SENDING PRAYERS: The WNBA already lost one favorite in Candace Parker undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery. KeyArena collected its collective breath that Bird doesn’t join her. “I just thought, ‘Please God, protect my friend,'” said Jackson afterward. Bird put on a brave face for the cameras, but was gentle with her left knee, not moving or adjusting it at all as interviewed. The Storm won 82-61 behind an impressive third quarter, so she didn’t need to play. Doubt she would have, however, undergoing multiple surgeries on the knee in the past. “I’m sure anyone who has been in that situation can tell you, when it gets pushed in a direction it doesn’t want to go, it can be painful,” Bird said. “It doesn’t seem like any damage has occurred. I don’t have my extension or my flexion, and it basically hyperflexed. My ankle touched my behind is the layman’s way of saying it. I don’t normally go that far, so to get pushed that far is very painful.” The Storm is off Monday and doesn’t play again until hosting Indiana on Friday, so she may be able to return. “I’ll have some time to take care of it,” Bird said “We’ll see how it reacts tomorrow. Hopefully it’s just something small.” Wright, whose game is back clicking after a mini slump, ran the offense in place of Bird, getting four assists while Cash scored 15 of her game-high 22 points in the second half to shut the door on San Antonio. But the Storm bench was key in getting the game going, outscoring the Silver Stars’ reserves 20-13. Favorite stat is Seattle outrebounding San Antonio 46-23, which leads me to the quote of the night: “It was like we were in the park and we’re like a little kid and these big dudes are standing there and you’re just jumping, jumping, jumping and you can’t get the ball,” Holdsclaw said. “If you want to win in this league, you have to defend and we didn’t do that.” Holdsclaw and Hammon had 12 points apiece for their team.
A FIRST: Lacey scored her first WNBA field goal in a wild manner — a turnaround fling at the hoop as the shot clock buzzer sounded. Sound familiar? Yeah, that’s what Jana Vesela did at KeyArena. Lacey’s came with 50.8 seconds remaining in the game.
BIRD UPDATE: Bird may return, but an early diagnoses is a strained left knee. With her out of the game from the 5:51 mark, the Storm went on a 12-4 run to build a 61-43 lead. The team is up 62-46 at the end of the third quarter. No need to put Bird back in the game is Seattle is able to hold on. Bird spoke about being the healthiest she’s ever been in her WNBA career after the New York win on Friday, but how it’s harder to recover as she ages. Rookie Alison Lacey has seen some minutes and Wright is running the team well, now.
BIRD HURT: Wrote that too soon. Lawson-Wade had a hard foul on Bird, who landed hard on her side. She stumbled when trying to get up and hobbled to the bench. It appeared she hurt her left knee, but not sure. Seattle responded with a 6-0 run to go up 55-39 with 4:38 remaining in the game.
LITTLE FOUND: Little is back to playing well, but Bird has flown the coup. She’s 0 for 7 from the field, although it doesn’t seem to matter. Seattle is up 49-38 and Bird is clearly directing the team.
HALFTIME: The Storm’s offense started to get some motion in the second quarter, shooting 38.9 percent from the field. Jackson led, making 5 of 7 shots from the field for 13 points. The Storm kept the Silver Stars off the glass, not allowing a single offensive rebound. But San Antonio did shoot 50 in the quarter. Lawson-Wade (eight) and Holdsclaw (nine) led. Seattle leads 37-30 – Hammon’s circus jumper while falling to the ground possibly giving San Antonio momentum, though.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAD: Gotta say “Happy Father’s Day” to my Pops, who half watches the game so he can see my head. The Storm recognized all of the fathers in attendance, starting with a video message from Jackson to her father, Gary. Her parents arrived this weekend and received a standing ovation from KeyArena. Mayor Mike McGinn not so much. Some jeers for him when shown with his daughter. Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck made his annual trip with his kids.
GETTING HOT: Snow is taking a seat after a technical foul was called on her with 7:17 remaining in the second quarter. Snow went to block a Jackson shot and nearly smacked her in the face. That was after a tussle with Bird at midcourt where nothing was called. Bird was wrestled to the ground and later shoved Snow off her. It’s getting really physical and the officials are trying to take a hold of the game. Seattle is up 29-22 after a putback by Cash.
