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September 12, 2010 at 12:02 PM

WNBA Finals Game Thread: No. 1 Storm versus No. 4 Atlanta

STORM WINS: Bird pumped her fists in the air after McCoughtry’s three-pointer bricked at the buzzer, but the Storm hardly jumped around the court with excitement. Playing before 15,084 fans, the team was choppy and sloppy, making the game a little more entertaining for the unbiased. Even the winning play had some kinks as Bird really didn’t want the ball in her hands. She wanted to revisit the winning shot in the Western Conference championship where she played off screens as Wright dribbled off time on the clock. Bird made a winning three-pointer with 2.8 seconds remaining then. She nailed the game-winning 18-footer with 2.6 seconds remaining on Sunday in Game 1. “We executed what we wanted to run, except Sue, not that she questioned anything, but she wanted to be more in a shooting spot than have the ball in her hands,” said Agler, who’s team is 20-0 at KeyArena. “With the way the game was being played and who was on the floor and who was making the good decisions, we wanted to put the ball in Sue’s hands this time and not have her come off a screen. She read it well. They played her one way all night and she read it, went back, and got her shot.” The tsk-tsk decisions were Wright and Cash, although Cash was tagged for fouls from last year and not this postseason. The two-time champion also had four turnovers and Wright had a game-high five. Seattle had 18 miscues as a whole, giving Atlanta 27 points. It sort of nixed Jackson’s hard-fought 26 points — 14 in the second half. “I’m just happy we got the first one,” said Cash, who was limited to 19 minutes. “There was a lot of things we could have done better in this game and that gives me a lot of hope going into Tuesday. Those are things we can fix.” The Storm led by 13 in the opening half, seemingly breaking out their classic, dominate play. But Atlanta wasn’t backing down from the competition. Both teams will practice on Monday and reconvene at KeyArena on Tuesday for Game 2 at 6 p.m. “This feels pretty good,” said Little, who finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds in her first WNBA Finals. “We’re definitely not totally satisfied with how we got it, but we’re happy for the win.” McCoughtry and Castro Marques each had 19 points for the Dream. Lyttle had 10 points and 11 rebounds while de Souza added 10 and nine off the bench. “The game was anybody’s game,” Lyttle said. “It was tight all the way up to last buzzer. When you play as hard as you play and you come up with a loss, you can’t beat yourself up for that.”
MCCOUGHTRY RETURNS: McCoughtry has only played 17 minutes and her team is down six. Think about it. Anyway, she received three stitches after the collision with Vesela and was checked for a concussion. She’s returned to play. Seattle is up 71-65 with 4:00 on the clock.
MILLER TIME: Meadors put Kelly Miller in the game. Miller missed the Eastern Conference title run due to a high ankle sprain. Seattle is up 68-63 with 5:55 remaining in the game.
MCOUGHTRY HURT?: McCoughtry was slow to get off the court after colliding with Storm reserve Jana Vesela with 8:59 remaining in the game. Seattle is up 59-55.
MINI RUN: Don’t call it a comeback. Seattle used a 12-4 run in the final three minutes of the third quarter to pull ahead 59-53 headed into the fourth quarter. Little, again, has been the base of the Storm getting it going against an aggressive Dream. She’s grabbed rebounds, dished off a nice assist to Abrosimova and helped Jakson screen for Bird on the final layin of the quarter. During the break, the Storm did its traditional Agler “Stanky Legg” competition, but Nate Robinson was robbed. The award went to some face-painted fan instead of Robinson, who really knew how to do the Stanky Legg and did it to the delight of KeyArena court side with Doppler and an actor dressed as an official (aren’t they all? Sorry, couldn’t let that pass).
CASHING OUT: Wow. Price, the official, had the wrong ticket on an offensive charge against Cash, her fourth overall. She’s on the bench and Atlanta was able to score off the turnover, putting the Dream up 45-43 with 5:38 remaining in the fourth quarter.
BUZZER BEATER: Izzy nailed a dagger three-pointer at the halftime buzzer, tying the game at 39 points apiece headed into the break. It was a sweet play with Price winding down the clock, getting the ball to Izzy with just enough time to let her high-arching shot fly. Seattle looked to think time was out, letting the defensive pressure rest. Not good because it gave the Dream a boost and they didn’t even have McCoughtry on the court. Izzy scored all 10 of her points during the quarter, helping her team shoot 50 percent from the field. Atlanta also outrebounded Seattle 12-8 in the quarter. Little is leading the Storm with 12 points and five boards. Bird has five assists to help Seattle get 11 total on 15 made field goals. As usual, it’s going to take more defense from Seattle to protect the home court. Seattle is 19-0 at home this season while Atlanta is 2-0 on the road in the postseason.
