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July 25, 2010 at 6:01 PM

Game thread: Tulsa at Seattle

STORM WINS: As dominate as Seattle looks this season, it hasn’t been easy. So, Sunday’s 75-59 was a joy for the starters, which didn’t play more than Bird’s 28 minutes. The bad part was the deep bench looked shaky from not seeing any court time as Seattle went through a string a fourth-quarter comebacks and overtime wins. Agler said the group is going to arrive at practice early to watch film of the game. They’re key as the season progresses and in the postseason – especially against an opponent like Phoenix, which can go deep on its bench with players who also can hit three-pointers. Against Tulsa on Sunday, the Storm was 10-of-36 from three-point range to help collect the win — it’s 11th consecutive overall and at KeyArena. Seattle matched Houston’s 1998 best start after 22 games (20-2) and has a chance to pass the Comets’ 25-2 record before collecting its third loss of that championship season. But the Storm is staying in the moment, meaning defeating Phoenix on Tuesday to clinch No. 1 in the Western Conference. And the Storm has yet to peak defensively. In fact, while Seattle gobbled up the rebounds, it was giving up offensive boards in the opening half. The Shock used that to outscore the Storm 11-4 in second-chance shots and pounded Seattle 20-12 overall in the paint to only trail 40-32 at the break. If it weren’t for the three-pointers hitting, the game could have been closer. Seattle’s ability to make quick adjustments and have people hit when needed are what makes this season special. The Storm is 20-2, its third consecutive season with 20 or more wins. Only Detroit (2006-08), Houston (1998-2000), Indiana (2005-07), and Los Angeles (1999-2004) have done that in the past. Only the Fever didn’t win at least one championship during the stint. “Seattle is so balanced,” Richardson said. “Balance is important in basketball. Even though Jackson is a great player, all the cast around her is great. It’s amazing how many players come in and contribute. That’s a trademark of a very good team. They can just keep coming at you with a balanced attack.” Willingham had a season-high 10 boards while Vesela set a season-high in rebounding (seven) and scored five points with four steals.
SCRATCH THAT: Everybody but Lacey is popping threes. She’s missed three in the fourth. Seattle still up 75-57 and the bench is playing good defense, rebounding well.
BENCH IN: Agler spoke of how rookie Alison Lacey just needs to hit a three-pointer, then we’ll probably see her instantly develop into a solid player. With the blowout, she’s getting minutes on Sunday. Australian Abby Bishop is also in the game with Ashley Robinson, Abrosimova and Vesela. Seattle leads 72-45 with 6:20 left in the game.
END OF FOURTH: The Storm is up 63-43 and former Washington star Tre Simmons and his posse just rolled in. He missed five three-pointers by Abrosimova and a 14-0 run, but Agler said he isn’t going to start tapering time for his stars just because the team has clinched a seventh consecutive playoff berth. He wants the overall No. 1 seed and for the players to remain “in the moment.”
SPREE STOPPED: Crossley made a three-pointer out of a timeout to end Seattle’s fun to begin the second half. After she hit her second, Agler called timeout to discuss. Storm leads 56-38 with 3:36 remaining in the third.
MIA: The Shock have yet to score with 4:23 remaining in the third quarter. The Storm have taken the time to build a 54-32 lead since the break. Everyone is popping three-pointers, including the latest from reserve Le’coe Willingham. The Shock is 0-for-5 from the field while the Storm is on a 14-0 run.
HALFTIME: Never did 5-of-8 shooting from three-point range seem to produce so few points. The Storm is only leading 40-32 at the break after a three-point exhibit in the second quarter. Tulsa continued to rebound and drive to the hoop, outscoring the Storm 10-4 inside to remain in the game. The Storm looked a little more crisp than it played on the road. Tulsa doesn’t quit, so it’ll take better focus on defense to turn this game into a route, which the Storm hasn’t experienced in a while. Abrosimova, with four three-pointers in the quarter, leads with 12 points. Cash has eight and five rebounds. Robinson leads Tulsa with eight points and four rebounds. The Shock only have two assists on 14 made FGs.
