GO DEFENSE: Abrosimova is a little rattled off the bench and the hounding defense played by Phoenix reserve DeWanna Bonner with Gaines also in her ear on the sideline didn’t help settle the nerves. Phoenix is back in a zone. OK, Abrosimova just nailed a three-pointer in front of Gaines to kill all of that. Seattle within 24-22 at the end of the first quarter.
SUBS IN: Both coaches are going to their benches. Agler is putting Willingham and Svetlana Abrosimova in while Phoenix coach Corey Gaines is just going with Kara Braxton to start. It’s crazy loud in the building. Don’t think it’s fake sound like in LA. Seattle up 18-16 after a Cash layin.
SOLID START: This is a game worthy of national TV. Both teams are shooting above 65 percent from the field, Phoenix leading 10-8 with 6:50 remaining in the opening half. As Bird predicted, Taurasi nailed her first shot, a three-pointer after elbowing Wright out of the way.
NICE SHIRT: Taurasi and Johnson pointed out a T-Shirt they liked in the stands. It read “Free Lild.” Gotta find out what that means.
There’s some concern about the holiday weekend and what it will do to attendance at US Airways Center. But it didn’t stop a rowdy bunch of Storm fans from traveling to the game. A pair are wearing metallic wigs while others have huge signs and ThunderStix from home, clapping away an hour before tip-off.
Inside the Seattle locker room, reserve F Le’coe Willingham said her vibe from teammates is anxious to play. Co-captain Sue Bird said she felt everyone was ready to go and coach Brian Agler had no read, just that the team had done all the preparation it could and there’s nothing left but to play the game.
“As the playoffs progress, games are going to get more and more physical,” said Willingham, who won a title with Phoenix in 2009. “I expect this game to be a physical game — it’s the magnitude of it, win or go home. It’s time to bring it and I think everybody is a little anxious, ready to play. We can’t take anything for granted. This is going to be a tougher game then it was back at home. We’re going to have to bring a little bit more than what we brought the last time.”
Everyone from ESPN/ABC commentators to beat writers like myself would be surprised if Phoenix and Seattle open shooting 2-of-14 from the field. And everyone would be shocked if the Storm would be able to stomp on the Mercury early as in Game 1.
But the Storm didn’t win six consecutive games against the Mercury by chance. From Bird’s winning three-pointer off a Lauren Jackson assist in the July triple-overtime game to G Tanisha Wright’s nine fourth-quarter points in Game 1, Seattle earned every win.
It’ll take the same rebounding and better help defense on Sunday for the Storm to close out the best-of-three Western Conference Finals series, however. Willingham said she plays a little inside-the-numbers competition with F Camille Little, making a conscientious effort to grab the boards on Game 1. Willingham had an impressive four offensive rebounds while Little had one, getting into foul trouble.
Jackson led the overall category, getting a franchise playoff record 17 to help Seattle outrebound Phoenix 40-34.
“They (Phoenix) have the ability to really force their will on you in terms of playing up-tempo and scoring quick,” Agler said. “They can be really clean and slipper in their offense. We have to not let them be as mobile and as fast as they want to play. Part of that is to get our defense set and part of that is to make them do a few things they don’t want to do. It’s a lot easier said than done, it’s a tough task. But having somebody like Sue Bird on your team helps that situation.”
Well, Bird is checked in. Here’s the rest of the starting lineups:
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
F Penny Taylor
F Candice Dupree
C Tangela Smith
G Diana Taurasi
G Temeka Johnson
Tonight’s officials are Denise Brooks, Roy Gulbeyan, and Eric Brewton.