TIE GAME: With McCoughtry on the bench, the Dream took a brief lead with 4:05 on the clock off plays by reserve G Shalee Lehning and Miller. But Little spilt towers Leuchanka and Bales to regain control. The Izzy got into the game, so Atlanta is up 32-31 with 2:35 on the clock. I think this is going to go back-and-forth for the remainder of the half, so we’ll leave it at that for now.
LIVE DREAM: Atlanta is slowly working their way into the game. Reserve C Yelena Leuchanka is making a difference off the bench, getting a block while reserve C Alison Bales popped off the bench to collect two steals. Seattle still leads 27-24 with 5:28 remaining in the opening half, but it’s getting even.
WOOLY PLAY: Agler said it was going to take a minute for the teams to settle into the game and he couldn’t have been more accurate. Atlanta did a good job of blocking out the KeyArena masses, who are out for blood Sunday. But the Dream isn’t shooting well (33 percent), led by McCoughtry’s eight points. Little has six points to lead the Storm, which is shooting 50 percent and had nine assists for its nine baskets in the first quarter. Seattle leads 22-17.
NEW LOGO: You’ll notice on the bottom of both jerseys that there’s a new WNBA sponsor. It’s BBVA, a national bank in Spain that sponsors La Liga men’s soccer. It’s a first for the WNBA Finals and coincidentally, Lyttle will be playing for Spain’s national team in the World Championships. She’s from the West Indies, but plays in Spain and received citizenship this summer. Seattle is up 20-9 with 3:42 remaining in the opening half.
BALLIN’: The officials tried to screw up the flow and just tagged Cash for her third foul. But before the tacky calls in the Finals matchup, the Storm made some good stops, hit three-pointers and are ahead 13-7. Cash was replaced in the lineup by Svetlana Abrosimova while Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors put Erika de Souza in the game to get some size going.
SPOTTED: I’m sure we’ll continue to update this as the night progresses, but have to let you know NBA legends Bill Russell, Fred Brown, and Slick Watts are in the KeyArena house. Upper deck is open, but only full on one side. A lot of fans traveled to Seattle Center early, getting breakfast and tailgating in the area before Game 1, so more could trickle in. The Seahawks opener is at 1:15 p.m., however. As expected, another announcement, Boston Celtics G Nate Robinson is here. He had his high school jersey retired on Friday. Lenny Wilkens is also here. Jeff Green is wearing a Bird jersey, sitting in a suite. Jamal Crawford is also in the house and press row wanted to know which side he was cheering for before it was decided that he’s just cheering for a contract extension. “This is where all the cool kids are,” said Seattle Times columnist Steve Kelley.
What a day to be on the couch with a nice flat screen and the remote in hand. Don’t agree? One of those people who looked at the sports lineup — NFL opener, Tiger Woods, and Team USA men’s playing Turkey on their soil — and sighed, wondering how the WNBA Finals thought it was going to compete with that?
Please. What a day for the true sports fan to work their magic with the remote, catching every possible moment (although most may cheat and DVR or use multiple televisions to get it all in). According to WNBA president Donna Orender, more men are doing just that. Sans the Sunday smorgasbord on deck for Game 1.
The WNBA Finals are slated to be aired in 203 countries, serviced by 78 broadcasters.
“interestingly the demographic that continues to grow the most are men,” Orender said. “What does that say? It says that men who before may not have recognized the quality of WNBA basketball are watching and saying, ‘Oh, my goodness, I didn’t really know what was happening here. And now that I can see, it’s unbelievable quality.'”
As expected, Storm coach Brian Agler hasn’t peaked his head out of the basketball world Sunday to notice all of the other games on deck. He spent Saturday texting his son regarding the college football games, then returned the focus to the Storm.
Seattle swept Atlanta in two games during the regular season, both games being significant to each team’s season. The Storm ended the Dream’s six-game win streak to open the season, then clinched the overall top seed with the 10-point road win on Aug. 10. Atlanta appeared to lose focus in that matchup, losing five of seven games in August.
But the Dream clicked during the postseason, winning four consecutive to met up with the Storm in its third year of existence. Seattle, which hasn’t been to the WNBA Finals since 2004, won its past seven games to advance — including sweeping its way to the Western Conference Championship.
So, it’s on. Let’s get you started with the starting lineups:
F Angel McCoughtry
F Iziane Castro-Marques
C Sancho Lyttle
G Coco Miller
G Armintie Price
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Daryl Humphrey, Denise Brooks, Michael Price.



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