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June 21, 2011 at 4:33 PM

Game thread: Seattle at Tulsa

STORM WINS: The Storm won 82-77 before an announced crowd of 4,612 at the BOK Center. But the team is waiting eagerly for news regarding the health of Jackson. She left with 5:50 remaining in the second quarter, locking legs with Cambage and hearing “a pop” in her left hip. Jackson was immediately diagnosed with a strained left hip. She said she had a cortisone shot in the area prior to the road trip due to pain and mumbled something about hoping she didn’t tear anything, but preferred to wait until Wednesday before speaking about the injury. “I hate to say anything,” Agler said. “They’re telling me what it is or what they think it is but they won’t know until they get the X-ray of it.” Jackson’s absence made the Storm’s turnaround even more impressive, although the group has won without her before. Seattle mustered just 31 points in the first half, but outscored the Shock 30-13 en route to the win. A Pederseen three-pointer and eight made Tulsa FTs put the Shock back down three with 45.1 seconds remaining. But Wright collected a jump ball possession and made a driving layup out of a timeout to help preserve the win. Seattle shot a season-high 54.4 percent from the field and outworked Tulsa 20-6 on fast break points, looking more like the team you’d expected this summer. “It’s not that we’ve been playing that bad, it’s that we’ve been shooting the ball so poorly,” Agler said. ” It gets frustrating to them. That’s natural for basketball players. Tonight we finally showed a little bit of our character and our heart that we had last year and how we hung around and fought back in. But Tulsa is going to do some things this year, they’re playing with a lot more purpose.” Bird led all scorers with 21 points and six assists while Cash added 17 points and nine boards. Tiffany Jackson had 20 points and 10 rebounds to guide the Shock. Seattle is off Wednesday, hosting Minnesota on Friday.
FANTASTIC FIFTEEN: Much like the all-Decade team a few years back, the WNBA will honor 15 of its most influential players since 1997, celebrating its 15th anniversary. Fans will be able to vote from a list of 30 (how Nykesha Sales is on that list I don’t know), including Storm ties Jackson, Bird, Cash, Smith, Yolanda Griffith, Shannon Johnson, and Sheryl Swoopes. You can vote daily by logging on to starting Thursday at 9 a.m. PDT.
HOLDING ON: The Shock continue to chip at the Storm with bonus free throw shooting, but the Storm are responding to hold on to the game. The lead is now 76-68 with 2:08 on the clock. Wait. Little just fouled out of the game.
FOUL TROUBLE: A bad decision on an entry pass for Seattle ultimately led to Little collecting her fifth foul after a Storm turnover. There’s 5:09 on the clock and Seattle leads 71-64.
BIG THREE: The Shock are in the midst of their third consecutive close battle, so it’s no surprise the team is still scrapping. Pedersen nailed a big three-pointer with 6:46 remaining in the game to inch the Shock within 69-62. Before Pedersen’s shot, Bird made a beautiful pass into a crowded paint to a rolling Little, who easily laid the ball in the hoop. Bellissimo!
THE OBVIOUS: The Storm played its best third quarter of the season, outscoring the Shock 30-13 on 68.7 percent shooting to build a 61-50 lead. Now let’s see if the team can close the game.
MAKE IT RAIN: The Storm is now shooting 54.1 percent in taking a 54-45 lead with 2:53 remaining in the third quarter. The defense has forced two shot clock violations and Bird converted them into layins. Smith is hitting off the bench and Little has seven boards.
WHO’S THAT?: The Storm is on a 11-2 run to take a 42-39 lead. Now it’s Tulsa coach Nolan Richardson calling timeouts to gather his team. Willingham has started the half in place of Jackson, capping the run with an open layin with 7:22 remaining in the quarter.
JACKSON OUT: Jackson suffered a strained left hip and will not return. She was 2-for-4 from the field for four points in 13 minutes in the opening half.
BLOCK THAT: Robinson blocked the Shock’s final attempt at the buzzer with spice to give the Storm a 37-31 deficit heading into the break. Prior to Robinson being placed in the game, the lineup of Smith, Little, Wright, Cash, and Willingham worked their tails off to get the Storm back in the game with solid defense against against a big Shock lineup, including the 6-foot-8 Cambage. Little remains 0-for-5 from the field, but Bird has 10 points and Cash has added eight with three boards. Cambage has nine points off the bench to lead her team in the first half. The Australian rookie also has five rebounds. Pedersen, another rookie, has seven points. Turnovers are killing the Storm, giving up 16 points with 10 miscues. Tulsa has nine turnovers, but Seattle only scored six points off those fumbles. Adjustments would be showing more patience on offense and grinding harder on defense. The shots will just have to drop, because those looks remain clean.