HORNBUCKLE IN: Hornbuckle checked into the game and is lined up in the backcourt with Latta. Storm leads 32-30 with 3:09 remaining. Now Hornbuckle is out stating, “nothing is wrong,” which makes it seems Richardson pulled her for no reason. He did say in his pregame speech that he was going to play her sparingly.
SPOTTED: Former Governor Booth Gardner and current Governor Christine Gregoire are in attendance. Seattle is up 30-26 after four consecutive three-pointers by Svetlana Abrosimova. The Shock might not want to leave her open anymore. There’s 5:16 left in second quarter and Tulsa called a time out.
OH OHLDE: Richardson traded for Ohlde, a strong presence in the paint against Seattle. She’s been given a pass with the footwork, but played well against Jackson to finish the opening quarter with six points and three boards off the bench. The 6-foot-5 post was acquired via trade with Phoenix for former Detroit C Kara Braxton.
FINISH IT: The Storm is making some good defensive moves, but not finishing the play by securing the ball. On three possessions, the Storm thought it had a block or turnover and Tulsa continued to scrap to score. The last was a three-pointer by Shanna Crossley to keep the score tied (18 points apiece at the end of the opening quarter.)
HOMECOMING: The Storm hasn’t played at KeyArena since July 6 when it defeated New York in an afternoon game. They returned with a sparkling record and people showed to see the best team in the WNBA play. Or is it the Cash bobblehead giveaway? Either way, it looks close to a sellout (9,686). There were 9,083 for Bird’s bobblehead night in June. Seattle is tied at 11 points with the Shock.
HORNBUCKLE RETURN?: Hornbuckle has missed the past six games due to a sprained ankle. Richardson said she practiced for the first time on Saturday and could play off the bench against Seattle. Latta, who was signed earlier this week after being cut by Tulsa two days prior to the season, is starting at PG.
Tulsa coach Nolan Richardson woke to an unusual sight in Seattle on Sunday. The game against Seattle at KeyArena is his first with a team in the city since 1995 when his defending NCAA champion Arkansas lost to UCLA for the title.
“The only thing that was confusing [is] I have never been here when it wasn’t raining,” said Richardson, whose in his first season coaching women’s basketball. “It’s always raining and I always remembered that. But the weather has been very beautiful.”
Seattleites would call the current 85-degree streak a heatwave. And the Storm is just as hot, winning 10 consecutive games. The Storm (19-2) needs two wins to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and could match the 1998 Houston Comet’s best start after 22 games with a win against Tulsa.
But just because the Shock is 4-18, don’t expect a stroll on Sunday. The Storm needed a 21-0 run, coming from behind by five points to take the lead within four minutes of the fourth quarter. Reserve Jana Vesela helped spark the play with a steal and layin while two-time MVP Lauren Jackson did a bulk of the work, finishing with 24 points.
Storm PG Sue Bird did not play in the game, suffering back spasms before the matchup began. Shoot, most of the Shock players didn’t play in the last game.
Richardson has one remaining player — G Alexis Hornbuckle — from the relocated Detroit franchise. Richardson said he’s continuing talks to get SG Deanna Nolan to return, but has made the most transactions of any team in the league. He feels he’s found his core, however, and doesn’t plan to make another trade or move before the deadline on Monday.
“I can say ‘Wow, I didn’t think it happen (this season),” Richardson said. “But it did. The ones I have on the team I think I can build around.”
And Richardson isn’t giving up on this season, either. The Shock still has a chance to make the postseason, but with 12 games remaining it would have to start soon.
Here are your starting lineups to get you started:
F Jennifer Lacy
F Tiffany Jackson
C Chante Black
G Ivory Latta
G Scholanda Robinson
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Daryl Humphrey, Michael Price, and Maj Forsberg.



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