STORM WINS: The postgame locker room was finally jovial, the Storm winning 76-58 on Friday. Big stats were Seattle pairing down turnovers to 11 against a team that entered forcing a WNBA-best 26.7. Seattle also hung onto its late lead, not letting the feisty Shock use its defensive pressure to wiggle back in the game and steal a win. Most importantly is the team is visibly getting more comfortable with each other. They had another solid stretch of practice in between games and you could see Wright finding a groove with Little and Agler trusting Kobryn or Stricklen with minutes. Alysha Clark even saw five minutes. “We’re getting more and more comfortable with each other, so that tentativeness is disappearing,” Bird said. She led all scorers with 27 points on 9-for-15 shooting while Little added 19 points and nine boards and Wright had a team-leading four assists. Lacy led the Shock off the bench with 12 points and R. Williams added 11 on 3-for-11 shooting. But Tulsa’s backcourt had five of the team’s total 16 for 13 Storm points. “We just stalled out offensively in the third quarter,” said Kloppenburg, whose team went about six minutes in the second half getting ran over by Seattle. “You can’t do that against a team like the Storm because they have so many weapons. Fatigued set in with us and we didn’t have as much pressure as we’ve had lately.” Tulsa remains winless at 0-5 while Seattle improves to 1-3 and leaves Saturday for a five-game road trip starting in Los Angeles.
BREAK TIME: I’m sure this game will seesaw in the fourth quarter, but I’m out to write the daily story. Check the Twitter feed (@JaydaEvans) for the final score I’ll be back after postgame interviewing for a wrap.
STILL UP: Tulsa’s signature defensive pressure was turned up a couple of notches out of the timeout, inching the team within three points of Seattle’s lead. But a three-pointer by C Eva Kobryn and a teardrop shot by Bird has the home team up 55-46 with 1:15 remaining.
BIRD RACIN: The Storm went on a 10-3 run to pull ahead 48-42 with 5:16 left in the third quarter and get the Key rockin. Bird, Little and Wright worked well in getting the surge going, Little nailing a three-pointer followed by one by Bird. Later Wright had a smooth look to Little inside the paint, instead of continuing to charge inside herself and risk a foul or miss. Kloppenburg finally had seen enough when Bird had Jennifer lacy spinning in trying to defend a jumper with 5:17 on the clock.
TATTED OUT: Some of y’all know of Seattle’s super fan, Big Lo. He’s gone so far as to put tattoos of favorite players and their autographs on his body, totaling more than 60 hours of work. The latest is a full-length imprint of Bird on the left forearm. A new technique meant it was “only” six hours of work. He showed it to Bird at halftime, who was impressed and flattered as she smiled at the tattoo. I’ll put some pictures up on Instagram and Twitter (@JaydaEvans) later. The second half has started and Seattle is down 39-36 with 8:34 left in the third quarter and the crowd still standing, waiting for that first bucket.
HALFTIME: Riquna Williams scored the Shock’s final five points of the half to close Tulsa within 36-35 of the Seattle’s lead. There have been seven lead changes and five ties, so this game is far from being decided. Seattle has cut down on the turnovers dramatically, totaling eight for eight Tulsa points. Tulsa has 10, but has only allowed five points off the miscues. Seattle is keeping Tulsa from scoring on second-chance looks (5-0), but is losing the battle underneath, getting outrebounding 17-11 despite having a blatant height advantage. Wauters has one board and two points. Little is doing work with six points and 10 points. Tulsa is led by Williams’ eight points off the bench and Pedersen’s five boards. The halftime entertainment was getting to know the Seattle Storm Dance Troupe, each member doing an individual free-style routine as announcer Shelley Hart told unique stories about them.
STAT WATCH: Too bad the backcourt can’t shine together, but Bird does have a game-leading 15 points on 4-for-6 shooting. Only problem is Wright is 0-for-3. Seattle is shooting 41.7 percent overall to Tulsa’s 37.
ANOTHER HONOR: Storm CEO and president Karen Bryant was in the spotlight during a second quarter timeout, named to the Snohomish Sports Hall of Fame on Wednesday. The induction ceremony is slated for September. On the court, Seattle is up 32-27 with 2:49 on the clock.