NUMBERS DWINDLING: Sitting with ESPN columnist Mechelle Voepel, which is why the posts are a little slow, and there have been more layoffs in the women’s basketball world. The Tulsa World cut a reporter as well as the Des Moines Register.
STORMING BACK?: Little and Jackson are getting aggressive to force some turnovers of their own and the Storm is on a 6-2 run to at least look as if there’s some fight in this squad. Scoring is coming from Bird and Wright, off a screen from Jackson. Seattle trails 29-19 with 5:50 remaining in the opening half.
TIME: More of the same to start the second quarter, Seattle turning the ball over and giving up easy buckets to force Agler to call time. The Shock is on a 7-0 run to open the quarter.
TURNOVER CITY: The Shock has stepped up its defense, getting the Storm to turn the ball over six times for seven points. Tulsa is on an 9-2 run, Jackson scoring the Storms last four points before a drought to end the final 2:38 of the quarter. The Shock is shooting 33.3 percent in building a 20-13 lead. Seattle is 5-for-14 from the field (35.7 percent). If it weren’t for the 10 points the Storm allowed via miscues, the BOK Center wouldn’t be pumping.
LITTLE MISS: Those screams you heard were from Little, who missed to driving layins. Bunnies, as former coach Lin Dunn used to say. That and two quick fouls by Wright has the Storm off to another shaky start. Tulsa leads 3-1 with 7:14 on the clock.
The Storm bypassed traditional practice to watch oodles of film from the disappointing Los Angeles loss on Sunday. Seattle didn’t take care of the ball (22 turnovers), played soft defense, and bricked plenty of good looks at the basket to fall to the Sparks by 24 points.
The team will have to play through the shooting. But the rest is a mental focus Seattle is going to have to gain in order to be one of the top teams in the WNBA, again. True, it’s only four games into the season. Yet, the more wins the Storm gives San Antonio and Minnesota in the Western Conference playoff race, the harder the end of the season becomes when Seattle has less breaks in between games.
“We’re all surprised at this start,” G Tanisha Wright said of the Storm entering Tuesday’s matchup with Tulsa at 2-2. “But the maturation is that you continue to play through it and get better from each game. That’s where we’re at right now, we’re trying to get better, That’s it. If we get better and focus on just worrying about ourselves and getting better as a group, then I think we’ll be fine.”
The Shock (1-5) snapped a five-game losing streak with a convincing 77-59 win against Washington in its last outing. While it has dealt with injuries to C Liz Cambage (concussion) and Amber Holt (thumb), veteran guards Sheryl Swoopes and Ivory Latta have played well. Latta is averaging 17.2 points in her past three games.
Defense will be key for Seattle against Tulsa, along with taking care of the basketball.
“It’s not like we’re light-years away from where we want to be or being pretty good,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “When we get in our defensive set, it’s real solid. Against the zone, we had some good shots and missed. We just have to work through it.
“When we shot and missed (Sunday), we didn’t get back in transition a lot of times. We weren’t organized defensively. We had too many turnovers and you can’t do that on the road and win games. We’ve got to get the right buttons pushed with some of these people. We’ve got to get them going and play.”
The Storm faced the Shock in exhibition play, winning by six, only reserves Katie Smith and Belinda Snell weren’t in the lineup. Seattle also had C Jacinta Monroe in training camp.
Now Monroe is playing for the Shock, signed to fill the void left by Holt after she was cut by Seattle prior to the season-opener. Smith and Snell are in the lineup for Seattle. We’ll see if any of that makes a difference in the outcome beginning with your starting lineups:
F Swin Cash
F Camille Little
C Lauren Jackson
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
F Tiffany Jackson
F Kayla Pedersen
C Jennifer Lacy
G Ivory Latta
G Sheryl Swoopes
Tonight’s officials are Tom Mauer, Eric Brewton, and Felicia Grinter.



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