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September 17, 2011 at 6:02 PM

Phoenix game thread

IT’S OVER — Phoenix 92-83.
STILL LIFE — Wright sank two free throws. Phoenix 81-76.
THIRD QUARTER ENDS — Phoenix 71-62.
SMITH HAS FOUR — Smith picked up her fourth foul. Phoenix 71, 62, 41.5.
HANGING AROUND — Agler isn’t throwing in the towel. Jackson has stayed in. This game is still winnable. He’s pushing hard for the victory. Phoenix 69-62, 1:00.
DIMINISHED RETURNS? — It’s getting to a point where Agler has to decide if he should pull Jackson. She just threw up an air ball on a three-pointer and the Storm are behind 13 points. Jackson has a bad hip and it looks as if there’s going to be a decisive Game 3 on Monday. Phoenix 62-49, 5:32.
SMITH, ROBINSON CHECKS IN — Wright and Jackson are out and Smith is in. Phoenix 57-45, 8:08.
WRIGHT PICKS UP FOURTH — Wright has four fouls. She’s staying in the game. Phoenix 53-43, 8:50.
HALFTIME OBSERVATIONS — The Storm are lucky to be down by just nine points. This could really be a blowout. The Mercury is playing like a team with their playoff life at stake. They also look as if they were embarrassed on Thursday. It’s a complete reversal of Game 1. Phoenix is dominating inside. The Mercury have outrebounded the Storm 20-8. They have more points in the paint (28-4) and second-chance points (9-0).
Dupree has a game-high 18 points and she’s outplaying Jackson (10 points) inside. Little (1-for-4 shooting, 4 points) is trying, but she’s also being outplayed by Bonner who has nine rebounds and is playing excellent defense.
Smith is Seattle’s saving grace. She’s came off the bench and exploded for 14 points. Bird has 10.
The big question for the Storm is where’s Cash? She’s scoreless, which would be okay if she tried to take a few shots. She’s been passive offensively. Cash is 0 for 1 with no rebounds or assists while her counterpart Taylor has six points and four assists.
HALFTIME — Phoenix 51-40.


