STORM WINS: I’m not even bothering with matchups and runs because this game wasn’t even about that. Kudos to New York (9-15) for pulling out a six-games in nine-days stretch. “It’s tough mentally,” Pondexter said. But the 84-66 Seattle win was more of an exhibition that the Liberty was invited to play. Agler ran different combos with his newfound depth and players worked out their kinks against New York. “They all felt pretty good after the game,” Agler said of Thompson (knee) and Wauters (Achilles) returning to the lineup. “Now that we have everybody here, we have to stay healthy and see who plays best with who and those kinds of things. It’s practice time and see how they react in games.” One thing was evident, Stricklen looks good with any of the vets. Her young legs helped her catch long passes from Wright and Bird. And Agler gave Strick a nod for rebounding better on Sunday. She finished with 12 points and four boards in 25 minutes off the bench. Bird led with 18 points and 10 assists, her first double-double of the season. Jackson had 16 points — nine from the FT line. “We still have a lot of work to do, but to finally have 11 (players) is definitely a good thing,” Bird said. “(But) little things that happen through the course of the season naturally, we might have to have a little bit of a crash course.” Seattle improved to 11-13 overall.
WISH GRANTED: It is a blowout. When fans chanted for Clark to be put in the game, Agler surprisingly obliged. She entered with 6:21 remaining and the Storm up 75-50.
CHECKED OUT: Seattle’s had numerous fourth quarter breakdowns this season, so the 65-46 lead isn’t exactly safe. But I’m checking out to finish the newspaper version. Bird is leading Seattle with 15 points whiel Stricklen has 11 points off the bench. Jackson is 1-for-6 from three-point range. She has 10 points and six boards to complement Little’s 12 and six inside.
HEY ROOK: Redmon checked into the game with 1:44 remaining in the third quarter. It’s her first minutes since before the Olympic break. Seattle is up 65-46 with 47 seconds left in the quarter. Locals Mitchell has three points and no assists while Montgomery has four points and three boards.
IMPRESSIVE: The halftime show with five jump-ropers doing mind twisting move while keeping the rope going is more competitive than the Storm-Liberty game. For the home crowd, it’s all a visual treat, however. Seattle is up 51-30 at the break. Only Clark hasn’t played with Stricklen scoring 11 points off the bench. Bird also has 11 and Little has 10. Jackson remains an anemic 1-for-6 from the field, but her defense is dominating. Seattle has forced 11 turnovers for 17 points. When New York can score, it is hitting (40 percent). But none is finding a groove against the revitalized Storm. Seattle is shooting 58.3 percent and has 13 assists on 21 made field goals.
DROUGHT ENDS: Wauters has checked into the game and is lining up inside with Jackson. I’ve been waiting for this since watching on my computer screen as they won a EuroLeague championship in April. Wauters has missed nine games. Seattle’s up 32-16.
THE NATIVE: Montgomery nailed a pair of FT and a bucket to get her first few points in her native state. The Liberty is playing better defensively, but remains down 30-15. The team has 10 turnovers for 13 Seattle points.
KNOCKOUT: Thompson nailed a three-pointer with nine tenths of a second left on the clock to close the quarter up 28-9 for Seattle. Combine that with the Sparks closing on a 22-5 run on Saturday against the Liberty, and New York has been outscored 50-14 in its past two quarters. It ticked off Pondexter, who manhandled by Bird on an intended offensive play. Pondexter entered the huddle screaming at her team, “Nobody’s fighting. We’ve got to fight. We’ve got to stick together.”
COLD-BRYN: Kobryn check into the game and forced a block on defense. Thompson checked in with 1:40 on the clock and hustled down a rebound. After a layin by Kobryn, its Seattl 23-7.
BOUNCE THIS: Wright has the highlight so far, whipping a bounce pass to rookie Shekinna Stricklen during a fast break. It improved the score to 12-2 and forced New York to take a time out. Later Strick stripped the ball on defense and scored an electric lay in. Seattle is up 15-4 after a technical foul was called on Whiz.
BIG CHEER: Just reminded of the biggest cheer of the night — when the jumbo screen displayed “No Injuries” for the Storm. It’s been a long time folks. Four different players have missed games due to injuries.
AWKWARD: Jackson had a few long clanks and New York had four tacky turnovers — two as three-second violations — but Seattle is up 8-2 with 6:37 on the clock. Jackson made a shot basket off a dish inside from Bird.
New York coach John Whisenant asked nicely, but his request probably won’t happen.
About 90 minutes before tip-off, Storm coach Brian Agler announced he’d have veteran posts Tina Thompson (knee) and Ann Wauters (Achilles) available after injury for the Sunday matchup against the Liberty. Seattle’s interior lineup would be at full strength for the first time this season.
“They have all their big guns and we get to get here to break them in,” Whiz said prior to the game. “Will you tell Brian to be nice to me?”
New York (9-14) ranks ninth in the 12-team league in rebounding and 10th in points and FG percentage. Easy numbers for Seattle (10-13) to expose with a bigger lineup in the second matchup of the season. The Liberty did defeat the Storm 77-59 in June with Wauters and Thompson playing, however.
The Liberty is playing the end of a back-to-back, losing at Los Angeles on Saturday. The Sparks outscored the Liberty 22-5 in the fourth quarter. New York, which is also ending a five-game road trip, needs a win to stay in the race with Chicago (9-14) for the fourth and final postseason berth in the East. Former Gonzaga star Courtney Vandersloot had 11 assists in the Sky’s upset at Connecticut on Sunday.
Agler was uncertain how or if he’d actually play Wauters and Thompson. Either way, it would be impossible for him to give 11 or even 10 players extended minutes outside of a blowout. Reliable reserve Alysha Clark is likely to not play while C Ewelina Kobryn could see minimal minutes compared to earlier in the season if Thompson and Wauters are used.
The game is the first and only return of Liberty Washingtonians PG Leilani Mitchell, G Alex Montgomery and G Katelan Redmon. Redmon is on a seven-day contract after being the last selection in the WNBA draft to New York in April.
Will Seattle get its swag back with its big guns, ending a three-game home losing skid? The draw starts with your starting lineups:
F Plenette Pierson
F Nicole Powell
C Kia Vaughn
G Leilani Mitchell
G Cappie Pondexter
F Katie Smith
F Camille Little
C Lauren Jackson
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Kurt Walker, Lauren Holtkamp, Kevin, Sparrock.