HOT COCO: The rainy afternoon is perfect for a little hot cocoa, even though the first day of summer is Monday. Anyway, Coco (Willingham) is providing the heat on the court, nailing shots. Seattle up 18-14.
WELCOME BACK: Lawson-Wade also spent a season in a Storm jersey and received a warm welcome when introduced as a starter. Not so much when she nailed a three-pointer to give San Antonio a 9-7 lead. The game is tied after two FTs from Willingham. Seattle looks tired offensively, shooting 2 of 12 from the field. The Silver Stars are no better with 4 of 11. Saving graces for the Storm is rebounding and FT shooting.
UH-OH: “Oh” is the sound of the night, so far. Seattle is shooting 10 percent from the field with three turnovers, making the crowd go “OH!” in disappointment. A Little three-point released a yell. Seattle up 7-4 with 4:50 remaining in the OH-pening quarter.
OHHH: Odd start to the game. Storm grabbed four consecutive offensive rebounds and attempted five shots without scoring. Cash was fouled, however and made the ensuing free throws to end the madness.
NAME GAME: Y’all remember Brondello as a Storm player in 2003. Apparently through all of our interviews, she’s liked my name. “You’re the only Jayda I know,” said Brondello who gave birth to her second child on May 31, naming her “Jayda.” Hubby Olaf Lange, the Silver Stars assistant coach, apparently wanted a different name (the nerve). “But I won,” Brondello said with a smile. Once she released the name, she began to hear about the other “Jaydas,” like, oh, Jada Pinkett-Smith. Only Brondello added the “Y” to make it hip. That’s right. Lil’ Jayda is here tonight, too. Storm assistant coach Jenny Boucek’s mother is watching her while Boucek’s brother babysits the Brondello and Lange’s son Brody.
Well, the Storm (10-2) survived the Eastern Conference, splitting a back-to-back road trip against Indiana and New York. But the kicker is Sunday against San Antonio at KeyArena. It’s the closer of a tough stretch of three games in four days and the Silver Stars are starting to find their way.
In fact, San Antonio’s ability to defeat Phoenix 108-105 on the road Friday has Seattle coach Brian Agler thinking about the rematch differently. The Storm defeated the Silver Stars by 28-points in San Antonio in May.
“They’ve got it together,” said Agler of San Antonio winning two of their past three games. “I don’t know if it’s going to change what we do, I just know they’re going to be a little bit more in sync. They’ve got (Chamique) Holdsclaw has been there for a period of time and Becky Hammon is more healthy.
“I spent three years down there (as an assistant coach), I know those people real well and I know we embarrassed them. I know they didn’t enjoy that and I know what kind of competitors they are. What I just said is the same thing I told the team.”
The Storm was able to withstand a late offensive charge by the Liberty on Friday, but their collective defense was questionable in losing to the Fever by seven on Thursday. Holdsclaw is averaging 15.1 points while All-Star Sophia Young leads the team with 17.2.
But the difference is PG Becky Hammon is no longer sitting out practices and missing games due to a pulled right quad injury. Hammon had 21 points and 10 assists in the Mercury win.
“It’s nice to be healthy because after the first game when I injured it, I was only playing at 80 percent,” said Hammon, who missed the Indiana and Connecticut losses. “I had to sit out. I didn’t like watching us lose, but we thought that was the best thing to get me completely healthy. I feel better and I’m just starting to get my legs under me. I’m almost at 100 percent.”
San Antonio coach Sandy Brondello was slow to call the matchup against Seattle “payback,” but admitted the previous defeat was embarrassing because the players can do better. Hammon agreed.
The Storm has a 6½-game lead over the worst team in the West and a five-game lead over the Silver Stars (4-6). It’s not even time for the All-Star break, so Seattle could still slip into the tank, but if San Antonio wants to make some headway, Sunday is a good continuation after the Phoenix win.
“This is a completely different game and it’s going to take on its own characteristics,” Hammon said. “That was then and I think we’re a better team now. This is going to be a good test for us because they’re the best team in the league.”
And that means the Storm will continue its reign against the West. Let’s get you ready with your starting lineups:
F Sophia Young
F Chamique Holdsclaw
C Michelle Snow
G Becky Hammon
G Edwidge Lawson-Wade
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Litttle
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Michael Price, Roy Gulbeyan, and Maj Forsberg.