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August 5, 2011 at 6:53 PM

Game thread: Connecticut at Seattle

STORM WINS: What a wild finish. Charles thought she won it for the Sun on a six-footer with 3.1 second left in the game, celebrating as she charged down the court. But it was Bird plucking a play from the Sun’s playbook to nail a three-pointer at the top of the key and win it 81-79 for the Storm. The victory moves Seattle into second in the Western Conference and is their seventh consecutive at home. “We’ve seen that before,” Agler said of Bird’s shot. “It was Sue Bird making a play.” While Bird’s clutch play is impressive, the Storm understanding Charles’ shot didn’t signify the end of the game, was more impressive. Robinson had the assignment on Charles late, opting not to go out and defend her because she felt Charles was too far out and it could have opened up a play closer to the hoop. “Maybe I should have gone out there,” Robinson said of the shot that gave Connecticut a 79-78 lead. “We had three-seconds and I’d like to see the stats of how many times Sue has hit a game-winning shot…It just proves how good she is and how focused she is at the end of game shots.” Bird finished with 20 points on 7 of 15 shooting from the field while Cash had the dagger three-pointer, one off a Robinson feed, to finish with 10 of her 14 points in the second half. Wright added 18 with five assists. Charles collected her 13th double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 boards. The Storm (12-8) is traveling to Atlanta early Saturday for a matinee on Sunday. It’s Seattle’s first trip to the city since winning the 2010 title there in September. Connecticut (12-7) continues its western tour against Phoenix on Sunday.
FOUL TROUBLE: Robinson collected her fifth foul defending a play by Lawson. Before that, she had a key rebound and assist in the middle of a 8-0 run by Seattle to finish the quarter ahead 63-57. The Sun took a brief lead (56-55) off three-pointers by Lawson and Montgomery and Charles’ work inside.
CHARLES IN CHARGE: Charles is finding a little space on Robinson’s defense and grabbing offensive boards to go on a personal 6-0 run to pull within 53-46 with 6:03 remaining in the third quarter.
TIME: Thibault is hot, again. This time Wright is the one tearing up his intended defensive schemes, driving baseline for layins or drawing fouls. She’s teammed with Bird to help Seattle outscore Connecticut 6-0 to open the third quarter (53-40). There’s 8:39 left in the quarter.
HALFTIME: A quick turnaround jumper by Charles with two seconds left in the half whittled the deficit to 47-40 and may have given the Sun some momentum heading into the second half. It’s minor mistakes by Seattle that’s preventing them from shutting the door on a very talented Connecticut team. The Sun started slow offensively, which allowed the Storm to trample them with their transition game. Connecticut shot 60 percent in the second quarter and collected 10 points off seven forced Storm turnovers. Montgomery led her team in the quarter with 10 points. Seattle’s three-point shooting (4 of 5) kept them ahead. Wright led in the quarter with nine points while Smith added five off the bench.
SUN RISE: The Sun is in the midst of a 8-0 run to inch closer to the Storm. Back-to-back traveling calls on Cash and old-fashioned three-point plays have helped Connecticut wiggle back into the game. The lead is 43-35 with 1:34 left in the half.
TRE BIEN: The Storm is batty with three-pointers against the Sun. Seattle has made 8 of 12 and there’s still an entire half remaining. Seattle has only made eight or more three-pointers six times this season. The high was nine in home wins against Los Angeles and Washington. The record is 14 set in 2009 in a triple-overtime game against LA. Seattle is up 43-27 with 3:23 left in the second quarter.
SPOTTED: Washington basketball coach Lorenzo Romar returned to the Key and in honor of Seafair weekend, legend Chip Hanauer is seattle courtside. Seattle is up 40-25 after a three-pointer by Katie Smith with 4:40 remaining in the half.
TECH: Charles is frustrated at the defense A-Rob is playing. The Storm center got a block and forced Charles into a travel, the former the second-year player felt was a little physical than the rules allow. Well, Smith didn’t like her tone in stating her case and tagged her with a technical foul with 8:07 remaining in the second quarter. After a trey by Kelsey Griffin, Seattle is up 33-21. Charles is 1 of 5 from the field for two points and four boards.
