,” said Mercury G Diana Taurasi, whose team is 0-2 against the Storm this season. “We’ve got to play a better 40 minutes. We get caught sometimes playing in spurts. We’ve got to string along better quarters and if we do that, we give ourselves a better chance to win.
“From here on out, these all are big games for us to test where we’re at and where we need to be. Seattle is playing the best basketball in the league right now.”
The Storm (16-2) is on a seven-game win streak. Let’s see if it can continue after the break.
Here are your starting lineups to get you started:
STORM
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
MERCURY
F Penny Taylor
F Candice Dupree
C Tangela Smith
G Temeka Johnson
G Diana Taurasi
This afternoon’s officials are Cameron Inouye, Michael Price, and Amy Bonner.

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