HEY YOU: There are so many connections in hoops, it’s hard to keep track of all of them. But a first is former Tennessee stars Glory Johnson and Stricklen facing each other. Both are perfect fits for their respective teams, Johnson being the No. 4 pick in the draft. So far Johnson’s team has the edge, leading 27-25 with 5:56 remaining in the half. Another connection is Storm assistant Jenny Boucek coached Dorrell at defunct Sacramento while Latta and Little were teammates at North Carolina.
DEJA VU: Bird finished the quarter, taking Latta off the dribble for a three-pointer at the buzzer. Like Tulsa hasn’t seen that before. Seattle is up 17-14 and Bird is shooting a more recognizable 3-for-4 from the field.
NO CHICKEN: Smith has talked about her team needing to get tough and gave an example in the first quarter. With Temeka Johsnon charging down the court on a fast break, showing no sign of stopping until she reached the hoop, Smith stared her in the face and took the barreling charge. And don’t think just because Johnson is 5-foot-3 that it was an easy hit. I’d run from her in an alley if I didn’t know how sweet she is. Anyway, Agler promptly pulled Smith from the game to get some rest with 1:48 left. KeyArena appreciated the sacrifice, giving Smith an applause.
BOARD GAMES: Neither team is shooting well to start, and Seattle is losing the rebounding matchup to keep struggling. The Storm has two boards compared to the Shock’s eight. Seattle is up 8-6 with 4:15 remaining in the first quarter, however. Agler made his first substitutions of the game, putting in veteran Tina Thompson and rookie Shekinna Stricklen in at the 5:15 mark.
EYE ROLL: OK, so based on the first foul o the game, it’s going to be a soft guard in the paint. Little barely bumped a cutting Johnson and Brewton blew his whistle. At least it was repaid on the other end when Pedersen hacked Little inside. Seattle’s down 4-2 with 8:09 left in the first quarter.
SCOREBOARD: Minnesota remains undefeated, beating up on Connecticut on the road 85-72. F Rebekkah Brunson had 14 points and 13 boards, helping the Lynx outscore the previously undefeated Sun 30-16 in the fourth quarter. Phoenix is struggling, as expected without All-Stars Diana Taurasi (hip) and Penny Taylor (knee), losing 85-66 at San Antonio. Silver Stars PG Becky Hammon had 30 points.
There’s really not much you can say about Friday’s matchup between Seattle and Tulsa that hasn’t been heard a million times. Neither team has won a game to start the young season and both are fully aware of what needs to change in order to tally a mark in the win column.
For Seattle (0-3) it’s turnovers and handling the physical nature of WNBA opponents. For Tulsa (0-4), it’s improving its WNBA-low 37.3 percent shooting percentage and valuing the ball down the stretch — especially when it has a lead.
Both teams have a tough opponent to correct those errors against in each other. Seattle has solid post play that can counter Tulsa’s lack of height. The Shock has quick, aggressive guards that have notoriously given the Storm backcourt of Sue Bird and Tanisha Wright fits in the past, so turnovers could be likely.
“It’s not the time of year for everything to come together, yet,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “We hope we’re moving in the right direction. (They’re backcourt) is a big part of their firepower. They’re very energetic, they’re aggressive and they get a lot of points off their defense There will be a time when they’ll get matched up up with a post player one-on-one and they’ll just clear everybody out and try to take them to the rim and try to score on them. They definitely have a theme to what they’re trying to do.”
Agler is starting G Katie Smith for the first time this season, another attempt to counter Tulsa’s backcourt play. Reserve F Victoria Dunlap, who hasn’t played this season, is out due to a concussion suffered in practice this week.
First-year Tulsa coach Gary Kloppenburg is particularly hoping his theme will shine in his pseudo home gym, KeyArena. He was part of the Storm’s inaugural staff for three seasons with head coach Lin Dunn and his father was a longtime assistant for the former SuperSonics in the 1980s and 1990s.
Since Tulsa arrived Wednesday, the Kloppenburgs were able to gather for a big family dinner. Bob Kloppenburg will also attend the game Friday, also getting the chance to see his son’s coaching debut in Tulsa in May.
“He’s like an unpaid consultant, taking his little notes since he’s retired” Kloppenburg said of his father. “I learned a lot from him through the years basketball-wise, so it’s good to get his input.”
Who’s input will result in a win? It all begins with your starting lineup:
F Kayla Pedersen
F Scholanda Dorrell
C Chante Black
G Ivory Latta
G Temeka Johnson
F Katie Smith
F Camille Little
C Ann Wauters
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Amy Bonner, Tom Mauer, and Eric Brewton.