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June 9, 2011 at 6:33 PM

Game thread: Minnesota at Seattle

STORM LOSE: OK, everyone in the Storm locker room still has 10 fingers and 10 toes. It’s not snowing in Seattle and gas is still outrageous, so surely fans will survive Minnesota defeating the Storm 81-74 for its first win in 10 tries at The Key. Players were upset at the WNBA-best 18-game home win streak ending in awful fashion, but quickly put it in perspective. “I still think it’s really tough to play in here,” Cash said. “I was really surprised. It seemed our fans were in shock as well. We were trying to get some energy and a lot of times we feed off of them, so when they’re flat and we’re flat the whole Key is flat. In the second half, when we started making a run, they started getting in it and we started to get into it. We can’t expect for them to always have it and we can feed off of that. We have to bring it to the court for 40 minutes ourselves.” The Storm went on a late 23-7 run to pull within nine points with 1:46 left in the game. Minnesota made 10 of 12 FTs down the stretch to preserve the win, however. Brunson is an easy pick for early MVP candidacy, finishing with 22 points and 14 boards. “They used her skills in a way tonight that I’ve never seen,” said Jackson of Brunson, adding there was no injury to blame her anemic night. “There are some things we need to work on and get better at. We can only get better from this, defensively. What we do defensively was highlighted when we made the run. That’s something we need to go through and learn what works for us.” Bird started cold, but scored 16 of her game-high 24 points in the final quarter. Like in losses to Chicago and Indiana last season, where the Storm said it found itself, Minnesota could be this year’s wake-up call. “It will be real interesting how we respond,” Agler said. “We’ve got good character in that locker room, so this isn’t the end of the world.” The Storm is off Friday and doesn’t play another game until June 17 against Indiana at KeyArena.
JACKSON HURT?: Jackson scrambled for a loose ball, but rose gingerly and has been moving oddly on the court all night. She played her normal game of H-O-R-S-E with Little prior to the game, seeming fine. Seattle needs some production in the paint if it’s going to pull this comeback off. Seattle down 71-59 with 1:56 remaining.
MCWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN HURT?: With McWilliams-Franklin out of the game tending to an injury, the Storm has pulled within 69-57 with 3:55 remaining in the game. Bird has popped three-pointers, Cash has made old-fashioned three-point plays and Wright sank a 17-footer to give the Storm some life offensively. Seattle is also getting Minnesota to finally miss some shots.
JACKSON PULLED: Don’t know where Jackson is tonight. Agler pulled her early in the third quarter and they had a discussion on the sideline before the three-time MVP fell in line on the bench. Seemed she was saying whatever is not happening on the court is her problem. Don’t know. She’s 1-for-7 from the field with three boards, helping to allow Minnesota outscore Seattle 36-18 in the paint. Meanwhile Bird’s offense has come alive and Cash is going to work, but Seattle remains down 58-30 with time running out. There’s 4:27 left in the third.
HALFTIME: Here’s hoping the real Storm emerges from the locker room after the break simply to make this a game. Minnesota leads 50-24, playing with all the youthful experience and energy expected when they added Moore, McWilliams-Franklin, and Harris to an already packed roster. Brunson is having a party in the paint, leading all scorers with 18 points and eight rebounds. The second quarter was a little better for Seattle, getting outscored 22-16 and winning the rebounding battle 9-6. But they should have known three years ago that Minnesota wants a win in KeyArena. The passive nature some of the players are giving inside isn’t going to pull Seattle out of this mess. The Storm also needs to make shots, going 35.3 percent in the second quarter. Wright is a big positive with her aggressive defense and team-leading five points in the second quarter. Little is also wiggling her way through the paint to make a difference. We’ll see if teammates join them in the second half.
SLAUGHTERED: The positive? Moore just collected her third foul with 2:05 remaining in the opening half. The negative? Where to begin? Minnesota has more points (46) than Seattle has taken shots (28). The Storm has given up eight points with five turnovers. Jackson is playing lax defense. Bird is 0-for-4 from the field. We’ll stop there, Seattle is down 46-20.
GET PHYSICAL: Would not want to play in this game. It’s getting rough inside with Wiggins squealing on a drive to the hoop where the ball was smacked away from her. Robinson blocked Harris, who’s looking a tad lost on the court, and the Storm is regaining its defensive mojo. The Lynx haven’t scored, yet, in the quarter as Seattle has closed within 28-10 with 8:04 remaining in the half. Now it’s Reeve calling the timeout.
NO RECORDS: Amazingly Seattle’s 28-8 showing in the opening quarter isn’t a record. In a loss at Indiana last summer, the Storm scored seven in the second quarter against the Fever. Still, with three days to prepare and an 18-game win streak, you’d think Seattle would have had better defensive focus and shot a little better than 3-for-15 from the field. The team appears to be exiting the funk, getting some defensive stops., Minnesota is shooting 13-for-20 (65 percent) from the field and leading the rebound battle 14-4. Brunson is close to a fourth double-double, already totaling 14 points and eight boards. Cash, Little, Jackson, and Smith lead Seattle with two points apiece. (enter laugh track here)
