STORM WINS: Game Operations gave away everything but my media press pass and the Storm seemingly tried to toss the game in their, too. Leading by 12 after a Little layin with 8:49 remaining in the game, the Storm were outscored 15-4 to end the game. How wild is it that they still won? A 13-footer by Wright did the trick with 50.7 seconds remaining in the game. Ferdinand-Harris tried to respond with a three-pointer over Wright, but missed and Jackson grabbed the biggest rebound with one second left in the game. So, Seattle finished the season 17-0 at KeyArena, the first team to complete the task since the WNBA went to a 34-game schedule. LA was 16-0 in 2001, also winning a championship that season. Can Seattle do the same? Well, if it can bend all the way back like that against a veteran team desperate to beat them, I’d say…let’s wait until they get out of the opening round, first. LA eliminated Minnesota with the loss, but still could move up to third in the West if the Lynx win and San Antonio loses. San Antonio is hosting Phoenix and Minnesota is playing at Indiana. Little led the Storm with a career-high 22 points and six boards, sating afterward that she wished it happened in the postseason. Jackson added 21 points and six rebounds. She moved ahead of Katie Smith for third on the WNBA’s all-time scoring list at 5,757. Thompson, the all-time leading scorer, led her team with 20 points while Quinn added 18. “We lost, so I don’t see many positives in that,” Thompson said. “We can see a lot of things we can do better to win.” Agler said he wasn’t looking forward to watching the game film. Seattle shot 26.3 percent from the field in the fourth quarter. Bird said the team let up instead of “putting the foot on the gas.” Both teams played a back-to-back. “It was something that we could control — our defense and our intensity,” Little said. “They (LA) are a great team. They have a lot of great players on their team. If we do that, they’re going to score easily.” The Storm tied Los Angeles’ 2001 and 2000 teams for most wins in a season (28) and with a 82.4 winning percentage, became the best in Seattle sports history, passing the 2005 Seahawks that finished a NFC-best 13-3 and lost to Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.
WILLINGHAM OUT: Agler has opted not to play reserve Le’coe Willingham against LA. She sprained her left ankle in the opening half against Phoenix on Friday and Agler said she’s available, but opted to keep her out as a precautionary measure. Seattle is ahead 39-36 at the break after a three-pointer by Abrosimova with 4.9 seconds remaining in the first half. Jackson leads the Storm with 16 points and three rebounds while Thompson has 12 for the Sparks.
STUFFED: Storm reserve Ashley Robinson blocked Sparks backup guard Andrea Riley’s layin attempt and had a cross-court pass to Little for a made three-pointer to help the Storm tie the score at 20 points apiece at the end of the first quarter. Both teams are shooting 50 percent from the field. The Key is loving the play, draped in free green “I Am Home Court Advantage” t-shirts.
SPOTTED: Storm original Simone Edwards is at the Key. She’s still playing hoops with her Jamaican national team and medaled at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Maragüez, Puerto Rico in July. Former Storm G Betty Lennox is out with a knee injury, but her brother Clarence is here in Seattle brick-red. Washington coach Tia Jackson is also in attendance with new assistant Kyle Locke. LA is continuing its hot shooting, up 12-10 on the Storm after a three-pointer by Jackson with 5:07 remaining in the opening quarter.
There’s a lot going on in Seattle between Hempfest and Seahawks exhibition football. It’s not taking anything from the enthusiasm of another Los Angeles-Seattle matchup at KeyArena.
And the Storm (27-6) really has a chance to stick it to the Sparks (13-20) this season. A win would not only tie LA’s 2001 and 2002 records for most wins in a season at 28, but the victory would give the Storm 17 home wins — a new WNBA record. The Sparks were 16-0 at Staples Center in 2001, also winning a championship that season. Those LA teams played 32 games, however.
While Storm coach Brian Agler said he’s not making the records a focal point, he did tell the team after its win in Phoenix that a wonderful opportunity was waiting at KeyArena.
“Our goal has been getting better everyday and getting prepared for the playoffs,” Agler said. “But if I came up to you and said here’s $500 if you can name any of our starters, would you walk away or would you name them? It’s sitting right here in front of us, so I think since it’s sitting right here and our home court, it would be nice to get.”
Sparks newcomer Tina Thompson, who signed with LA as a free agent in 2009, said it wasn’t going to be easy for the Storm. When is it ever when these two meet? The Sparks clinched a playoff berth with a win against Minnesota on Friday and could move up to the No. 3 seed with another victory and losses by San Antonio and the Lynx.
Adding spice to the Saturday game is the concussion Storm star Lauren Jackson suffered after contact with Sparks star DeLisha Milton-Jones. Jackson called LA’s play thugish and Agler spoke to the league about the physicality.
Dee Kantner, supervisor of WNBA officials is present and an experienced crew is on hand, so…
“I just told DeLisha ‘Keep a straight head’ We’ve got a playoff to play and we don’t want her missing the first game,” said first-year LA coach Jennifer Gillom. “Just play basketball. We’re not thinking about happened in the past, hopefully we can let that go, just play basketball and let this be a rival but maybe trade baskets and not nessecarily fist-fighting.”
Either way, it’s about to go down. Let’s get you ready for the blow-by-blow action with the starting lineups. One note, it’s a tight deadline for the Sunday paper, so updates will be a little more infrequent than normal.
Here’s tonight’s lineups:
F Noelle Quinn
F DeLisha Milton-Jones
C Tina Thompson
G Ticha Penicheiro
G Marie Ferdinand-Harris
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Sue Blauch, Clarke Stevens, and Daryl Humphrey.