STORM LOSSES: The Storm lost 68-63 to the Fever on Thursday before a season-low 5, 819 fans at KeyArena. Zellous nailed the game-winning three-pointer with five-tenths of a second remaining in the game. But it was reserve Jessica Davenport’s awareness and hustle that pushed the Fever to outscore the Storm 15-0 in the final four minutes. Davenport punked Jackson to convert a basic in-bounds pass to an easy layup. Then she converted another Jackson turnover to make a turnaround layup to inch the score to 66-65 with 54.7 seconds left in the game. Davenport finished with eight points and eight rebounds in 14 minutes. Catchings led with 18 points and 11 rebounds while Zellous had 10 points. Little led the Storm with 15 points and eight boards. “It was a dagger, that last shot,” said Jackson, who was 1-for-4 in her 2012 debut. “But I don’t feel like it’s the end of the world. There’s still 11 games left before playoffs. That’s perfect time for us to hit our stride.” The Storm did play without F Tina Thompson (knee) and C Ann Wauters (Achilles). And the playoffs are still in sight. Phoenix lost 89-77 to New York on Thursday, keeping Seattle (10-13) on its path to a WNBA-record ninth consecutive berth. The Mercury are 4-18 this season with 12 games remaining. Olympian Diana Taurasi hasn’t played, this time due to recovering from having her wisdom teeth removed. The Storm hosts New York on Sunday. The Liberty are trying to leapfrog Chicago for the fourth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The Sky are on an eight-game losing streak, but were idle Thursday. “There has to be a comfort level and for Lauren, she has to get comfortable with what we’re doing,” Bird said of her first game with Jackson since September 2011. Wright added, “She (Lauren) just got done playing with another team. She’ll be fine. It’s nothing of serious importance.” Jackson was asked if she came back too soon given the Storm hadn’t had a real practice and jet-lag from Sydney late Monday. It was noon Friday in Australia by Storm tip-off Thursday night. “For my body, health-wise, it’s important that I do it step-by-step rather than rushing into it,” she said. “Like I said, there’s still 11 games to go. We’ve got practices and it’s just a matter of feeling comfortable, getting everyone fit and healthy.”
BREAK TIME: I’m out to write the newspaper version. I’ll be back after the game for the final wrap. Jackson is still on the court and January just nailed a three-pointer while being fouled by Wright to close the gap to 51-46 with 9:40 left in the game.
SHE SCORES: Jackson bricked a three-point attempt on the wing. She jetted to the middle of the paint to grab her own rebound then stepped out to swish another three-point attempts at the top of the key with 1:05 left in the third quarter. It was her first FG of the 2012 season. She’s 1-for-3 from the field overall and has logged 18 minutes. Seattle leads 51-42 headed into the fourth quarter.
SCOREBOARD: Los Angeles is killing San Antonio. Sparks up 59-35 in the second quarter. Phoenix is finding another way to lose with Diana Taurasi still out from getting her wisdom teeth removed. The Mercury are down 59-53 in the third quarter against New York. (Yes, you read that correctly. The Sparks have as many points as the Liberty in three quarters)
OBSERVATION: The game seems to go faster with Jackson in the lineup. Or is it the 42-38 lead against a quality team? 3:37 left in the third quarter.
CHECK THAT: Agler playing for defense force, putting Jackson back in with 20.2 seconds left in the half. It worked as she blocked January’s view and her teammates muffled Catchings’ attempt as the clock aspired. Seattle heads into the locker room with a 29-27 lead. Strick has 10 while Little has seven to lead Seattle. Catchings has nine points and eight rebounds for Indiana. Douglas has seven, making one of two FTs. The Fever are killing the Storm on the boards (20-13) but it’s resulting in much in the paint. The teams are equal and 12 points apiece inside. The halftime entertainment is a marching band that’s won awards, but I didn’t catch the name. I do know I love a marching band.
CLOCK WATCH: Jackson has already played 10 minutes. She’s currently on the bench. With 1:47 left in the half, she won’t return until the second half. Seattle up 27-25.
