STORM WINS: Wow. If this is the WNBA Finals preview, find the line for tickets now. The teams mirror each other so much and when the offense is clicking like it was on Friday, it makes for an entertaining evening. Seattle shot a season-high 66.7 percent from the field and Douglas was insane with the shots she was hitting, finishing with a game-high 29 points. Even the turnovers, 38 combined, were thrilling because it was due to solid defense. The one gripe is all the work Seattle puts in for free throw shooting after practice and the team shot a season-low 59.4 from the line (19 of 32). “In the third quarter we lost our composure and weren’t able to get it back in the fourth quarter,” Douglas said. Seattle (12-2) will play three games in six days, so the aftermath could be worse than some of the Pride Weekend hangovers being worked on in Seattle post-game. “I’m not a big fan of my knee right now, hopefully it will continue to get better,” said Bird, who hyperflexed the left one on Sunday and played 36 minutes on Friday. She sat with an ice pack on the area as she spoke with media. Cash, who was limited at practice on Thursday due to a sinus infection, played 40 minutes. Her defense was crucial in holding Douglas to 1 of 4 shooting in the third quarter. Jackson, helped too, teasing that it’s easier to guard the perimeter. “She really kept us in the game early,” said Agler of Jackson, who scored 17 of her team-high 28 in the opening half. “She’s probably going to be the MVP of this league and the reason is that she can defend. There is going to be a lot of players with numbers in the league, but no one that can do both like her.” Don’t know who the top defensive team in the league is since it’s just a split, Bird spoke postgame to fans about wanting homecourt advantage and keeping their record better than Indiana (8-5) is important in achieving that goal. The Storm, the only WNBA team not to lose at home this season (8-0), departs on Saturday to play at Tulsa (3-10). The Shock lost 92-78 to New York on Friday for their seventh consecutive defeat. “We’ve got to get as much rest as possible,” said Bird, who scored nine of her final 16 points in the fourth quarter. “At this point, the beauty of this team is everyone has been in this league for a number of years and we know how to read our bodies and take care of them. But it’s a tough stretch, we’ll see what happens.”
WRONG PLAY: Reserve guard Briann January, scrambling, drove in the paint and didn’t check her options, turning the ball over in a pass directly to Wright. Teammate Jene Morris made a three-pointer with 01.7 remaining, but it didn’t matter with Seattle’s 83-81 lead.
CATCHINGS OUT: The Fever pointed vigorously at the jumbo screen to state their case, but Catchings is taking a seat after fouling out on a wild drive by Cash. The latter missed one of the two ensuing two FTs and you know what they say when that happens…Storm up 80-76 with 44.6 remaining.
STORM LEADS: The Storm took a 71-70 lead off a Bird three-pointer, her third consecutive. Yet Seattle failed to add to it with Wright missing two free throws later. Seattle is 13 of 24 from the line overall. Luckily for Wright she was able to connect on a nice dish inside the paint to Jackson for a layin in transition. After one Cash FTs with 2:30 on the clock, Seattle is up 74-71.
TULLY!: Remember when Bevilaqua was a friend of KeyArena? Burned twice by Bird three-pointers, Bevilaqua hit one of her own with 5:50 remaining in the game to keep the Storm ahead 70-66. Seattle is playing better defense, getting turnovers and continuing to draw fouls. But because of Indiana’s early lead, it will take a monumental push in the waning minute to collect an eighth consecutive home win.
DE-FENSE: The Storm held the Fever scoreless for the final 4:37 of the third quarter, drawing fouls and making free throws to pull within 60-58 at the end of the third quarter. Little missed a chance to score the go-ahead bucket at the buzzer. The Fever was 5 of 18 from the field in the quarter. and outrebounded 14-9. Seattle was 7 of 11 from the FT line, that could come back to bite them.
COOLING OFF: Douglas is 1 of 4 in the third, which is helping buy the Storm some time. Turnovers for both teams is becoming an issue, but Seattle is within 60-55 after trailing by 11.
TENSION BUILDING: Cash has moved from primarily covering Catchings to Douglas and it’s not stopping the latter. Douglas has either hit shots or found teammate Sutton-Brown open inside to help the Fever open on a 7-2 run in stretching the lead to 56-45 with 6:33 remaining in the third.
SCORING SURGE: Actually I shouldn’t say the Storm is playing better defense. They’ve allowed a 21-6 run to get the Fever in the game after leading by 10 in the second quarter. Wright has three fouls and Seattle is trailing 49-43 at the end of the half after a three-pointer by — who else? — Douglas. She had a game-high 19 in the half.
