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June 17, 2011 at 6:44 PM

Game thread: Indiana at Seattle

STORM WINS: Bird said it best, “Tonight was the epitome of our team.” The 8,178 in attendance enjoyed Seattle never trailing and completely dismantling an opponent that was previously playing well, winning 68-54. It’s the Storm’s fifth consecutive win against the Fever, holding a 10-1 record overall at The Key. Indiana shot 29.1 percent from the field, never figuring out how to combat the Storm’s defense. Bird was a little miffed by her team getting bogged down in the Fever’s late zone, but overall the Storm played its best game of the season. Of course it’s only the third matchup, so there’s still plenty to accomplish. Seattle departs Saturday for a two-game road trip against Los Angeles (Sunday) and Tulsa (Tuesday). “You saw us establish our defense and get back to what we do,” said Willingham, who finished with a season-high 10 points. “It felt really good. Everybody was tuned in to our scout and tuned in to getting after it at the defensive end. A lot of times we feed off our defense and that’s what creates our offense. We did a really good job.” Gold star goes to Wright for her work on Douglas and Cash for her all-around game (game-high 14 points, eight boards, and five assists). There’s still concern about Jackson’s production, however. The Storm got the three-time MVP going early, yet, she still finished in single digits with nine points on 2-for-11 shooting in 29 minutes. Jackson, a 6-foot-6 post, also had six rebounds and two steals. “Lauren didn’t have a big night in terms of statistics, but we had a focus of playing through her,” Agler said. “We were trying to get the ball to her and when that happens, you either got to let her play one-on-one, or they bring a lot of people to her, like (Indiana) was doing. That opens up things for other people.” We’ll see how the Sparks (2-1) play her on Sunday. Still, as long as Seattle gets the win, Jackson doesn’t appear bothered.
OBAMA VISIT?: Hearing the Storm’s trip to the White House to be congratulated by President Obama is coming up. Word hasn’t been released, but could it be around Seattle’s July 3 game in Washington, D.C. Things that make you go, “Hmmm.”
FIRST STORM POINTS: Snell scored a three-pointer for her first points as a Storm player. The bucket with 1:30 remaining in the game gave Seattle a 68-49 lead. Rookies Krystal Thomas and Ify Ibekwe are also in the game. They are also looking for their first points. Catchings and Douglas have taken a seat, meaning Catchings will end another night in single digits (eight). Douglas led with 11, far below her league-leading 21.3.
SO MONEY: Cash is working hard. In addition to helping to keep Catchings to 4 for 11 shooting from the field (eight points), she’s grabbing boards and scooping up fast break passes from Katie Smith to keep the Storm ahead. Cash has 14 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. The Storm leads 58-33 heading into the final quarter. The Fever is still anemic offensively (25.6 percent), with no one scoring in double digits. Willingham has 10 points off the bench and Bird has 12.
BIRD AT THE BUZZER: It’s not only a book for your summer reading, it’s another made shot by the PG to end the first half of play. Douglas was called for traveling with 2.3 seconds remaining, giving Bird the opportunity to collect an in-bound pass, twist and shoot from 27-feet out. The buzzer sounded and the crowd roared, the Storm taking a 37-19 into the break. The Fever made just one FG in the quarter, checking to see if that’s a record. Defense is really working for Seattle, making up for the fact that they don’t have any shots either. The Storm is shooting 38.7 percent from the field. Willingham leads with eight points while Jackson has five boards. Douglas and Smith have four points apiece for the Fever.
REAL HYPED: Agler is as orange as his tie right now. He’s all over the officials, not liking Wright getting called for a foul against Douglas. It’s the NBA-esque foul, where the shooter leans into the defender to get the call. A set-up, but obvious foul. Cash did the move against Catchings and the officials called it, so it’s only fair Wright get tagged when Douglas leaned in. Me thinks Agler is more upset that solid defenders in Wright and Little have three fouls apiece. He’s benched Little, but is keeping Wright on the court, who is holding Douglas to 1 of 3 shooting for three points in 13 minutes of play.
LITTLE MUSTARD: Bird was feeling it with the no-look pass inside to Willingham, who made the layin to push the lead to 25-15 with 5:01 remaining in the half. Too bad the PG got tagged with a foul on a steal attempt at the other end, otherwise The Key would have really erupted.
SUBS: Ashley Robinson checked in for Jackson and Le’coe Willingham is in for Little. The Storm is keeping the Fever to 3 for 16 shooting from the field to lead 19-13.
