STORM LOSES: Talk to the Storm players and the 75-68 loss to Phoenix on Thursday was its worst game of the season. I’ve seen worse, like letting LA swipe a win from them and Indiana walking Seattle down in the fourth quarter to win at the buzzer. Phoenix outscored Seattle 13-2 to open the fourth quarter to cement the win. What was particularly odd was Bird and the Storm’s defense getting picked apart the way it did. She had a game-high five turnovers and the Mercury had six steals in the second half. The moxie — orchestrated by Taurasi — helped Phoenix snap a 10-game losing streak. “She gives them a mentality of expecting to win,” Agler said of Taurasi’s second game since the league’s Olympic break. Jackson said she still doesn’t feel she completely fits into the Storm’s system. She only took two shots in the pivotal fourth quarter while Bird and Wright were a combined 0-for-7 from the field in the final 10 minutes. A once clear playoff picture now starts to get a little muddled. The Storm still has a sizable lead on Tulsa (6-19) with nine games apiece remaining. Yet, nothing is guaranteed. The Storm plays a home-and-home against Tulsa next week. One win would give the Storm a playoff tiebreaker against the Shock. Seattle owns the playoff tiebreaker against Phoenix 3-1 with one game remaining in that series. “There are only nine games until the end of the season and that’s not a lot of time,” Bird said. “Now that we have our full roster we can’t take our time. Don’t get me wrong, Phoenix played well. you definitely have to give credit to them. But at the same time, this was a very uncharacteristic game by us at both ends of the floor.” Little led Seattle with 11 points. Prahalis had seven of her final 16 points in the fourth quarter. Bonner led the Mercury with 24 points and 11 boards. The Storm will take two days off before returning to practice on Sunday.
ROOKIE BATTLE: Strick nailed a tough three-pointer to give Seattle another brief lead (54-52) with 17.1 seconds left in the third. But Prahalis juked Jackson on a drive to drop a pretty jumper in the net to tie the score at 54 points all. She screamed at Jackson as she backpedaled. Not a good idea? I’ll have the answer after the game. Leaving the blog to focus on the newspaper version. There have been nine lead changes and six ties in the game. Bonner had a game-high 20 points. Little has 11 and Wright has 10 for Seattle.
NAILS AND FISTS: Seattle took its first lead since the first quarter after two FT by Jackson. But it wasn’t easy or did it last long. The Storm had to scrap for balls and open looks to get the 50-49 advantage. Might need to check for blood and bruises after the game. Bonner quickly responded with a three-pointer off a no-look feed from Prahalis. It’s 52-50 Phoenix.
ALL SMILES: Nakia Sanford was called for a loose-ball foul against Jackson and Taurasi had something to say about it. The latter was tagged for a tech, smiling all the way to the bench as KeyArena jeered. Sanford later scored in the paint to zap any momentum, Seattle trailing 47-43 with 4:50 left in the third quarter.
NO RANGE: The Storm is 4-for-15 from three-point range. It’s not any easier inside, Little and Jackson getting worked under the hoop. Phoenix is up 45-38.
THOMAS BACK: Thomas is back in the game and making smarter plays in the pain to help Phoenix take a 43-36 lead. Her turnaround layin with 8:19 remaining in the third quarter prompted Seattle to call a timeout.
HALFTIME: The Storm is hosting its annual “Women of Inspiration” celebration during the break. Seattle is honoring Paula Boggs, Bobbe Bridge, Kate Starbird and Patty Stonesifer. The Storm also had a special mention for KOMO 4 news co-anchor Kathi Goertzen. She was honored in 2006 and died this month after a long battle with brain tumors and was represented by her family as the crowd gave her a standing ovation. Phoenix entered the break up 36-32. Bonner has a game-high 11 points on 4-for-10 shooting. Little leads the Storm with seven points on 3-for-5 shooting.
FOUL TROUBLE: Thomas was called for her third foul, trying to defend Ann Wauters in the paint. The Belgium made both shots and Seattle is down 32-33. Foul trouble will hurt the Mercury, which is only playing eight.
