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August 30, 2011 at 7:25 PM

Game thread: Seattle at Los Angeles

STORM LOSSES: The stat of the night? Neither team had a single fast break point, Seattle missing its lone attempt. The last time that happened? Oh, the embarrassing loss to Minnesota at home in June. You would think the Storm had improved since then, but Tuesday was definitely a disappointment. “This is a definitely a step back,” Agler said. “We didn’t give ourselves some opportunity.” The Storm gave the Sparks 20 points on 19 turnovers, another bugger stat in the game. “It seemed like right when we were making our run, we had a couple critical turnovers,” Agler said. True. When the Storm was rallying in the fourth quarter, Jackson and Cash committed turnovers. Bird finally closed the gap to 65-60 with 1:52 remaining in the game, on Cash missed a layin and Thompson snagged the critical rebound to prevent Seattle from coming back. The Storm drops to third in the Western Conference, a half-game behind Phoenix. Seattle (17-13) still needs a win or Los Angeles loss to clinch a postseason berth. L.A. is keeping its hopes alive, snapping Seattle’s four-game win streak. Seattle travels to Tulsa for a back-to-back against the Shock and Silver Stars. Jackson didn’t play the final 1:03 of Tuesday’s game and was seen limping in the locker room, but shooed away doctors and is expected to play this weekend. Parker led all scorers with 27 points and seven rebounds. Bird (15) and Jackson (14) paced the Storm. Sparks coach Joe Bryant, in preparation for the postseason, played a shortened bench (two players). Agler kept his reserves to three, getting the edge 16-14.
STORY TIME: So, Jackson was all groupie for Lynch, right? I asked her about it afterward, especially how she literally bolted over and hugged the woman, who she does not know. “She was so nice about it,” said Jackson when I teased that she was lucky Lynch was surrounded by CIA or security. “If somebody tried to do that to me, I’d say ‘What in the hell are you doing?’ I don’t have a nice bone in my body.” Jackson is lying about the last part, but I guess C Ashley Robinson and I told the Australian the same thing after her reaction to Lynch — Jackson should understand and be warm the next time a fan freaks out about seeing her. We’ll see.
SPOTTED: Lamman Rucker (“Why Did I Get Married”) is seated baseline, jamming to music played over the PA with his friends.
PENALTY: This entry was going to be about Seattle getting its offense together, Bird and Jackson opening the second half with three-pointers to pull Seattle within five points of L.A.’s lead. But the Storm committed a series of tacky fouls and LA is in the penalty, giving the Sparks bonus shots at the line. The Storm is down 44-34 with 4:48 left in the third quarter.
GAME LYNCHED: Perhaps Jackson is a little too excited one of her idols is watching the game? The three-time MVP isn’t playing good defense and is a horrible 1 of 7 from the field for five points and three rebounds. Her teammates aren’t doing any better, giving up 14 points on 17 turnovers and shooting 33.3 percent from the field. Seattle doesn’t have much energy on offense, which spells l-o-s-s.
ICE, ICE, BABY: The Storm might be in this game if they could shoot the ball. Wright missed a driving layin, dropping Seattle’s shooting percentage down to 33.3 percent. The Sparks are shooting 52.4 percent, nullifying their four turnovers. Jackson and Wright are a combined 2 of 10. The duo were the offensive catalysts in past wins. L.A. leads 30-22 with 1:03 on the clock.
TECH: Jackson received a technical with 5:55 on the clock, not liking the officiating. Or maybe she’s frustrated at Parker draining three-pointers in her face? The LA star did it, again, giving the Sparks a 30-20 lead.
DROUGHT OVER: The Storm began the second quarter with more turnovers and missed buckets, including a shot-clock violation. The poor offensive flow allowed L.A. to open on a 7-0 run to build a 24-15 lead. Bird broke the drought, nailing a soft three-pointer with 7:13 left in the half.
FOR THREE!: The Storm was playing solid ball…until it decided to stop guarding the perimeter. The final deadly three-pointer of the opening quarter was Parker’s at the top of the key where she had enough time to size up the shot, release and still no defender stepped in front of her. The Sparks lead 17-15, shooting 50 percent from the field. Unlike Sunday, the Storm has eight early turnovers for nine LA points.
EARLY LEAD: Cash may be out of her shooting slump, nailing a three-pointer to get the Storm on the board first. At the first time out, Seattle leads 10-9.
CALIFORNIA DREAMING: So, what does LA need to do to get into the postseason? With San Antonio upsetting Connecticut 78-66 on Tuesday, the fifth-seeded Sparks (12-17) need to win at least four of their final five to advance. And the lone loss can’t be to the Silver Stars on Sept. 6.
STARGAZING: It’s been a celebrity-filled trip to LA-LA land for Jackson. When the team landed at Los Angeles International Airport, she ran into NBA champion Paul Pierce (Boston), who posted on Twitter that she’s his idol. During her warmup about two-hours before game-time on Tuesday, Emmy-award winning actress Jane Lynch waltzed in with her family. Jackson freaked and ran over to give her a big hug, totally blushing. Lynch was just as excited to get smothered by the 6-foot-6 center, posing for a photo with Jackson and some teammates. Agler was the photographer. Lynch personally contacted that Sparks to get a ticket, telling me she just hadn’t been this year so it was time. Her daughter also plays hoops.
Seriously. Is there anything to say about Tuesday night’s Storm game in Los Angeles besides win and Seattle advances to the postseason for a WNBA-tying eighth consecutive time?
Nope. But how will Seattle (17-12) go about clinching?
Storm coach Brian Agler hopes it’s with improved offensive scoring and the same efficiency the team has shown since three-time MVP Lauren Jackson returned to the lineup, averaging 15.3 miscues in the past four wins compared to 17.1 without her in the lineup. The Storm had a season-low eight turnovers in a two-point win against LA on Sunday.
“We’re still trying to get accustomed to having Lauren back on both ends of the floor,” Agler said. “We’re really getting into our rotation now and we’re still a work in progress. I know it sounds strange being 29 games in the season, but it is what it is. We’ve had so many issues throughout the year. Not only did we not have Lauren, but we did not have her through the toughest part of the schedule. It’s just taken us time to really get things figured out and learn how this team has to play to be successful in this league.”
Although Seattle can clinch on Tuesday at the Staples Center, it’s not the final goal. Minnesota clinched the overall top seed in the Western Conference, forcing the Storm to battle for second place. The slot grants the home court advantage for at least the opening round of the postseason.
Phoenix (17-12) is closely chasing Seattle for the mark. The Mercury defeated Tulsa on Tuesday, needing a Sparks loss to clinch a berth. Phoenix would play Seattle in a best-of-three opening round.
“There’s a lot of games to be played and a lot at stake right now,” said Agler, whose team is beginning a three-game road trip in LA. “Because I feel like Phoenix is a very good team, I feel it’s going to go down to the end of the season. But we’ve got to win some games. We’ve got to make sure that game we play against Phoenix in Seattle (Sept. 9) means something.”
With that said, let’s get it started with your starting lineups:
STORM
F Swin Cash
F Camille Little
C Lauren Jackson
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
SPARKS
F Tina Thompson
F DeLisha Milton-Jones
C Candace Parker
G Kristi Toliver
G Ticha Penicheiro
Tonight’s officials are Sue Blauch, Cameron Inouye, and Jeff Smith.

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