IT’S OVER — Seattle 81-70.
CHICAGO MAKES A RUN — The Sky aren’t going away easily. They’ve made a run and cut Seattle’s lead to 65-60 with 5:28 left.
THIRD QUARTER ENDS — Seattle 57-47.
HALFTIME OBSERVATIONS — Motivation might have been a challenge for the Storm which locked up homecourt advantage in the first-round of the playoffs, but imagine being Chicago. The Sky finish their season 2,000 miles away in a game that have very little meaning for them. With that in mind, you might understand why Chicago looked lethargic early on.
The Storm jumped on them early and led 26-12 early in the second quarter. That was their largest lead. Chicago fought back and narrowed Seattle’s lead to 31-26.
Without Jackson in the middle, Little has plenty of room down low. She’s looking for her shot and finding scoring opportunities despite being double teamed at times. Little has a game-high tying 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting. Cash is also scoring inside, but she’s slashing to the rim for many of her nine points. She also has a game-high tying five rebounds.
Bird has 10 points after scoring 7 in the first quarter. Smith has 8 points, but is moving slowly after falling hard to the floor in the second quarter. Robinson is scoreless, but she’s doing a nice job keeping a body on Fowles and making life difficult for Chicago’s best player.
HALFTIME — Seattle 41-33.
GETTING HEATED — Chicago coach Pokey Chatman is hopping mad about a non-call on Fowles who looked to be hacked on a layup. Bird is also complaining about a call on the sideline. They’ve been barking at the refs. Meanwhile the Storm have fought off a few Sky charges thanks to the inside play from Little and Cash who have eight points apiece. Bird leads all scorers with 10. Seattle 38-26, 2:48.
STATS — Click here.
FIRST QUARTER ENDS — Seattle 24-12.
6,000 CLUB — Smith dropped a three for career point 6,001. She received a standing ovation from the fans. Seattle 22-10, 1:53.
RUN SNAPPED — The Storm used a 12-0 run to erase a 7-8 deficit and take a 19-8 lead.
FIRST SUB — Smith checking in for Bird. Crowd goes crazy.
GOOD START — Bird came out looking for her offense and she’s been very aggressive. She drained all three of her shots for a game-high 7 points. Bird has a quickness advantage and she’s using it to get good looks on long jumpers. Robinson is holding her own against MVP-candidate Fowles, who has 2 points. Seattle 13-8, 4:59.
PRE-GAME CEREMONY — The Washington national guard played a rendition of Taps and the national anthem. Very moving.
THE GOVERNOR IS IN THE HOUSE — Governor Christine Gregoire is on the court and participating in a 9/11 tribute.
STRUGGLES AGAINST CHICAGO — The Sky has won 2 of the past 3 games against the Mercury. Agler told Fain one reason for Seattle’s struggles is “we build the team to compete in the Western Conference.”
KEYS TO THE GAME — During his pre-game talk with radio host Dick Fain, Agler went over the keys to the game. No. 1: Rebound. No. 2: Defend. No. 3: Play two speeds (Play in transition and execute in the halfcourt.)
MILESTONES IN REACH TONIGHT — Smith needs two points to reach 6,000 career points in the WNBA. Only two other players (Tina Thompson and Lisa Leslie) has more points.
If the Storm wins, Agler ties Van Chancellor for the most wins for a professional women’s basketball coach. Agler has 210. If Seattle loses, Agler could go for the record next season because postseason wins are not included in the all-time mark.
TONIGHT’S STARTERS — Aside from Robinson replacing Jackson, the rest of the starters are the same: forwards Swin Cash and Camille Little and guards Sue Bird and Tanisha Wright.
Chicago: F Tamera Young, F Carolyn Swords, C Sylvia Fowles, G Erin Thorn and G Dominque Canty.
PRE-GAME CHAT WITH AGLER — Thought I’d pass along the transcript from my pre-game talk with coach Brian Agler.
(What went into the decision to rest Jackson?) “In regard to Lauren it’s based on getting her ready for the playoffs. Getting her 100 percent healthy or as close to 100 percent as we can. She won’t be 100 percent. In regards to everybody else … my philosophy coming into here is you always try to put yourself in the best position. So winning today could help us at some point in the playoffs. A win gives us a tie-breaker over two of the Eastern Conference teams in the (Finals). ” [Actually it’s just one team – Atlanta.]
(Will you open up the rotation?) “We probably will. I think we’ll gauge how the game goes. We’re going to play to win. Whoever we play, we’re going to play to win. You might say we’re not playing Lauren so that means we’re not playing to win, but that’s not the case. We played 20 games without Lauren this year. It’s more in that situation monitoring how she can recover from competition. We want her to be as fresh and rested as possible going into next weekend.”
(Where is Jackson in terms of her recovery?) “I don’t think she’s going to be 100 percent until the wintertime, but in terms of being able to play. I think when she came back her first few games back you could sort of see she was being close to being herself. The deal with her is it’s not so much her ability to play, once you play a couple of games her ability to recover from that competition and get ready for the next one. It’s hard for her to play one day, take a day off and play the next day. That’s a hard recovery for her. That’s why we’re trying to give her as much cushion or time to work to get back to feeling as good as she can going into the playoffs. Once we get into the playoffs, it will be difficult for her to keep responding game after game after game.”
(Can she practice?) “Her practices will be limited. She’ll be in practice and she’ll be dressed, but limited in what she does.”
(Why did she play Friday?) “She wanted to play because that game meant a lot to all of us and our organization. So she wanted to play.”
(On Jackson’s ineffectiveness Friday.) “That was Lauren not being 100 percent. That was Lauren being out there for her teammates. Her presence created a lot of opportunities for her teammates. Her presence was very beneficial. And she hit some big … the points she scored were right down the stretch. She hit them when we needed them. But I think you could tell that she wasn’t moving real well.”
(If needed, she could play tonight?) “She could go out on the court and be dressed. … We just feel like it’s better served for our organization if she watches this game. The other 10 players, we’re going to try to win because it could mean something to us two weeks down the road here.”
(After watching Friday’s video, what did you see out from Katie Smith?) “It looked like Katie from the ABL days. She was driving the ball. She was getting it to the rim. She had her stroke. She was defending. It was obviously perfect timing for us. We needed it that night.”
(What has this season been like for Smith in terms of finding her role?) “I think it’s been hard for her. I think it’s the first time in her life she hasn’t started. So that is totally new for her. She’s come to a team that is really established. Sort of like she did in Detroit, but when she went to Detroit she moved into the starting lineup. We have an established starting lineup. So it wasn’t as smooth for her. It’s taken some time. I will say this for Katie, she’s the ultimate competitor. And she’s going to figure it out. I’m hoping what we saw Friday night is what we’re going to see down the stretch here.”
ROBINSON STARTS — Ashley Robinson starts tonight in place of Jackson. It’s the 13th start this season for 6-4 center. Seattle is 6-6 with Robinson in the starting lineup.
JACKSON SITS — Three-time MVP Lauren Jackson will sit out tonight to rest her surgically-repaired left hip. It’s the first time she’ll miss a game since returning Aug. 20. She’s played in the past eight games, but coach Brian Agler said the star center is nowhere near 100 percent. On Friday, Jackson produced just four points on 1-for-5 shooting.