FOR THREE: Seattle’s three-point shot is clicking tonight, a positive when Charles is inside waiting on you. F Le’coe Willingham nailed one with 2.2 seconds remaining in the quarter to help put the Storm up 24-14 headed into the second. Seattle is 4 of 7 from beyond the arc. Bird (jersey no. 10) played all 10 minutes of the quarter and finished with 10 points.
#STORMCRAZIES: Cash takes credit for calling the KeyArena fans Storm Crazies on Twitter. I think a fan helped coin the term, but regardless, it’s the official tag of Seattle’s 6th Man like the Hawks Nest and Emerald City Supporters. The #StormCrazies showed their passion on Friday, buying up shirts with the hashtag well before tip-off. The yellow T-shirt was designed by Cash and A-Rob. Proceeds went to the Cash 4 Kids charity. It was the most-sold item of any so far this season at KeyArena, prompting the team to sell more for Cash’s charity Aug. 11 with the Storm plays Tulsa.
LITTLE HELP: I should know this fan’s name by now since he’s always at KeyArena wearing the same Seattle Reign shirt. Anyway, he made Blauch pause the game and pick up a piece of paper on the court. She relented at first, but it is dangerous. Had to laugh at a fan finally bossing a ref around.
TIME!: Thibault is hot early, watching Seattle’s posts keep his team from scoring inside and Bird get out in transition to drain back-to-back three-pointers and put Seattle ahead 10-2 with 7:41 on the clock. Connecticut called a timeout to discuss. Might start with fixing the 1 of 5 shooting from the field with one board.
MORE BLING: Former Storm G Svetlana Abrosimova returned to Seattle for vacation and was presented with her championship ring in a pregame celebration. Abrosimova recently helped Russia win the EuroBasket to qualify for the 2012 London Games. Click here for more on her return.
The season’s barometer has arrived. At least that’s how Connecticut and Seattle have viewed playing each other since 2004 when the Sun lost to the Storm in the WNBA Finals. The 2011 edition at KeyArena is Seattle’s toughest home game since being embarrassed by Minnesota in June, snapping a 18-game home win streak.
For Connecticut, sweeping the modern-day Western Conference power would be a boost in confidence for an already impressive season. The Sun defeated the Storm 75-50 on July 1. Battling injuries (Danielle McCray, Ashja Jones) and youth in 2010 and 2009, missing the postseason last summer, the Sun has won six of its past seven games and is second in the Eastern Conference at 12-6.
“I always enjoy playing against them because you have some of the best players in the world,” Sun coach Mike Thibault said. “Brian is a terrific coach and we have similar styles, we do a few things different defensively, but we’re friends so it’s always an interesting game. Both teams in the past have always used it as a game to measure where you are.”
The cloud around Connecticut is a lot happier than in the past when you’ve heard murmurs about some fans wanting Thibault replaced. But like most teams in the WNBA, it’s hard to wade through a season without your star. Seattle is 8-6 with three-time MVP Lauren Jackson (hip) mainly because the core has been through the scenario twice in the past four seasons.
“When Ashja went down, we didn’t have that,” Thibault said. “When people say my job is in jeopardy, I have a couple of years left on my contract. I’m not concerned about that part, I’m concerned about making my team get better.
“My bosses know whether I’m doing the right thing. The funny thing is, and I don’t mean this derogatory toward fans at all, but when you have a window of opportunity, once it shuts down, it’s hard to restart. I heard all the moaning and groaning about Seattle and how they couldn’t get out of the first round of the playoffs. Well, you’ve got to have the best players healthy and you’ve got to have them playing together for a while. The talent level is deep enough on every team that if you have major injury, you’re going to struggle every night.”
The Sun has hurt the Storm in the past because of its rebounding abilities and ability to drive. G Tanisha Wright said the key for Seattle on Friday is going to be knowing the scout and following it with perfection.
Funny. The Sun feel similar, wanting to flex on the rebounding battle and stop PG Sue Bird from penetrating the defense. On offense, Thibault said his team has to be the aggressors.
It’s the barometer. Who’ll pass? Let’s see with your starting lineups:
F Kalana Green
F Asjha Jones
C Tina Charles
G Renee Montgomery
G Danielle McCray
F Swin Cash
F Camille Little
C Ashley Robinson
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Susan Blauch, Roy Gulbeyan, Jeffery Smith.



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