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August 15, 2010 at 1:00 PM

Game thread: Seattle at Washington

STORM LOSE: Whew. Glad that’s over. Time to get back to the real Storm, although Agler didn’t say he would totally return to his normal game plans after an 80-71 loss to Washington. True, the team always needs to be more than Jackson and Bird, but we all know Agler wouldn’t pull either when down eight with three minutes left in the game and Bird shooting 4 of 4 from three-point range. But there they were, sitting on the bench while Wight, Cash, Little, Abrosimova and Robinson played out majority of the final minutes. Lacey and Bishop saw one minute of play. “It feels different to be sitting where we are,” said Jackson, who had 14 points and three assists. “We need to get back into serious competitive mode, though, and I think obviously this spurt of resting the starters has been really good for our bodies and stuff. But we need to start getting back to our normal selves.” Cash led her team with 15 points while Currie led the Mystics with 25. The Storm had no perimeter defense, allowing Washington to shoot 9 of 19 from three-point range. And once Seattle started turning the ball over in the second half, things really fell apart after leading by four at the break and six with 7:25 remaining in the third quarter. “I don’t think we came out with a great focus either offensively or defensively in the third quarter,” Agler said. “We had turnovers and we got beat off the dribble some. The third quarter was just not real sharp.” Agler said Minnesota and Washington are similar in style, so he’s not concern with another matchup where the Storm won’t have much time to prepare. The team plans to have a walk-through once it returns on Monday. For Washington, they clinched the final berth after Connecticut lost to Indiana 79-66. Players were told updates, but didn’t know the final until about 45 minutes after their win.
FOURTH QUARTER: Fans don’t follow the jumbotron, but Washington has cut out the lights and is asking everyone to standup, waving the No. 4 in the air “to finish this game out right,” according to Currie. The Mystics lead 59-53. Jackson and Bird are back in the game with Wright, Abrosimova, and Willingham.
FOUL TROUBLE: Little picked up her fourth foul with 1:15 left in the third and is being replaced by Robinson. Little was playing strong in the paint to keep the Storm close. Now the Storm is down 57-51, putting the Mystics on the line for easy points. Agler hasn’t played deep reserves Abby Bishop and Alison Lacey and is resting Jackson, Cash, and Bird for the remaining of the quarter.
DEFENSE?: Agler called timeout, again, not happy with his team’s inability to get a defensive stop to help the pair of offensive dishes Bird was able to get for Le’coe Willingham and Cash in the paint. Instead, Currie and Harding answered with three-pointers and Melvin added an open jumper to put Washington up 51-47 with 3:09 remaining in the quarter.
MYSTICS RALLY: Washington has forced some turnovers and drawn Seattle into a pair of offensive fouls by Jackson and Cash to help tie the game at 43 points apiece. Agler witnessed enough, calling time with 4:59 remaining in the third. He started his first unit for the second half and Cash has played the most minutes thus far at 21.
HALFTIME: The Storm led 36-32 at the break. Jackson and Bird led with nine points apiece while Bird also had five assists and Svetlana Abrosimova led in rebounding (five). The Mystics received 14 points from Currie and Langhorne had four boards. Washington only has three assists on 12 made FGs.
MS. JACKSON: The Storm is getting the ball inside to Jackson, who has connected on back-to-back baskets. Only the Mystics are mixing some hot Currie to respond quickly each time. Seattle up 36-32 after a turnover with 27 seconds left in the half.
CLICKING: The Storm is on a 10-4 run to build a 31-26 lead with 2:07 remaining in the opening half. Robinson had a jumper just before the Storm called timeout. It’s an aggressive game, but not the best for Jackson offensively, who is 2 of 6 from the field.
ALL MONEY: Cash has had two tough, yet pretty buckets to pull the Storm within 22-21 with 5:39 remaining in the quarter. Agler is ridding the officials hard, particularly Blauch, which prompted the fans in the front row to declare him as the “Whine-ingest Coach Ever!”