DOMINATED INSIDE — Phoenix has scored 26 points in the paint. Seattle has just four. Phoenix 49-40, 0.32.
WRONG TEMPO — Phoenix has 45 points. At this pace, they’ll top 100. That’s not what the Storm wants. What’s worse, on the last possession Dupree beat Little down court after a Seattle miss for a layup. When that happens, the Storm is in big trouble. Phoenix 45-38, 1:42.
WHERE’S THE FOUL? — Agler and Gaines are hopping mad about the officiating. The refs are letting the players and it’s getting physical. Jackson is talking to refs trying to gain an understanding for how they’re calling the game. Gaines is constantly barking and one of the refs told him: “Stop. Just stop. No more.” Phoenix 41-36,2:36.
AND SHE’S OUT — Wright checks out on the next possession.
WRIGHT RETURNS — Wright checks in with three fouls. Bonner is limping. Not sure what’s wrong with her. Looks like a lower leg problem. Phoenix 38-36, 3:56.
THREE-POINT BARRAGE — Seattle has converted 8 of 11 three-pointers. The Storm haven’t been able to get anything going inside after scoring 40 points inside the paint in Game 1. Tonight they have 2. Phoenix 36-32, 4:40.
BIRD IS BACK — Short rest for Bird who replaces Snell. Phoenix 29-23, 7:24.
FOURTH SUB — Because Wright is in foul trouble, Angler has to go with Belinda Snell who is in for Bird. Smith is the de facto point guard, which should be interesting. Phoenix 25-21, 9:03.
FIRST QUARTER ENDS — Feels like the Storm weathered a storm. Using a boxing analogy, they took several shots from the Mercury. They looked out of sync. The offense was discombobulated. Just all over the place. Bird has kept them in the game. She recognized what was missing and began draining long-range bombs. No one else has established any offensive rhythm. Smith will need to play big minutes and become a defensive stopper. She’s defending Taurasi. Phoenix 23-18.
WRIGHT HAS THREE FOULS — Wright picked up her third foul. She’s out of the game. Probably won’t play again in the first half. Cash returns. Phoenix 21-15, 1:44.
SANFORD IN — Sanford is on the court. She’s wearing a black brace around her sore right knee. Phoenix 19-13, 2:25.
THIRD SUB — Ashley Robinson is in for Jackson. Phoenix 17-10, 3:27.
SECOND SUB — Le’coe Willingham is in for Little. Phoenix 13-7.
FIRST SUB — Katie Smith is in for Cash. Phoenix 11-4, 5:19.
BAD STARTS GETS WORSE — Wright is called for a foul after running over Taylor. Taurasi made a three-pointer on the play. Taylor went to the line and sank the free throw. Phoenix 11-2, 5:51.
EARLY TIMEOUT — Agler called a timeout. Before the game he talked about using timeouts – possibly early – to break Phoenix’s momentum. Agler looks like he’s upset because the Storm isn’t getting the ball inside. He wanted Jackson to get the ball in the post on one possession and that didn’t happen. Phoenix 5-0, 7:36.
BAD START — The Storm has failed to score on its first five possessions. Three turnovers and two missed shots. Phoenix, 5-0, 7:48.
HALL OF FAMER IN THE HOUSE — Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller is sitting courtside at midcourt. I think she’s cheering for Phoenix.
SMATTERING OF GREEN — There’s a few brave Storm fans inside the building. I met a few fans this morning on my flight to Phoenix. Mostly this place is covered in orange. Lots of orange thunder sticks. Very annoying.
NO WORD ON SANFORD — Phoenix center Nakia Sanford (sore right knee) did not play Thursday and she’s not starting tonight. She’s listed as a game-time decision. She’s on the floor for warm-ups.
STARTING LINEUPS — No change for Seattle: G Sue Bird, G Tanisha Wright, C Lauren Jackson, F Camille Little and F Swin Cash.
Phoenix: G Temeka Johnson, G Diana Taurasi, F Candice Dupree, F DeWanna Bonner and F Penny Tayor.
LOOKING AHEAD — Game 3 (if needed) is 7 p.m. Monday at KeyArena. The Western Conference finals begin 6 p.m. Thursday. Game 2 is 2 p.m. Sunday and Game 3 is Tuesday (TBA). All times are Pacific. In the other West semifiinals, No. 1 seed Minnesota leads No. 4 San Antonio. 1-0.
SEEKING A RECORD — With a win, Seattle ties the WNBA record of nine consecutive playoff wins set by the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001-02.
TV INFO — Tonight’s game is on NBA-TV.
PRE-GAME WITH AGLER — Had a chance to chat briefly with coach Brian Agler before tonight’s game. Here’s a transcript of the interview.
(After Thursday’s game, do you change anything?) “You’re always watching and trying to get better. I think that there’s some things. I think (Phoenix coach Corey Gaines) hit the nail on the head, they had some shots that they missed. What we want to try to eliminate is giving them open looks. They’re a very good shooting team. Part of that is you sort have got to pick your poison too. Who do you want to give the most attention to? In some ways, they’re going to get some open looks, but we want to try to eliminate as many as we can.”
(You said it wasn’t a perfect game. In what ways can you improve on Thursday’s effort?) “We didn’t shoot the ball very well at all. Maybe we can shoot it better. Parts of the first half we sort of got congested on offense. Bringing Lauren back into the picture has obviously made us a lot better, but we’re still working on how to play with her. Sometimes when she gets on the floor, we try to force the ball to her which is not a bad thing. But then it gets everybody else standing as well. So we got to try to utilize her and let her play to her strengths, but we also go to keep everybody playing to their strengths as well. As the game went on, it got better.”
(If there’s any nitpicking from the last game, it’s the bench didn’t play that well, especially Katie Smith who was 0 for 8. What can you do to get her going and get more from the reserves?) “Well Katie had some open looks. Ashley I thought gave us a lot of energy and got a couple of layups. Those things are going to be good. And Le’coe Willingham always plays pretty well against Phoenix. There’s some motivation there for her. She’ll be able to contribute for us.”
(How do you match the intensity you’ll probably see tonight from Phoenix?) “We’re going to have to count on people to come out and play as hard and as intense and as focused as we can. What can we do to match it? We just come out with energy. Talking about it, yeah you can mention it. But is that going to motivate them? No. Their motivation is going to be the desire to have success and how hungry they are to have success. That’s why you see a lot of times people with their backs to the wall – just like you saw with New York today – come out and really give a great effort because there’s a tremendous desire. We’re going to see it and feel it tonight.”
(Did you see something in Phoenix’s defense that allowed Tanisha Wright and Swin Cash to post up on Thursday?) “We have things in our offense that allows us to go to people when they post up. Sometimes they do it naturally. And we did a really good job. It wasn’t anything that the coaches said. It was something that our team recognized and took advantage of it. And that’s the presence of Lauren a lot too. Because she’s matched a lot of times with a post player and she’s spaced on the floor. That post player is away from the rim and it gives us an opportunity to do some other things.

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