GAME OVER, SEASON OVER — Phoenix 77-75.
HERE WE GO — Wow. Phoenix 75-73 with 29.4 seconds left. Who takes the shot? Bird, Jackson, Cash, Smith or Wright?
TAURASI, LITTLE FOUL OUT — Taurasi and Little are gone. Phoenix 63-62, 5:37.
SEATTLE TRAILS — Dupree gave Phoenix its first lead with a mid-range jumper. Phoenix 60-59, 6:45.
FIVE ON TAURASI — Taurasi picked up her fifth foul, but will stay in the game. Seattle 59-58, 7:27.
THIRD QUARTER ENDS — Bird drained a three-pointer as time expired in the period. Seattle 57-54.
TIE GAME — There goes that 18-point lead. Bonner tied the game 48-48 with 4:03 left.
PHOENIX GOES ZONE — The Mercury have employed a 2-3 zone and the Storm has had difficulty figuring it out. Seattle 47-46, 4:03.
BIRD IS DOWN — Bird looks like she took a knee to the stomach. She ran off the court and into the locker room. Wright delivered the unintentional knee. Seattle 41-32, 8:04.
FOUR ON TAURASI — Now that’s four fouls on Taurasi. Little drew the charge. Seattle 39-30, 9:06.
KEMP — Shawn Kemp is sitting courtside.
HALFTIME OBSERVATIONS — Physical game. Lots of bumping, grinding, shoving and hard fouls. The refs are letting them play, which is great for the fans, but probably not so great for the players. They’re going to need ice packs after this one. Taurasi is in the middle of seemingly every mix-up. But the Storm aren’t backing down. If anything, they’re benefiting from the hard play.
Jackson has been efficient enough. She has eight points. But the early star has been Wright who has been fearless driving to the rim for many of her game-high 13 points.
The points in the paint category has told the story in this series and Seattle leads 20-12. That’s a good sign.
Another good sign is Taurasi and Dupree each have three fouls. That’s got to limit their aggressiveness. It would be wise of the Storm to attack both of them.
HALFTIME — Seattle 39-30.
TAURASI HAS THREE — Taurasi committed a hard foul on Smith knocking her to the floor. Smith got up and took a couple of steps towards Taurasi before Bird grabbed her. Got to admit, I’d pay to see that fight. Kind of like Mayweather and Pacquiao.
TAURASI HAS TWO — Taurasi has moved to point guard. She’s also going off after collecting her second foul. She’s yelling at everybody. Officials and teammates. Seattle 32-18, 4:03.
DUPREE HAS THREE — Dupree picked up her third foul trying (unsuccessfully) to stop Jackson’s layup. Seattle 29-11, 6:59.
TIMEOUT PHOENIX — This game is getting away from the Mercury. The Storm has handcuffed them defensively and forced 10 turnovers. Bird just scored on a fastbreak layup after the latest turnover. Seattle 24-9, 8:50.
HARD FOUL TAURASI — Maybe it was a little bit of payback, but Taurasi jumped into Wright for a hard foul to prevent a layup. Seattle 22-9, 9:27.
FIRST QUARTER ENDS — Wright capped the first quarter with a steal that led to a layup just before the period ended. Seattle 20-9.
HARD PICK — Talk about physical, Robinson laid out Ketia Swnier on pick. She picked up a foul.
SUBS — Katie Smith, Ashley Robinson and Le’coe Willingham are on the floor for Cash, Bird and Jackson. Seattle 18-9, 0.50.
GOOD START — The tempo favors the Storm. Seattle 16-7, 2:40.
FINALLY A BASKET — After six scoreless possessions, Seattle got a basket when Little sank a layup. Wright also sank a layup on the next trip. Seattle 4-2, 7:01.
LET’S GET PHYSICAL — The refs are letting them play. Lots of banging beneath the basket. Even the jump ball was physical. Phoenix has three turnovers. No score yet and we’re two minutes into the game.
WE GOT SMOKE — The game operations crew broke out the smoke machine for tonight’s big game. Maybe that’s nothing new, but I hadn’t noticed it before. The lower bowl is almost full. Good energy. Very loud.
HEY SLICK — The man with the headband Donald ‘Slick’ Watts walked in wearing a white track suit. That dude has style. Can hardly believe he’s 60.
HOPING FOR SELLOUT — I didn’t hear it, but I’m told Cash called out the Storm fans after Game 1. To paraphrase she was upset about the lack of crowd support. Got to admit, there plenty of empty seats. I’m told season-ticket holders had buy the full playoff package for every postseason game to guarantee their seats. They would be reimbursed for games not played. Still that’s a hefty investment, which may have contributed to the sparse attendance. The announced crowd was 7,279. We’re about 20 minutes away from the start and it’s looking like a decent crowd.
