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August 13, 2011 at 5:51 PM

Game thread: Atlanta at Seattle

STORM LOSES: How bad was it? Simply put, the 29-point defeat (92-63) was the worst at the Key since the Storm’s first game EVER, 77-47 to Houston in June 2000. The Storm didn’t look that bad, though. Then, you wondered if some of the players really ever knew how to play ball. On Saturday, you wondered why the players didn’t feel like playing ball. There was no defense. The team missed shots and Bird became so frustrated, at points she stopped running her team. The Storm committed 20 turnovers, giving up a whopping 32 points. The rest doesn’t even matter. “You can’t win games having 20 turnovers,” Little said. “That’s 20 possessions without even getting a shot off. And that’s opportunities your giving them on fast breaks.” The Dream ran over the Storm 12-6 on fast break points and 42-30 inside. McCoughtry and former Storm F Iziane Castro Marques led with 17 points apiece while Smith ended with 15 for Seattle. Atlanta (11-12) appears headed back to the Finals, going 8-3 in its past 11 games. The Storm had an eight-game win streak at home snapped and has lost three of its past four games. “We know how poor a showing this was,” said Bird, who was bench in the fourth quarter because Agler didn’t feel the team was going to pull out the win. “No one’s going to want to feel like this the next time we step on the floor.” Seattle (13-11) travels Monday to play at Phoenix on Tuesday. The Storm is 4-9 on the road, losing its past two.
NIGHTMARE: It’s not a franchise record, but 18 turnovers, missed shots and lack of height in defending the Dream frontline has Seattle down 85-61 with 2:43 remaining in the game. Agler has pulled his starters, except Cash. The Dream is the first team to sweep the Storm this season.
MO MONEY: Now Atlanta has called time, Cash popping off with a three-pointer and aggressive drive to the basket to pull the Storm within 60-47 with 6:14 on the clock. Smith has helped increase the defensive intensity. We’ll see if this new vigor lasts.
TIME: Atlanta is on a 10-0 run to start the second half, Bird getting frustrated at teammates apparently not running the right play. Price, at 5 foot 9, has picked off entry-passes for Storm turnovers. And Seattle has missed at the hoop. Agler is trying to get the team kick-started.
TIME: The Storm remains off-kilter, Agler calling a quick timeout a few minutes into the second half. Atlanta is up 54-42, frustrating Seattle.
NO. 10: The wrong No. 10 is having a highlight night at the Key. Well, if you’re pulling for the Storm, it’s the wrong No. 10. Harding is finding teammates and making her own jumpers to help the Dream take a 50-42 lead into the break. Both teams are shooting well, it’s the turnovers that are are hurting Seattle. In fact, the Storm has given up 13 points on 10 turnovers in the opening half. McCoughtry (11) and Lyttle (10) lead the Dream while Smith has 11 points off the bench.
ODD STRETCH: Not sure how Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors didn’t get a technical foul, charging past the halfcourt line (and coach’s box) to harp at Walker for the refs calling three consecutive fouls against her team in one Storm defensive possession. She was allowed to share her feelings all the way back to her spot on the sideline, the Dream calling timeout to talk. In fact, she was still harping at him after the break. Cash made the ensuing FT on a G Coco Miller foul and I’m left wondering if Agler will ever get that kind of venting treatment. Atlanta leads 42-36 with 2:49 on the clock.
PILING UP: The bad passes and head-scratching mistakes are starting to pile up for the Storm. The team has eight turnovers as the Dream has built a 34-30 lead with 5:50 remaining in the half. The Storm also has some foul trouble adding up, Cash (2) and Little (3) on the bench with too many too early.
FILLING UP: Smith is officially out of her shooting slump, hitting back-to-back three-pointers to help the Storm stay in the game. But Seattle is down 27-26 at the end of the first quarter mainly because it falls asleep on some plays defensively. On an in-bound play, McCoughtry wasn’t covered and scored. Robinson had a rebound stripped that Harding cashed in on two-on-one coverage. Harding was able to slip by the Storm offense on a fast break play, too.
FOR THREE: The Storm has kicked it up a notch, getting the anxious crowd to blow its top after a three-pointer by Wright off an offensive rebound by Little. The bucket tied the score at 15 points apiece with 4:08 remaining in the first quarter. Seattle is taking away Atlanta’s second-shot opportunities and moving the ball with more purpose.
LITTLE D: Atlanta leads 10-6 with 6:32 remaining in the opening quarter. There’s not much defense, although Price has already been removed after picking up two fouls for aggressive play.
JACKSON IMPROVING: There’s still no date for Jackson’s return after undergoing left hip surgery June 30, but coach Brian Agler said she’s looking at lot better. Jackson participated in her first contact practice on Friday. “She’s not quite ready, yet,” Agler said. “Live action, no, she’s not ready for that but she’s getting closer.”
QUIGLEY REMAINS II: Boy are the weeks flying by. G Allie Quigley will sign another seven-day contract this weekend. The Storm hasn’t had many practices, but she’s helped give the backcourt get a breather, even though she hasn’t scored, yet.
WOMAN POWER: The all-female owners from Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Seattle are in attendance. The group are conferencing on Sunday to discuss their positions among the 12 WNBA teams — six of which are owned by NBA teams — and sharing practices. WNBA president Laurel Richie will also be here, but is running late after attending the Naismith Hall of Fame Induction ceremony on Friday in Massachusetts. (BTW, did anyone see Storm original Sonya Henning in the Hall of Fame audience?)
It’s the final rematch of last year’s WNBA Finals, but the teams being the 2010 participants is the end of the similarities. Seattle and Atlanta have dealt with well-chronicled injuries, causing both teams to stumble more than expected a year removed from the Finals.
Atlanta appeared headed for a turnaround, going on a five-game win streak in July. Disappointing losses to New York and Phoenix in August have the Dream needing an adjustment. The Storm plays well at home, but even that will be tested by the Dream, which forced 29 turnovers in a 70-53 win against Seattle on Sunday. The mark is a Storm franchise-high and ties a WNBA season-high.
In addition to the game, the Storm is celebrating PG Sue Bird’s 10th season with the organization. Fans started lining up more than an hour before tip-off to collect her commemorative bobblehead doll. The team will present her with a bracelet similar to the one three-time MVP Lauren Jackson received last season and timeouts are expected to be peppered with looks back on her illustrious career.
Bird’s focus will be on the game, however. The Storm has seven home matchups remaining and would like to win all of them in pursuit of one of the top two slots in Western Conference playoff standings. That would assure the team home court advantage in the opening round of the postseason.
Seattle is 3-0 against the Eastern Conference at home. Will Saturday be four?
Let’s see with your starting lineups.
F Angel McCoughtry
F Sancho Lyttle
C Erika DeSouza
G Lindsey Harding
G Armintie Price
F Swin Cash
F Camille Little
C Ashley Robinson
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Kurt Walker, Penny Davis, Jeff Wooten.



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