STORM LOSES: The game was tied four times, but Seattle never really check into KeyArena, losing 70-59 to Atlanta before a lower-bowl sell out of 9,686. “Every time it felt like we could creep in there, they would hit a shot at the shot-clock buzzer or get a steal,” said Bird, who was 2 for 6 from the field for five points and eight assists after scoring 31 points with four assists in Sunday’s win. “Of course I’m very proud of Strick and Alysha. They did a great job. Hopefully now that they’ve experienced that, they can draw from it and use it in our next game.” Strick led the team with season-highs in points (16) and rebounds (nine) while Clark had a season-high seven points. But it was Atlanta’s four starters who finished in double figures that sealed the game, led by Lyttle (21). Or maybe it was the Dream (9-9) limiting the Storm to four offensive rebounds and 13-2 second-chance points disadvantage. Or maybe it was the 18 points that Seattle gave up on 16 miscues. Either way, it all equals a loss. “Clearly we did not play well,” Bird conceded. Seattle had a five-game winning streak at home snapped and hasn’t won against the Dream at KeyArena since June 2010. The Storm (8-10) wraps pre-Olympics play in Phoenix on Friday, but eliminated its chance to finish above .500 before the break. That makes the matchup with the Mercury even more critical since Phoenix could be a team the Storm needs to stave off for the fourth and final playoff spot once the second-half of WNBA play resumes. While Bird will be off to Washington, D.C. and then Europe to prepare and participate in the London Games, the remaining of the team will each get a seven-day break and return to practice on Aug. 1. “We talked about going into these games and how we could really help ourselves in the standings if we played well,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “Obviously we didn’t.”
BREAK TIME: I’m out to work on the newspaper version of this lethargic game. Check the Twitter feed to the right of your computer screen for the final score and any updates I may have. Otherwise I’ll be back after postgame interviews to give a complete wrap. Storm down 53-46 at the end of the third quarter.
BENCH MOB: Stricklen and Clark combined to outscore the Dream 9-4 to drag the Storm within 52-46 at the end of three quarters. Clark is playing especially strong inside, sometimes at center with her 5-foot-10 self. Stricklen has been grabbing rebounds and scored on two FTs. But Seattle has given up 13 points on 12 miscues and is 5-for-15 from three-point range and it gets pounded 32-18 in the paint. Lyttle hasn’t scored since the first half.
FOUL TROUBLE: Fans are still standing four minutes into the second half because Seattle has yet to score. Kobryn picked up her fourth foul and Seattle is down 44-32.
ZIP, ZILTCH, ZERO: The Storm called a timeout, getting smothered by a mini 5-0 run to fall behind 41-32 nearly two minutes into the second half. Lyttle isn’t doing the damage, missing a shot and getting called for a foul. Instead Harding and Hays have connected, which Seattle can’t allow to happen if it hopes to win this game. There’s 8:12 on the clock.
HALFTIME: The Storm is down 36-32 at halftime, struggling to get things going against Lyttle. She’s playing on a different level — literally. She’s made sky-walking finger rolls, jumped high for rebounds and drop high-arching three-pointers. She had 15 points at the break. The Storm was outscored 24-10 in the paint in the first half. The Dream have 11-0 second-chance point advantage and 21-12 on the boards. Little should be able to join the fray in the second half, but will have to watch the fouls. Seattle has won before with players like Lyttle going off. That’s going to take some rebounding and improvement on the 39.3 percent shooting. Wright leads the Storm with 10 points. Stricklen has five with four rebounds and one steal in 13 minutes. halftime was a dunk contest featuring Seahawks stars Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. Doppler won, of course, getting an ear-piercing cheer from the youthful crowd.
TIE GAME: Bird kicked the ball out to Smith for a three-pointer, tying the game at 25 points apiece with 4:11 left in the half. Add a 16-foot jumper by Wright off a Bird feed and Seattle is now up 27-25.
SUPER STRICK: Stricklen is making plays off the bench to be part of the reserves pulling the Storm out of its early funk. She hustle for a loose ball to Yelana Leuchanka’s chagrin, the latter loosing her cool and getting called for a technical foul. Stricklen also nailed a three-pointer and collected a steal with her long arms, drawing a foul on Hayes on the breakaway. Seattle is within 20-23 before Wright’s FTs. There’s 5:53 on the clock and we’re at a timeout.
LITTLE SITS: Little isn’t off to the greatest start. She committed three quick fouls and is 0 for 2 from the field for two points and and two rebounds. She was pulled as AGler went smallish with rookie Shekinna Stricklen, reserve Alysha Clark, and Smith in with Bird and Kobryn. It’s the end of the quarter, folks are doing some sort of Platypus Walk at center court and the Storm is down 18-12.
ANOTHER TIME: Agler called time after there was already a short break. Probably because Henry is making him look questionable with personnel decisions. She made a putback behind the Storm’s sleepy defense to make the score 14-7 with 3:37 left in the opening quarter. The Dream is outrebounding the Storm 8-2, Seattle really missing its bigs.
COLD-BRYN: Cold as in bad a…what? I’m just talking about Ewelina. She’s scored five of the team’s opening seven points to get the Storm in the game. Seattle is still shooting 28.6 percent overall compared to Atlanta’s 62.5. The score is 10-7 with 4:45 remaining in the first quarter.
SLUGGISH: Perhaps the Storm should take another shot of coffee. The team is off to a sluggish start against the Dream, not grabbing a rebound in the opening four minutes. Bird missed her first attempt of the game, Seattle going 0 for 5 overall to trail 8-2 overall.
Storm C Ann Wauters tried to give it a go, but will not start as Seattle hosts Atlanta in the annual Kids Day game on Wednesday. Her absence leaves the Storm with eight active players and just two traditional posts.
Legend Tina Thompson is out with a strained left knee and ankle. She suffered the injury Saturday in Los Angeles and is wearing a protective boot for the foot injury. Meanwhile three-time MVP Lauren Jackson is currently in England preparing for the London Olympics with her Australian national team.
“We’re going to be smaller than both teams,” Storm coach Brian Agler said of lining up against the Dream and Phoenix on Friday. “It’s going to be quiet a challenge.”
The Atlanta Dream are playing without All-Star Angel McCoughtry (knee), but coach Marynell Meadors raved about how rookie Tiffany Hayes is filling in as a backup. She was a surprise drop to the 14th overall pick, averaging 10.6 points in her five starts. The Dream also mark the return of former training camp invitee Aneika Henry, who’s starting and averaging 6.5 points and 5.1 boards, and Kirkland’s own Cathrine Kraayeveld (Lake Washington HS).
It’s the last home game of the season for the Storm before the league-wide Olympic break from July 14 through Aug. 16. The team will travel to play at Phoenix on Friday.
Let’s get to it with your starting lineups:
F Sancho Lyttle
F Tiffany Hayes
C Aneika Henry
G Lindsey Harding
G Armintie Price
F Katie Smith
F Camille Little
C Ewelina Kobryn
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Clarke Stevens, Sue Blauch, and Michael Price.