LITTLE ROBBED: Don’t know what’s up with officiating, especially after some good calls and overturns in the past two games. Little is playing superior help defense, but getting tagged for fouls. Agler kept her on the court despite having three. Seattle leads 18-13 with 7:41 remaining in the second quarter.
PEMCO DEBUT: Pemco Insurance has partnered with the Storm to sponsor its postgame autograph session. The company has a backdrop that will be displayed behind players has they ink their John Hancock. It’ll be up for seven games after Friday and fans can get passes to the sessions on the KeyArena concourse. The Storm leads 15-10 at the end of the opening quarter. Jackson leads all scorers with five points, making 3 of 4 FTs.
SPOTTED: Former Sonic Nick Collison is seated baseline along with former owner Jack Rodgers, a good friend of Howard Schultz. Rodgers was like a grandfather to the Storm players during his tenure, often stopping by practice and hosting barbecues at his eastside home.
SNELL DEBUT: G Belinda Snell checked into the game, making her debut after suffering a sprained ankle in May. Seattle leads 15-8 with 2:47 remaining in the opening quarter.
SCOREBOARD: Minnesota is tearing it up, collecting a fourth consecutive win with a 96-85 decision versus Atlanta. Rebekkah Brunson had 18 points and 14 boards for her fourth double-double while G Seimone Augustus led with 25 points. The Lynx are back at KeyArena on June 24.
GOOD D: The Storm has forced three consecutive turnovers to take control of the pace of the game early. They lead 10-4 after two pretty layins by Bird. Dunn is talking to her team, telling them there’s “No excuse for shot clock violations.” The other Fever miscues were a pass by Catchings and a steal by Jackson.
NO GOOSE EGG: Agler said he likes to run set plays to open a game and it was evident against the Fever. Jackson won the tip then Bird called the play to clear space for Jackson to drive to the hoop. Unlike the past two games where she had minumal touches early, Jackson was aggressive with her patent turnaround jumper to score with 9:41 on the clock. The 2-0 start allowed fans to sit down, oh, six minutes earlier than last week. OK, last time I mention the land of too many lakes.
WELCOME BACK: Fever coach Lin Dunn got a big applause from the KeyArena crowd. Earlier she chatted with former players and some friends in the stands. Dunn coached the Storm its first three seasons, drafting Jackson and Bird. The coach is 63-43 in Indiana. January, a native of Spokane, also received a warm welcome in her only game in her native state of the summer.
BACK TO NORMAL: The Storm took the floor, warming up on the south rim, the norm for games at KeyArena. We might have officially exited bizarro-world, the Storm playing offense on the northern rim to open the Minnesota game.
The vibe is better in KeyArena than it was a week ago. Seattle is moving on from the 22-0 start to a seven-point loss to Minnesota, but coach Brian Agler said that game will never really leave his memory.
“There’s certain things in your career that sort of stick in your mind good and bad and that’s one I’m sure I’ll never forget,” he said. “And I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It just goes to show that the good things that happen and the bad things are just reality checks. The main thing is to try to stay focused day by day and try to get better. I think we’ve done that. And at some point this year, we’re really going to be playing at a high level.”
But as far as bringing it up, again, to the team after an eight-day span in between games?
“I think I’ve brought it up enough here in the last eight days,” he said. “I think it’s time to move on.”
That begins with Indiana – a team with enormous depth and talent it’s a wonder they don’t have a single championship in their 12-year history. The Fever features Katie Douglas, the league’s current leading scorer (21.3) and Tamika Catchings, who scored in single digits for the first time in 24 regular season games in a win versus Tulsa on Tuesday. But players like reserves Jessica Davenport and Shavonte Zealous are equally impressive. Then there’s new additions in F Tangela Smith and PG Erin Phillips, who’ll make noise at KeyArena.
Defense will be key for both teams as Seattle (1-1) insists on showing its true selves while Indiana (3-1) wants wants to start its three-game road trip off with a win. The Fever would also like to collect its first win at The Key since 2006.
This is one you can’t really preview, you just have to see it play out. Let’s get it started with your starting lineups:
FEVER
F Tamika Catchings
F Tangela Smith
C Tammy Sutton-Brown
G Katie Douglas
G Briann January
STORM
F Swin Cash
F Camille Little
C Lauren Jackson
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are: Daryl Humphrey, Maj Forsberg, and Scott Twardoski.

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