STORM WINS: And another goose egg is gone with Seattle getting its first postseason win against Phoenix in a 82-74 decision before a sell out crowd of 9,686. The Storm lead by as many as 15 but if it weren’t for Wright being aggressive in the fourth quarter, drawing fouls and making half of the ensuing FT attempts, one of the Mercury’s other stars may have helped them win the game. Taurasi fouled out with 54 seconds remaining and shooting 2 of 15 from the field. Dupree led her new team with 15 points and 11 boards for her second postseason double-double. “Phoenix controlled it a little more than we did, they wanted us to play slow, they wanted us to think and not be aggressive,” said Abrosimova of how the game started. “When we’re aggressive, we’re really dangerous. By (them) not defending us hard, we couldn’t really read the defense. They kind of stood in front of us and (said) you do it, you figure out what you want to do. So, sometimes you have to take the ball and go to the basket and create.” Wright did just that and scored all nine of her points in the fourth quarter to stave off repeated challenges by the defending champions. Abrosimova’s six in the third were key in keeping Seattle lifted. The star, however, was Jackson with her 23 points and career playoff-high 17 boards – also a franchise record. Jackson, who was honored with her MVP award on-court, too, said the day was draining and that she was looking forward to having a glass of wine to relax. “From the middle of the first quarter to the second, she was really doing some damage inside,” Agler said of the Aussie. “She was feeling it. Obviously everyone got tired. I think both teams were tired out there. Some people lost their legs and when that goes, sometimes your offense goes.” Yet, you can always play defense. And the Storm’s defensive effort held the Mercury to their fewest postseason points since Game 1 against Los Angeles in 2000. The Storm has Friday off and will travel to Phoenix, practicing there on Saturday. Game 2 is scheduled for noon on ABC. Crazy thing, if Seattle sweeps, it would advance to the WNBA Finals before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between No. 4 seed Atlanta and No. 1 seed New York begins Sunday evening. “Game 2 is going to be even more difficult,” said Bird, who finished with 10 assists on Thursday. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
CASHING OUT: Cash is doing well defensively, helping hold Taurasi to 2 of 11 shooting. But offensively? Yikes. She’s 1 of 6 for five points after averaging 18 in the opening round. Seattle is up 59-52 thanks to Abrosimova’s three-point shooting. She has 16 in 18 minutes of play.
MIC CHECK: Gaines has ditched his mic. No more hearing from him during this broadcast. Seattle is up 56-50 after a three-pointer by Taylor with 3:46 remaining in the third quarter.
WRIGHT BACK: Wright has apparently cooled off and is back in the game.
WRIGHT OUT: Wright lost her cool after a foul was called against her, getting pulled by Agler. She grabbed the ball and seemed like she was going to pull a Noelle Quinn and throw it at Walker, but Cash and teammates stepped in. No technical was called. Abrosimova replaced her in the lineup, later making a three-pointer to help keep Seattle ahead 54-43 with 6:05 remaining in the third-quarter. Dupree started the second-half well for Phoenix, making two fadeaway jumpers with Jackson’s hand in her face.
TECH CITY: Jackson blew her top, extending her index finger at Humphrey while screaming about, oh, maybe a missed call. Jackson went for two putbacks and was heavily guarded before Willingham grabbed the ball and scored. Seattle is ahead 36-27. Taurasi has three fouls, evening out the mayhem of calls.
BALLGAME: Phoenix used a 17-1 run to get back into the game. Little and Abrosimova (on a missed out-of-bounds call) made baskets around the rim to keep Seattle ahead 27-20 with 7:10 remaining in the half.
RESERVE PLAY: Phoenix coach Corey Gaines waited as long as he could before putting in DeWanna Bonner, the two-time Sixth Woman of the Year. In a minute of first-quarter play, she scored five points to help pull the Mercury within 23-14. Bonner countered Jackson’s ridiculous 25-foot three-pointers and ruffled up the Storm defensively, getting one block, before the home team really could run away with the game. Still, Abrosimova has eight points to help outscore the Mercury bench (seven). Shooting is even, the difference in the game being Seattle’s 4 of 9 showing from three-point range.
GET SILLY: The Storm is up 17-3 with 2:49 remaining in the opening quarter, holding the Mercury to 1 of 11 shooting from the field. Jackson and Svetlana Abrosimova both nailed three-pointers to get the KeyArena party started.
STILL THINKING: Musings from Connecticut had the 2011 All-Star game being played at KeyArena. WNBA president Donna Orender is at the Key and didn’t confirm or deny the musings. The Storm said it was the first they heard of the ASG in Seattle. Orender said she’d like to have a site in place soon, but multiple factors were still at work in choosing a city. She gave the same spiel about wanting to have the game out West (it’s only been this way once in 2000 in Phoenix, which was a debacle). Mohegan Sun is hard to top financially because it’s practically free, there’s a horde of media to cover the event, and it’s easy to transport the front office staff.
DUD: Both teams are a combined 0 for 8 from the field with a combined three turnovers with 7:12 on the clock. Did I mention that it also took three chances to get the jumpball right? Ah, Dupree put a FG on the board and Cash answered with a three-pointer. Now the game is rolling with Seattle up 5-2 with 6:27 remaining in the opening quarter.
SPOTTED: In addition to the NBA legends, Brandi Carlile sung the national anthem. Seattle University coach Cameron Dollar is here and Big Lo made a re-appearance. Minnesota G Alexis Hornbuckle also is back, hanging with Storm C Ashley Robinson, a fellow Tennessee alum.
There was a lot of pregame hoopla that neither Storm PF Lauren Jackson nor coach Brian Agler truly wanted to be part of Thursday. Jackson was presented her 2010 MVP trophy and tried to jet off the stage after her brief acceptance speech. “There’s a game to play, gotta go,” she said before a PR representative stopped her for a Q&A;session.
Agler, who was named Coach of the Year, started his speech with how the presentation was taking him out of his routine. He appeared nervous until standing on the court watching his players warm-up moments later. Agler normally does this in sweats, but had to stand near the baseline in his suit and wingtips instead.
Agler received 17 of the 39 votes possible from a national panel of media members. New York’s Anne Donovan tallied 13 while Washington coach Julie Plank had 13. Jackson’s 323 points topped Indiana F Tamika Catchings (262 points) and New York G Cappie Pondexter (207).
The rest of KeyArena is its usual self, Nike making “MVP Jackson” T-shirts to hand out to the lucky first 4,000. The upper deck is closed, surprisingly, the Storm (2-0) not selling an overflow of tickets for the Game 1 Western Conference Finals opener against Phoenix (2-0). There is a Mariners game across town and a Seahawks exhibition on television, so maybe that swiped some of the extra bodies. No matter. NBA legends Bill Russell and Lenny Wilkens are here.
The matchup is an instant classic any time Phoenix and Seattle meet. Two of the regular-season games went into overtime, but the Storm swept the five games overall. Phoenix claims to have developed a defensive game, so we’ll see if the scoreboard blows out or if there’s some entertainment on both sides of the ball.
Keys to the game are of course defense and bench play. In the past when the defending champion Mercury were successful against the Storm, it was because of depth. Agler went and found treasures across the globe to counter, we’ll see if it makes a difference Thursday when it all counts.
Let’s get started with the starting lineups:
F Penny Taylor
F Candice Dupree
C Tangela Smith
G Diana Taurasi
G Temeka Johnson
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Sue Blauch, Daryl Humphrey, and Kurt Walker.