FINALLY: Wow. A Jackson turnaround with 2:57 left in the quarter finally put the Storm on the board. Seattle is now down 26-2, its worst quarter of play in team history. The Lynx are shooting 72 percent from the field and the Storm is shooting 15.4
SUBS: Agler has put Katie Smith and Le’coe Willinghamin the game for Jackson and Wright with 4:56 on the clock and Seattle down 13-0.
PARTY TIME: The problem with Minnesota is they celebrate too early. Yes, the Lynx are up 12-0 with 6:41 on the clock, forcing Agler to call yet another timeout to get his team going. But Seattle has been 28 points before and rallied back, so the party on the sideline is a little premature. Seattle is getting looks, the ball is rimming out. Should I add that they’re starting off at the basket in front of their bench instead if at the south end? The visiting team gets to pick and Reeve went with her team playing defense in front of her to close the game.
WHOA!: Moore let loose on the flash early, scrambling with Cash to gain possession of the jump ball. The rookie won, faking Cash on a drive to the hoop to score with 9:51 on the clock. The Storm proceeded to miss its following three shots while the Lynx went 3 of 3 from the field to take an early 6-0 lead. Agler called time with 8:41 remaining in the opening quarter and fans silenced.
SCOREBOARD: Playing without All-Star Alana Beard (foot), Washington defeated defending Eastern Conference champion Atlanta 98-90 on the road in overtime. It was an inside game as Crystal Langhorne and former Lynx F Nicky Anoskie combined for 59 points and 26 boards.
SNELL DEBUT?: Storm G Belinda Snell is warming up with the team, a first since she suffered a sprained ankle in Seattle’s inaugural exhibition game in May. Snell said it was the worst she experienced in her career. Agler was uncertain if she’d play. Snell, who plays with Jackson on the Australian national team, was added for her three-point shooting off the bench.
CURTAINED OFF: After drawing more than 11,000 fans for the season opener on Saturday, the Storm has curtained off the upper deck for its first weekday game of the summer. About 15-minutes prior to tip-off, the showing appears a little sparse, too. We’ll see if it’s a late-arriving crowd.
HOLLA!: Tweeted about Minnesota reserve Candice Wiggins’ hair and she showed off the new ‘do, flipping the mass of hair before jetting in the visitor’s locker room shouting, “Holla!” “That’s her favorite word,” McWilliams-Franklin told me. Lots of players in the WNBA have new looks this season, Lynx F Charde Houston going bald and Seimone Augustus trimming back her dreads. Can’t wait to see what affect Minnesota’s fashion-forward locker room has on rookies Moore and Amber Harris (Xavier). FYI, Jackson told me she’d never go red, again.
Minnesota has taken the court with its youthful exuberance and talent, getting ready for its 2011 debut at KeyArena. This is the team WNBA general managers picked as improved and you can easily spot why as the roster with five Olympic-team hopefuls warms up, led by a healthy Seimone Augustus, who’s averaging 10.3 points and Rebekkah Brunson (12.3 points and 14 rebounds) to start the season.
The Lynx (2-1) have played three games in seven days, including two road trips, so the matchup with the Storm could go a myriad of ways. Minnesota could be keen to what’s going to work for them this season and get a solid start or they could be a little weary while the veteran Storm (1-0) is refreshed from last playing Saturday.
“We’re a different team than we were last year,” said Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve of the Lynx, who haven’t reached the postseason since 2004. The dubious feat has garnered plenty of top draft picks but no payoff. “They (Seattle) has got a little bit more experience than we do and have the championship pedigree. For us, this is definitely a measuring stick. We’re four games into it and this is just their second game. We’re going to see where we are. We learn as we go every time we play.”
The highlight will be the matchup between Storm All-Star Swin Cash and rookie phenom Maya Moore. The duo know each other well, groomed in college hoops at Connecticut and training together via USA Basketball. Cash has experience on her side as a 10-year veteran and Moore is a versatile offensive threat. Only the shot wasn’t kind in Moore’s last outing, going 2-for-10 from the field in her team’s win against Tulsa on Tuesday. Moore had seven rebounds, three steals, and three assists in the game, however.
Storm coach Brian Agler said defense will be key, already a staple of the Storm since he took the position in 2008. Rebounding will be another focus, the Lynx already outworking Los Angeles and Tulsa on the offensive glass to average 12 in three games to its opponents’ combined 8.7.
Seattle won the four-game series last year 3-1, the games decided by a combined 10 points. Will the Lynx be the team to end the Storm’s run at KeyArena, winning for the first time themselves since 2005? Let’s get you prepared to tell with the starting lineups.
F Maya Moore
F Rebekkah Brunson
C Taj McWilliams-Franklin
G Lindsay Whalen
G Seimone Augustus
F Swin Cash
F Camille Little
C Lauren Jackson
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Roy Gulbeyan, Cameron Inouye, and Penny Davis.



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