END OF FIRST: This is the most competitive opening quarter the starters have played on this road trip. Agler did sub in the bench and the collective effort has Seattle down 20-17. Shooting dropped to 37.5 percent for the Storm, Bird leading with two made three-pointers. Currie leads Washington with eight. Her team is 4 of 6 from beyond the arc to make it an entertaining start.
SMACK THAT: Gotta give it up to F Nakia Sanford for her monster block against Cash, that put the Storm star on her backside. A three-pointer by Marrisa Coleman gave the Mystics a 20-15 lead with 1:10 left in the quarter.
YAPPIN’: There have already been some questionable calls and the crowd, although small, is hyped this afternoon. Seems everybody wants a call. Dee Kantner, the WNBA’s supervisor of officiating is in attendance, and hopefully the “swinging elbows” call made in the first quarter is discussed with the crew. Seattle is up 12-11 with 3:03 remaining in the quarter.
HELLO BALLGAME: It’s barely three minutes into the game and things are heated like you’d expect for a August matchup headed into the postseason. Bird has been on the ground scrambling for loose balls and the Storm is shooting 100 percent — albeit a turnaround jumper and three-pointer by Bird. Seattle is up 5-4 with 7:22 on the clock.
It’s raining in Washington, D.C. The drizzle and gray skies are about the only thing Seattle-like occurring in the nation’s capitol today. Two-time MVP Lauren Jackson will return to the Storm starting lineup, but coach Brian Agler still plans to play everyone limited minutes in an effort to preserve bodies for the postseason.
Seattle still wants to win – and keep the undefeated record at KeyArena. If the Storm were to be successful down the stretch, they would break the WNBA’s record for victories in a season (28) and home wins (16). The historic marks are secondary, however. Agler said it’s more about sharpening the team headed into the postseason.
“The last game, the reason the minutes were so small for some people is we got way behind and I didn’t want to use all of their energy just trying to catch-up,” said Agler of the 20-point loss in Connecticut where Jackson didn’t play due to back spasms and All-Stars Swin Cash and Sue Bird saw just six minutes. It was Seattle’s worst loss of the season.
“(Sunday), we’ll have some people play some quality minutes,” he continued. “I envision Swin playing quality minutes, I think it’s good for her to get rhythm. Lauren and Sue are going to play, but I don’t know how long they are going to play.
“Our goal is this, we’re going to play everybody, but we want to win. To win, we’ve got to stay in the game. When we substitute, we’ve got to stay in there. In Atlanta we did and Connecticut we didn’t. Once we get back home, we’ll start really gearing up for the push there.”
Washington, which has won five of its past seven games, needs the win to secure the final postseason berth in the Eastern Conference. By rule of tiebreakers, the Mystics are seeded third in the East ahead of Atlanta, but losses and wins by Connecticut could help the Sun snag the spot.
Seattle defeated Washington in May, but it has changed dramatically since. Backcourt cohorts Katie Smith and Lindsey Harding are playing stronger while Monique Currie and Crystal Langhorne continue to be offensive forces. The Mystics are one of the league’s best defenders, limiting opponents to a WNBA-best 73.3 points and 28.4 rebounds.
“I want to play,” said Jackson, who received a massage on Saturday and said her back was a little stiff but good enough to start. “It’s great to be able to rest and make sure we’re all fit and healthy heading into the playoffs, but personally I need to be out there playing so I’m sharp and ready to go.
“We haven’t done as much preparation as we would do generally. I know for me, today is about getting out there and playing as well as we possible can. My expectations are high, but I know this team is fighting for a playoff spot as well.”
With that, let’s get it started with the starting lineups:
F Monique Currie
F Crystal Langhorne
C Chasity Melvin
G Lindsey Harding
G Katie Smith
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Sue Blauch, Scott Twardoski, and Byron Jarrett.



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