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August 28, 2011 at 5:43 PM

Game thread: Los Angeles at Seattle

STORM WINS: Think Jackson doesn’t make a difference? The Storm committed just eight turnovers in 65-63 win on Sunday, a stat that doesn’t happen without the three-time MVP in the lineup. Not that the reserves can’t take care of the ball, it’s just down the stretch, the starters get a glaze in their eye and fall into a rhythm that rivals a jam session with old pals. Plays are called, but when that often fails — like setting Bird for a game winner in the waning seconds — there’s not a turnover costing the Storm. Of course, ask LA and the broken final play that ended in two FTs for Bird, was really an unnecessary foul called by the refs. “I’m not going to say what I think because I don’t want to get fined,” Bryant said. “It’s just sad that it had to end that way because usually you let the players make the decisions.” Tied at 63 points apiece, Wright’s shot was blocked and Bird collected the ball, thinking she’d take a dribble and shoot. But Toliver lunged at her, according to Bird, committing the foul. “She came running at me so hard,” Bird said of Toliver. “I just took the hit.” With 1.9 seconds left, Bird made the shots and Thompson missed an off-balanced three-pointer to send the Sparks reeling all the way home. Seattle (17-12) is one within clinching an eighth consecutive playoff berth, which would match LA (12-17) for the WNBA’s longest postseason streak (1999-2006). The win also gave Seattle a four-game sweep for its home stand, the longest of the season. “They made us defend well,” said Storm coach Brian Agler of L.A. “It was a challenge…We played efficient, we didn’t turn the ball over much, we scored off their turnovers, which is a good thing, and I felt we played a very solid game.”
FOR THREE: Cash hesitated, then took the three-pointer…making it for her first long distance bucket ions. OK, since defeating New York at home Aug. 20. The basket helped the Storm take a 51-43 lead into the final quarter. Seattle is continuing to take care of the ball and score off Sparks turnovers. The Storm also has Hoffamn in foul trouble (four).
CLEAN QUARTER: The Storm didn’t have any turnovers in the second quarter, scoring 11 points off L.A.’s miscues. Seattle took a 37-30 lead into the break. Wright (11 points) and Jackson (10) led in scoring.
WRIGHT STUFF: Wright scored the team’s past five points, including a beautiful three-pointer at the top of the key to give Seattle a 30-19 lead with 4:07 on the clock. KeyArena erupted and it feels like it’s on, now. Seattle is shooting 43.5 percent from the field, outscoring L.A. 12-6 in the paint.
HOFF v. LOZ: There’s a shooting firm litigating at KeyArena. On one side you have Sparks reserve forward Ebony Hoffman, who’s knocking down three-pointers that make the net snap. On the other end, Jackson is getting knocked into harder than a demolition crew destroying a building, but still making the bucket for the old-school three-point play. An earlier 9-0 Seattle run helped the Storm build a 25-19 lead with 5:28 left in the half. Jackson has eight points on 3-for-6 shooting and Hoffman leads L.A. with six.
FIRST MISS: Jackson missed her first FTs since returning. She had made nine combined in the previous three games. A three-pointer by Little gave Seattle a 16-14 lead with 8:00 remaining in the half.
CASH FLOW: Headed for a breakout game? Cash, who’s struggled offensively, collected a turnover and drove to the other end for a fast break layin as the final buzzer sounded. Seattle takes a 13-11 lead into the second quarter.
TIE GAME: There’s a lot of action, but not much is dropping offensively for either team. Score is tied at 11 points apiece, Bird going 0 for 4 from the field and L.A. shooting 5-for-15 from the field as a whole. Neither team has a second-chance point bucket nor is shooting well from three-point range.
BUYING IN: News regarding Lisa Leslie joining the Sparks’ ownership group was locker room fodder for the Storm. Bird, who has some restaurant investments, said she’s curious about responsibilities and how power is dispersed. Although, jokingly, she said she wouldn’t fire coach Brian Agler or president/CEO Karen Bryant. “As much interaction as we have with our owners, I really don’t know what that means,” Bird said of Force 10 Hoops’ daily duties. “I’d have to look in to it. I’m a big-picture kind of person. If I had trillions of dollars like these other owners, I would definitely look into. For Lisa, I think it’s great for her to be on that side now and give back to that franchise. Financially it would have to make sense. It’s a big commitment and it’s not a secret that WNBA teams don’t always make money. In terms of my investments in restaurants, I have to look at my finances big-time before I make those decisions.” As for the idea of Bird being in charge of an entire organization, especially the employment of the coaching staff and front office? “”I’d be their boss, that’s kind of weird, actually,” she said.
As Storm center Ashley Robinson guessed, there were team meetings and talks in the Los Angeles camp after their two-point loss to Tulsa on Friday. Tulsa had been on a WNBA-record 20-game losing streak. But the Shock defeated Connecticut (83-72) on Sunday to join a three-way tie for third hottest team in the league.
Minnesota (23-6) clinched the top seed in the Western Conference on Sunday with its fifth consectutive victory while the Storm (16-12) is attempting to finish its four-game home stand with a sweep. Atlanta (two games) and Chicago (two) are the other hot teams in the WNBA.
“It was a tough loss, no doubt about it,” said L.A. coach Joe Bryant of Friday. “There were a couple of mistakes that we made during the course of the game, but it is what it is. We chit-chatted about it to just get it off our chest. Then we let it go and moved forward.”
Despite the early embarrassment of being the first team Tulsa clipped, Los Angeles (12-16) remains in prime position to sneak in the postseason backdoor. The Sparks are a game behind San Antonio (13-15) for the fourth and final berth in the West.
The Sparks appear to have a move favorable schedule, playing four the next six at home. The Silver Stars’ upcoming four games are against teams vying for postseason position and San Antonio is already on a six-game losing streak.
Problem is, though, Seattle is two wins within punching its eighth consecutive ticket to the postseason. The Storm’s magic number is three against the Sparks, meaning any combination of Seattle wins and L.A. losses sends the Storm to the playoffs.
And the teams play a home-and-home set.
“This is a tough place to win,” Bryant said of KeyArena. “It’s going to be a good mixture of inside-outside. Seattle is a very good team, an experienced team, they move the ball and they’re very physical. We just have to match their intensity, especially here.”
The Storm has draped majority of the lower bowl seats with green Bing shirts and handed out metal lunch pails to help the kids prepare for school. There’s a band, School of Rock, playing cover songs and ESPN2 has turned on the bright lights.
Let’s get you ready with the starting ups:
F Tina Thompson
F DeLisha Milton-Jones
C Candace Parker
G Ticha Penicheiro
G Kristi Toliver
F Swin Cash
F Camille Little
C Lauren Jackson
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Kurt Walker, Cameron Inoyue, and Scott Twardoski.



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