DELAY — Tip off will be pushed back about seven minutes because the Indiana-New York game is running long.
STARTING LINEUPS — No change for Seattle: G Sue Bird, G Tanisha Wright, C Lauren Jackson, F Swin Cash and F Camille Little.
Phoenix: G Temeka Johnson, G Diana Taurasi, F DeWanna Bonner, F Penny Taylor and F Candice Bonner.
PRE-GAME WITH AGLER — Had a chance to talk to coach Brian Agler before tonight’s game. Here’s a transcript of the interview.
“We were outplayed in Phoenix Saturday night. Points in the paint was the big difference and their aggression. I’ve always said in this league the majority of the time the hungriest team wins. And they were more hungry than we were Saturday.”
(How do you access the Storm’s mentality heading into tonight’s game?) “You can’t access it until you hit the floor. I would be surprised if we don’t come out focused and ready to go, but we got to take care of ourselves and think of ourselves and do the things we have to do to be ready to play.”
(Are you happy Game 3 is at KeyArena?) “If we’re fortunate enough to win this game, then I can honestly tell you that we won this series back in July when we were going through that tough period. Road games. Injuries. Slumps. Just fighting and clawing and getting every single win that we could get back there so we could stay alive. I told our team back in July, if we can have a winning record going into August, we’d have a chance to get home-court advantage. We got it. We fought hard. We got Lauren (Jackson) back. We had a mad dash at the end and put ourselves in this position. We’ll see if we can take advantage of it.”
(How critical is the Swin Cash vs. Penny Taylor matchup?) “I think there’s a lot of very critical matchups in this series. Swin and Penny are sort of similar in terms of their importance to their teams. They’re sort of the X-factor. If one of them have a big game, it can impact the outcome of a game in a positive way. That team usually wins. If you look at the history of this series, their averages are a little below what they normally are when we play each other. So it’s an important matchup. I’m hoping that Swin can come out of it and really do a good job for us.”
(In Game 2, she didn’t look for her shot. Why?) “I guess that would be a question to ask her. But it was nothing that we were trying to do or not do. But I can tell you that it’s important that she gets involved and is as aggressive as she normally is. We need that tenacity and that aggression. She’s not necessarily our go-to player, but she is somebody that we count on in a big way. She can create things on her own in the fray of the battle.”
(You talk a lot about rebounding. What happened Saturday in Phoenix?) “I just don’t think we were as aggressive as we needed to be. I don’t know if there’s any other way to put it but that. It was just disappointing. I’m not saying that we didn’t play. I told them I thought we played a pretty good game. But we weren’t hungry. We didn’t turn it over. We shot the ball better than we did on Thursday. But there’s so many other factors that go into then just efficient offense and shooting the ball better. We shot the ball well from the three-point line. We shot the ball well from free throw line, but it was a different mindset between the two teams. And I’m hoping our is more like it was Thursday. More like it has been most of the time, then it was in a comparison based to Phoenix on Saturday.”
(Saturday you tried to establish Jackson in the post, but that didn’t happen.) “We got to face facts, she’s not 100 percent. We all know that. We’ve seen her play when she’s on the top of her game and she’s not able to move and do those things that she’s capable of doing. But we’re a lot better team with her out there on the floor. Her presence alone makes a big difference. She is a competitor. She fought and worked hard to get back for this situation right here so don’t be surprised if you see her impact this game in a big way tonight.”
(Is she reluctant to go inside because of her hip injury?) “It’s not anything that she said to me. It’s not anything that we’re trying to do. I think that’s a question to ask her.”
“We got to do a little better on our 1-on-1 defense. We got to do a better job making her catch the ball. We got do a better job on rotations. There’s multiple things.”
“I think she worked within too much space. She had too much space. Too much vision. They had 20-something assists because they could see things. Our hands were down. We weren’t big on defense. We didn’t get deflections. And we gave up 92 points.”
(Do you like these winner-take-all games?) “You don’t approach them any differently. But obviously – players and coaches – this is what you really work hard for. You work hard to put yourself in this position. Like I said, if we’re fortunate to win this series, we won this series back in July. There’s no question in my mind. When Tanisha Wright, Sue Bird, Swin Bird, Camille Little and Katie Smith were playing big minutes because we were hurt or people were in slumps. Whatever it was. Travel. We hung in there. We stayed together. We scratched out a couple of wins. And then we gave ourselves a chance in August. And then we worked hard to get home-court advantage. We’ll see if we take advantage of it.”
(It is fair to describe these types of games as career-defining or is that hyperbole?) “Whose career?”
(Players and coaches.) “I think that’s what you guys write about. So if you guys are impacting people’s careers, I guess the answer is yes. (Laughing)”
WATCHING THE GAME — TV: ESPN2. Radio: 1090 AM. Oline: ESPN3.com.