STORM LOSES: You can’t call it a bad game. Seattle started slow, but was even with Connecticut (19-19) in the fourth quarter. A clean defensive stop here, taking care of the ball there and a made basket or two might have changed the outcome of a 60-58 loss. The Storm is on a four-game losing streak. Seattle (13-18) will not finish the season with a winning record for the first time since 2002 and the team drops to 0-5 without Bird this year. It doesn’t get any better with a matchup against Chicago (13-18) on Tuesday — another team desperate to win to seal a playoff position. The Storm went on an 11-2 run to pull ahead by four points late. A three-pointer by Lawson and two FTs by Montgomery sealed the win for the Sun (23-9). Strick led the Storm with 12 points while Smith had eight boards and eight points. Thompson played another strong game, finishing with seven points. Lawson led the Sun with 13 points and Montgomery score eight of her final 10 points in the fourth quarter. “We definitely put ourselves in position to win the game,” Agler said. “I feel bad for our team that we didn’t come through.”
TIE GAME: Two FTs from Little tied the score at 41 points apiece. It’s the fourth tie of the game. It could be another overtime game as it was in July in Connecticut. I’ll let you know more after writing the newspaper version.
FOR THREE: Strick sank a three-pointer off an in-bounds play setup by Wright to pull the Storm within 41-39 at the end of the third quarter. No Seattle player is in double-figures, but Strick has nine points off the bench. The Storm is also outrebounding the Sun 27-26. Charles (10) and Lawson (10) are leading Connecticut. Seattle has given up 14 points on 19 turnovers.
WHO’S IN CHARGE?: Covered or not, Charles is beginning to influence the game. Back-to-back buckets has the Sun up 37-32 with 2:30 on the clock. Agler place Tina Thompson in with Wauters to get more coverage inside. But Lawson simply nailed a 17-footer to keep Connecticut in charge.
SPOTTED: Storm original Simone Edwards is in the house. The Sun are up 30-28 with 7:09 left in the third quarter. Edwards was just pointed out by Doppler. Kind of surprised Edwards didn’t get out and do the Zumba dance routine at halftime. Her Jamaican Shake would have been a hit.
TIME!: A nice fee from Wright to Little in the paint got the KeyArena fans on the feet in jubilation. The score pulled the Storm within 26-23 with 1:12 left in the second quarter. Thibault promptly called time to manage Seattle’s momentum.
FRESH LEGS: Nothing like rookies and young free agents to help generate a spark. F Shekinna Stricklen has four points off the bench while C Ewelina Kobryn is playing solid defense in her first minute on the court. The Sun still leads 26-15 behind the play of Mims. As she’s done most of the season, she’s taking advantage of the double teams on Charles to score and rebound. There’s 3:53 left in the first half.
LONGER RUN: Now the Sun is on a 10-0 run to take a 20-9 lead. Seattle coach Brian Agler called time, but the mistakes are in schemes. Wright had a flimsy timeout not grasping a pass to let the ball dribble out of bounds. The team didn’t keep track of the shot clock for a violation and the Storm has fouled the Sun to give away points at the line. There’s 8:15 left in the first half.
MINI RUN: Neither team is shooting particularly well despite getting some open looks off the extra pass. The Sun finished the opening quarter on a 5-0 run to build a 15-9 advantage. Mims is leaking out of the Storm’s defense to lead her team with five points and five rebounds. Charles is 1 of 5 from the field. Wauters leads Seattle with four points and three rebounds.
HYPED: Sun coach Mike Thibault is at it again, working ref Billy Smith’s last nerve. Lawson made a gorgeous jumper to calm Thibault’s nerves on wanting a foul. But it’s still early. Sun 10-9 with 3:24 on the clock.
ICE BROKE: Seattle started the game 1-for-4 from the field. Consecutive buckets by Wauters and Smith have the Storm up 7-6 with 5:18 remaining in the first quarter. There’s good ball movement for the Storm and some airballs by the Sun to get the tight advantage.
Seattle (13-17) is returning to KeyArena on a three-game losing streak with three hampered players. Good grief.
All-Stars Lauren Jackson (hamstring) and Sue Bird (hip) and reserve Alysha Clark (sick) will not play against the Connecticut Sun (22-9) on Sunday. For Bird, it’s her third consecutive DNP. She strained her left, non-surgically repaired hip. She expects to practice Monday and play Tuesday because it is an injury that only requires rest to continue playing.
But last season when this occurred to her right hip, when evaluated she was advised to undergo surgery after the season. She had the procedure late-September and was back on the court by December, playing in Russia.
“Surgery can fix it, but it’s not something you need (immediately),” Bird said. “You can play on it. I really haven’t had a problem for a year, my hip was just bothering me the other day – flared up. Very similar to what happened to this one (right). So really the plan is the same. Kind of let it die down and then go from there…who wants to have surgery? If I can avoid that I will.”
Jackson is missing her second consecutive game. C Ann Wauters will start in place of her while G Svetlana Abrosimova will join G Tanisha Wright in the backcourt.
The Storm took advantage of turnovers to defeat Sun on the road in July. Connecticut is also on a three-game losing streak at KeyArena. Conditions are different for the final game in the series this summer, however.
The Sun needs to win to stay ahead of Indiana (20-10) in the Eastern Conference. The top spot ensures homecourt advantage in the conference playoffs. Minnesota (25-6) secured overall homecourt advantage in the WNBA playoffs.
To win, Connecticut will need better play from C Tina Charles. She was 4 of 20 from the field in July for 13 points in the 89-83 overtime loss. And Storm reserves will have play strong to fill in the gaps Jackson and Bird leave.
Still while the focus is to win, Seattle is also focused on getting healthy and ready for the postseason. The Storm is locked into fourth place in West, playing at the Lynx’s Target Center in the opening round.
How will Seattle’s shorthanded lineup prepare the Storm for its bigger goals? It all begins with your starting five:
F Kalana Greene
F Mistie Mime
C Tina Charles
G Allison Hightower
G Kara Lawson
F Katie Smith
F Camille Little
C Ann Wauters
G Tanisha Wright
G Sevtlana Abrosimova
Tonight’s officials are Denise Brooks, Eric Brewton, and Billy Smith.