BREAK: The Storm is luring the Mercury into its game and it’s working. Quinn drained a three-pointer with 16.4 left in the third and on defense the team forced a turnover to take a 60-56 lead into the final quarter. Seattle is hustling, rebounding and if Sanford wouldn’t have missed two freebies, I’d say they were doing that, too. Hard work can beat anyone kiddies and that’s what the Storm is giving. Wright leads with 15 points. Griner has 16 points but had to take a seat in the third after collecting a fourth foul. I’m out to focus on the newspaper version. Check out the Seattle Times’ Monday paper for a full wrap.
THE LEAD: Shocked? Storm is up 48-42 and you can thank knuckle-headed play by Phoenix as the reasoning. Wright and Bonner did get testy on a stretch of two plays. But the Mercury had Griner respond by giving and obvious chest shove on a screen against Wright. The Flagrant 1 put Wright at the line. She made both and the momentum swung. The Storm is outscoring the Mercury 13-4 in the third.
SANFORD & STRICK: The old-school television, the Storm duo are taking junk and turning into beauty. That wasn’t what the show was about, but that’s what’s happening in the game. Since a Griner layin with 3:55 left in the quarter, Strick has scored eight and Sanford has made a jumper over Griner to pull the Storm within 36-35 with 35.6 remaining in the half. The Key is on its feet.
GET STRICK: Second-year F Shekinna Stricklen found herself way outside the three-point line with the shot-clock winding down. She flung up the ball and nailed the shot. It pulled Seattle within 34-28. Sanford did some more work on the defense to force a Phoenix turnover and Seattle with have the ball out of the break with 2:57 on the clock. If only Johnson (3 of 10) could hit the shots she’s being given by the Mercury
WORK IT: F Nakia Sanford played for Phoenix last season and is showing a little skill against her former team. A rebound and a jumper by Sanford and a F Alysha Clark forcing a turnover moved the Storm within 24-21. If only Dupree weren’t so silky on offense. Two shots by her have helped the Mercury go up 28-21 in the second quarter.
CHARGE: Griner’s youth showed with 10.7 seconds left in the first court, attempting to dip the shoulder and drive to the hoop against a waiting Little. She was tagged for the charge, but the Storm is down 22-16 at the end of the first quarter. Wright has seven points early while the Mercury is shooting 62.5 percent from the field, four people scoring four points apiece. The Storm is mixing a three-point game to guard against Griner and is 2 of 5 from outside.
BAD AND GOOD: Wright had a smooth reverse layin over Griner for the Storm’s bucket of the game. Johnson and Little also used a a fake to get the latter an open three-pointer. The team is working harder on defense, but it’s obvious the Mercury have a more talented, deeper team. Seattle is down 20-15 with 2:00 remaining in the first quarter
CHEERS AND JEERS: Taurasi remains unfavored at The Key but Griner received a nice welcome. Thompson announced her retirement on Friday and got a little extra love from the crowd. Don’t look for any farewell tour hype from the Storm until the end of season and Thompson hopes it doesn’t happen around the league. “It’s just not me,” she said.
SOMBER MOMENT: Storm assistant coach Nancy Darsch hasn’t been with the team this week because of the death of her brother. She attended the services and should return to Seattle on Sunday. Agler said Darsch will not be at the game.
Talk about two teams itching to get back on the basketball court. Phoenix has a standout rookie in C Brittney Griner. But in her debut, the 6 feet 8 marvel picked up three quick fouls in the first quarter of 102-80 loss to Chicago, making her stature, defensive capabilities and showtime dunks meaningless.
In the Storm locker room, a roster peppered with defensive-minded veterans played like it was their first day on the court in allowing Los Angeles 26 assists on 36 made field goals in a 102-69 loss. F Camille Little was still upset at practice on Wednesday after the team watched the entire game film.
“We didn’t make them have to work for anything,” Little said. “We didn’t even touch them to force anything different to use their second or third option in their offense. They were able to score too easy. We can control that.”
So forget about it being the Storm’s home opener at KeyArena or Griner, the No. 1 overall draft pick’s first road stint in the WNBA. The Sunday matchup is more like a redemption game. And it’s just Game 2 of the 34-game season.
“Most of the people that follow the league strongly probably looked at our game and said, ‘We told you so, you’re not going to be any good,’” said Storm coach Brian Agler of preseason beliefs when All-Stars Lauren Jackson (hamstring) and Sue Bird (knee) announced they’d miss the 2013 campaign due to offseason surgeries. “Where with Phoenix, it was probably the other way around. They looked at the game and thought, ‘Wow. What happened?’ Not that I’m concerned with how people looked at them, I’m concerned about how we played and we feel like we’re a better basketball team than the way we played in LA.”
Griner said she spent the week working on not making silly fouls, “I’m already 6-8. I’m even taller when I put my hands up.” The Mercury also worked on forming more chemistry. Defense was obviously focus for the Storm, in addition to them also forming more chemistry with a young roster.
Both locker rooms know it’s just one game. But at least Seattle’s debacle wasn’t at home like Phoenix’s hiccup.
The Storm expects a lower-bowl sellout of 9,686 fans Sunday and flopping in front of them on opening night is not an option — no matter who’s missing from the lineup. Seattle did lose against LA in last year’s home opener, 72-66. The Storm is 8-5 all-time in home openers. Seattle was 10-7 at home in 2012 overall, so there is magic in the building. And don’t get me started about what this team has done to rookies on its home court.
But it hasn’t faced on like Griner.
“I love going on the road, honestly,” Griner said. “I love playing in other team’s arenas. The atmosphere is always crazy when you’re in someone else’s home. I’m definitely looking forward to that, seeing how different it is from being in college. Then, the competition.”
Will the Storm be any competition? We’ll see, beginning with your starting lineups:
F DeWanna Bonner
F Candice Dupree
C Brittney Griner
G Samantha Prahalis
G Diana Taurasi
F Noelle Quinn
F Tina Thompson
C Camille Little
G Temeka Johnson
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Roy Gulbeyan, Brenda Pantoja, and Cameron Inouye.