SCRAPPY: Both teams are playing aggressively, resulting in poor shooting for both teams. Jackson is 0-for-4 from the field while taurasi is 1-for-5. Little (six points), Bird (six) and reserve Svetlana Abrosimova (five) lead Seattle. The Mercury is up 31-29 with 2: 40 on the clock.
SHOCK WINS: Tulsa defeated L.A. 99-85, snapping the Sparks’ league best nine-game win streak. The Shock (6-19) doubled its win total from 2011 and is making Storm games even more important. Good thing for Seattle that Shekinna Stricklen is still playing well, nailing a three-pointer to help keep the score tied (23 points apiece).
WATCH THE BIRDY: Bird tied the score at 15 points apiece with a pass-fake on Bonner to create and open three-pointer. Later Tina Thompson nailed a three-pointer to help the Storm take a 19-17 lead at the end of the opening quarter.
SPOTTED: WNBA president Laurel Richie is seated courtside with Storm CEO/president Karen Bryant and gay-rights activist Charlene Strong, the American civil rights advocate and member of the Washington State Human Rights Commission. Seattle is down 8-6 with 5:40 left in the opening quarter.
TAKE THAT:Taurasi and rookie Prahalis both nailed three-balls in front of the Storm bench to take and early 6-0 lead. Then Bonner blocked Little’s shot. There’s 8:04 on the clock in the first quarter.
BOO BIRDS: Taurasi received mixed emotions from the sparse KeyArena crowd when introduced Thursday. It seemed like most booed, but there were a lot of cheers. Hard to know if it has to due to fans questioning her absences after starting during the London Olympic Games or if it’s that same old spite. She did spit on the KeyArena court once. And then there was the Mercury knocking the Storm out of the playoffs last year. And…oh, you get the point.
SCOREBOARD: Have you checked out Tulsa? The Shock is up 78-62 headed into the final quarter against Los Angeles. The Sparks (19-6) are on a nine-game win streak and have already clinched a playoff berth. Now they look like they’re trying to help Tulsa (5-19) join them. Well, LA never did like Seattle. G Ivory Latta leads Tulsa with 18 points.
BACK AGAIN: Former USC standout Brianna Gilbreath is back in Seattle, tearing up Washington with cohort Ashley Corral during the Pac-12 season. Corral was cut during the Storm’s training camp. Gilbreath, a 2010 media defensive player of the year, was drafted in the third round by the Washington Mystics and cut May 8. She was signed to a seven-day contract by Phoenix. She’s averaging about 18 minutes off the bench in her past two games, so she could see play against the Storm.
It’s a sports smorgasbord around Seattle. The Seahawks are playing their final exhibition game of the season at CenturyLink Field. Washington State is on TV against BYU. Sounders FC are on the road Thursday. And over at KeyArena, the Storm (11-13) is hosting Phoenix (4-19).
Mercury 2009 MVP Diana Taurasi is in the building and ready to play her first game of the season against the Storm. The same goes for Seattle’s three-time MVP Lauren Jackson.
When the pair square off against each other, it’s usually a heated battle. And considering their respective teams are headed in different directions should make it any different.
Phoenix is on a 10-game losing streak and is last in the Western Conference. Seattle is trying to clinch its WNBA-record ninth playoff berth. The Storm has a six-game lead over fifth-place Tulsa (5-19) for the fourth and final slot in the West.
You know Taurasi is bound to score, she had 19 in a loss to Indiana on Saturday. Keeping her teammates in check will be a focus of Seattle. F DeWanna Bonner has been carrying the Mercury this season, averaging 20 points. But she was 3 of 18 from the field for seven points in a 72-58 loss at Seattle on Aug. 16. With Taurasi grabbing attention, Bonner could become a bigger threat.
Jackson and her teammates should have a better groove, however. The Storm had one game and two practices with the complete roster. Seattle typically plays better in games after a stretch of practices together.
Will that be the case Thursday? Or will the Storm get eaten up by Taurasi and her crew?
It all begins with your starting lineup:
F Alexis Hornbuckle
F Dewanna Bonner
C Krystal Thomas
G Samantha Prahalis
G Diana Taurasi
F Katie Smith
F Camille Little
C Lauren Jackson
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Daryl Humphrey, Camaron Inouye, and Eric Brewton.