UP AGAIN: Agler wanted to keep the Fever off the line since since Indiana shoots 80.3 percent from the FT line this season. The Fever is 5-for-6 from the line Thursday, using the free shots to inch within 24-23 with 2:52 remaining before halftime. Strick is showing a better percentage from downtown to counter the Fever she’s 2-for-2 from the three-point line and has 10 points off the bench.
PICK ONE: Seattle is getting outrebounded 15-9. But the Storm has one turnover for no points while the Fever has five for seven Storm points. Hmm, which is better? Oh, and the score is 19-14 Seattle despite and off center three-point by Jackson.
GET STRICK: Stricklen, the No. 2 overall draft pick, continues to show her standard offensive skills and young legs every game. She gathered a long pass from Wright to nail a layup, putting Seattle up 19-12. Indiana immediately called a timeout. There’s 8:46 on the clock and little in the bank for the Fever (26.3 FG percentage so far).
COVER ONE: The Storm defense is forcing the Fever to shoot 27.8 percent with three turnovers early. Strick added the exclamation point with a three pointer with a tenth of a second on the clock. Seattle is up 15-12 at the end of the first.
REMEMBER US?: Reserves Shekinna Stricklen, Ewelina Kobryn, and Svetlana Abrosimova teamed with Wright and Little to pick up the pace and tie the game at 12 points apiece. Abrosimova passed the ball inside to Kobryn, who spun off her defender for the open bucket under the hoop with 2:06 remaining in the opening quarter.
SLOW GO: The Storm put Jackson inside, outside and on the wing. Nothing really clicked for her, drawing one foul on a shot inside. She made one of two FT. But the attention Jackson is getting from Zellous and Catchings is getting Bird open, once on a screen by Jackson. Bird’s four points has the Storm within 12-7. Seattle is getting outrebounded 9-6 and both teams are shooting under 40 percent at the first timeout.
SPOTTED: King County executive Dow Constantine is back in the building. The crowd is sparse. Probably a result of the Storm’s losing record. Guess even the return of Jackson and Bird (stomach flu) couldn’t overcome that.
SORRY MS. JACKSON: Agler said even is Jackson wanted to play more than about 15 minutes, he wouldn’t appease her. Agler is concerned about about fatigue since she hasn’t played sincing winning bronze at the London Games on Aug. 11. Jackson has also been on three continents in one week.
The impulse is to compare Storm C Lauren Jackson’s return to last season when she missed 20 games due to left hip surgery. Only that would be misguided.
Sure the Storm hovered around .500 in 2011 as it does in 2012. And Jackson helped the team win eight of its final nine games in 2011. With 12 games remaining this summer, it’s not unrealistic to think the Storm (10-12) could muster a solid finish, again, once posts Ann Wauters (Achilles) and Tina Thompson (knee) return.
The difference, however, is the simple difference that Jackson returned from injury in 2011 and playing well in the Olympics in 2012. She set the Olympic women’s basketball all-time scoring record (575 points).
Jackson said she wasn’t even completely healthy from the surgery last year when she helped lead Valencia Ros Casares to a EuroLeague title in April. She began to feel herself when she returned to native Australia to prepare for the Olympics — suffering a minor ankle sprain — and competing in the London Games.
That makes Jackson, 31, even better than 2011 off the bat.
“Since I had those injuries…I guess it just took me a while to find how aggressive I was supposed to be. It sort of took a lot of time for me,” said Jackson, who before the hip suffered an Achilles injury. “When the Olympics came around, I sort of found it. Hopefully I can sort of flow back into things (with the Storm) .”
The determining factor will be her play in the WNBA’s second half of the season. Her teammates did a superb job hovering around playoff contention through Jackson’s 22-game absence. There are only a few games — at Los Angeles and at New York in June — they would like to have back.
Aside from L.A., which already swept the five-game regular season series without Jackson, there could be payback with her in the lineup. Agler plans to play his three-time MVP about 15 minutes against Indiana on Thursday.
Lets see if history repeats itself. With health being the only change.
You know how it gets started:
F Tamika Catchings
F Shavonte Zellous
C Tammy Sutton-Brown
G Briann January
G Katie Douglas
F Camille Little
F Katie Smith
C Lauren Jackson
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Clarke Stevens, Denise Brooks, Jeff Wooten.