CAN’T MISS: In many ways the Storm is playing better defense against the Fever than in last week’s loss, including Cash’s fierce block against Hoffman with 3:10 remaining in the quarter. But Douglas was 5 of 5 from the field until a miss while double teamed with 2:50 left in the half. She has 16 points, surpassing her 15 total in her team’s win in Indiana.
BEAT IT: For those keeping tabs, the Storm did allow the fans to play DJ, playing a few Michael Jackson cuts in honor of the one-year anniversary of the entertainer’s death on Friday. Via Twitter, a few fans definitely wanted to hear “Beat it.” The Storm mixed in a few others, too. Seattle up 35-33 with 5:05 remaining in the second quarter.
THINK!: Dunn did her signature index fingers pointing at her temples, telling her players to think after two quick fouls on the court. Reserve Jessica Davenport was befuddled at her call, but the Fever was on a 7-0 run before Jackson made a three-pointer. The Storm is up 35-31, once leading by 10. There’s 5:49 remaining in the half.
END OF FIRST: The Storm went on a 10-3 run to end the opening quarter ahead 27-20. Bird setup the exclamation point with a pass to an open Cash for a three-pointer with 19.2 seconds remaining. The Storm is outrebounding the Fever 7-4 and shooting 66.7 percent from the field. Seattle has limited the Fever to no second-chance shots or offensive boards. Jackson leads in scoring with nine points while Catchings and Douglas have seven points apiece for Indiana.
HORSING AROUND: Jackson and Little said they played another game of H-O-R-S-E before the game with Jackson winning. “I won in New York,” Little added. The game worked, again, in getting the Storm started as Jackson is 2 of 2 from the field and Little is 3 of 4 in helping the Storm to a 15-13 lead with 4:01 remaining. Jackson had a dagger three-pointer and Little made a sweet layup in transition as highlights to their early scoring.
THAT WAS EASY: Bird bobblehead dolls were gone in 30 minutes with plenty left without the coveted doll. Those can buy a cute “I (heart) Sue Bird” T-Shirt for $14 dollars. It’s the featured item of the night. Here’s hoping there’s a “I (heart) Cash when it’s her bobblehead night in July.
FLAG WAVING: Storm co-owner Anne Levinson was one of the people to travel to the top of the Space Needle Friday morning to raise a Pride flag in honor of the lesbian and gay celebration this weekend. It’s the first time the Seattle Center has honored the community in that manner. Pride moved from Capitol Hill to downtown in 2007. The Storm used to have an official “Pride Night,” but now is just an unofficial outing for lesbians (pun not intended).
Indiana coach Lin Dunn switched things up for KeyArena. She likes to play the final quarter with her team on defense in front of her bench, so her moving the Storm to the facility’s west hoop is a first this year. The visitor’s get to pick.
“I like it for execution and to help us get stops,” said Dunn, the former Storm coach whose Fever leads the WNBA in defense.
Given the Storm won seven games starting on the other hoop, those who are superstitious may be jittery about the possible changes the tweak could make. But Storm coach Brian Agler said PG Sue Bird has been calling majority of the plays this season, so she should be able to handle the offense with her back to Agler if there’s a crunch situation in the fourth quarter. Plus, the Storm plays that way at times on the road.
The Storm pulled close to the Fever in the fourth of the first game in Indiana last week, but couldn’t connect after the 1:30 mark in the seven-point loss. Storm All-Star Lauren Jackson said she’s in a shooting slump and didn’t start well in Indiana. She’s been spending extra time shooting before and after practice to hopefully break from the “rut.”
“I think it’s all in my head,” said Jackson, who’s averaging 20 points and nine rebounds.
Speaking of heads, word is it’s crazy outside as people pickup their Bird bobbleheads. Don’t know what the over/under is on the first one to pop up on eBay, but Bird said it’s an honor just to have a likeness made because not everyone is featured in such a way. This is her second with the Storm, first with her signature long eyelashes.
As if the game needed mayhem to get people through the door. The matchup features the best team in the WNBA in Seattle (11-2) versus the defending Eastern Conference champions in Indiana (8-4).
“I really feel strongly that they’re going to be a contender (again) for the Eastern Conference championship,” said Agler of Indiana, which also returned its core players. “That’s not to disrespect anybody, but Indiana is good.”
Good enough to be the first to stop Seattle at KeyArena? We’ll see.
Let’s start with your starting lineups:
F Tamika Catchings
F Ebony Hoffman
C Tammy Sutton-Brown
G Tully Bevilaqua
G Katie Douglas
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Clarke Stevens, Felicia Grinter, and Tom Mauer.