STORM WINS: WNBA prez wants everyone to play outdoors, brushing off any problems Seattle would have due to rain. Storm CEO Karen Bryant attended and loved the venue, but was slow to say it would happen in the Emerald City any time soon. It has been discussed, but the Storm would have to wait until after July 4, when Seattle typically doesn’t get rain, and then find a venue to hold the game. The area doesn’t have many outdoor tennis courts and there isn’t a soccer/tennis complex like the LA Galaxy has at Home Depot Center, creating a unique vibe where fans could watch a soccer-basketball double-header. Storm coach Brian Agler joked that September would be a good time, not really liking the concept too much because he saw players like Jackson and Parker slip on the court Saturday. Well, Little got over her hatred of bugs and helped the Storm win 79-75 in their inaugural game outside. Jackson said the officiating was terrible, letting the early foul trouble make her play passive. “They weren’t even fouls, go watch the replay,” said Jackson, who finished with 17 points and nine rebound. “Even though they (refs) were really bad, we still won,” The balance of the Storm roster cleared the way for Bird to get her number called by Agler late in the game. With the Storm without timeouts, Bird scored seven of her final 22 points in the waning two minutes to assure the win. “That’s just Sue Bird in a nutshell, really,” Jackson said. “It’s just what she’s great at, hitting those big buckets and shutting up the crowd.” There were 6,026 fans in attendance. The Storm, even Little, loved the atmosphere, many players surprised at how many Storm fans made the trip. Some even flew in from Australia. “Nothing really affected the game, it was nice,” Bird said. “I heard (the fans) on starting lineups and said to Tee, ‘Hey! We’ve got a lot of fans here!” The Storm have a morning flight to Seattle and play Phoenix at KeyArena at 6 p.m. on Sunday. “Two-hours before the game, we’ll come in and do a quick review and do the best we can,” Agler said. “Hopefully we’ll get a lot of energy from the crowd because we are going to need it.” Seattle is 7-1, the best record in its history. L.A. is 1-6 for the first time in its 14-year history.
SCARY MOMENT: Bird banged knee caps with Toliver during a jumpball scramble. The result was an open layin by Parker to close the deficit to 67-60. Bird’s on the bench getting evaluated. She was teary-eyed, but returning after Toliver nailed an open layup to make it a 5-point game. There’s 3:35 on the clock.
RUSSIAN LOVE: Abrosimova missed a layup, getting jeered by the home crowd because they saw their PG Andrea Riley playing good defense. Abrosimova felt a hard foul. No matter, Seattle got the offensive board and Abrosimova stuck a three-pointer in Riley’s face, turning to spew some Russian love, I’m sure. Seattle finished the quarter up 63-47. Four of the five starters are in double figures, while the Seattle bench is outscoring LA’s 9-8. Parker said the fourth quarter is her team’s most problematic. That’s when Seattle really comes alive. Perhaps this finish has been written?
SPOTTED: WNBA president Donna Orender is here while legend Lisa Leslie is doing TV for the Sparks. There’s a lot of Storm fans, including the Storm Dance Troupe, whose trip was sponsored by Bing. The kids flew in on Saturday and got a trip to a water park out of the deal. Of course, Boston Celtics reserve Sheldon Williams, Parker’s husband. She was asked by a TV crew, again, who’s she’s rooting for in the NBA Finals pitting the Lakers versus the Celtics, stating, “I’ve got to go with family. I do have to go home.” Parker plans to attend Sunday’s Game 2 at Staples Center. Seattle leads 60-47 with 5.2 remaining in the third quarter. UPDATE: Via Twitter, Orender said Seattle native Nate Robinson, the Celtics G, was at the game.
ICED: Jackson is back on the bench with a fourth foul, committed while defending Parker. The Storm was rolling on a 15-9 run to build a 54-40 lead with 3:13 remaining in the third quarter. We’ll see if the Sparks can take advantage as they did to end the second quarter to sort of get back in the game.
HALFTIME: Without Jackson on the court to close the second quarter (three fouls), the Storm became more manageable for the Sparks. LA improved its shooting and is down 39-31 at the break. Parker leads the Sparks with 12 while Little has 10 and Jackson added nine. The Sparks have made all nine of their FTs.
SPARKS RUN: LA has stepped up the pressure and is shooting 7 of 15 in the second half to inch a little closer to Seattle’s lead. The Storm is up 37-29 with 1:27 remaining before halftime.
SMELL THAT?: There was a fire at a auto scrap yard a few miles from the tennis site, so there’s a slight haze of smoke over the court and a gnarly, burnt rubber smell. Originally thought it was the way Seattle was running over Los Angeles. Storm is up 33-20 with 4:14 remaining before halftime.
ICEY OR BAD?: The impulse is to say the Sparks are off to a cold shooting start, going 3-for-13 (23.1 percent) from the field to open. But it’s actually the Storm’s aggressive defense that is forcing them into bad attempts. Parker hit against Le’coe Willingham and LA is down 25-12 at the end of the opening quarter. Seattle is shooting 50 percent, making 7-of-14 attempts. Wright is the only starter to not score.
WOODEN REMEMBERED: The Sparks read a touching speech and held a moment of silence prior to the game for legendary coach John Wooden, who died Friday at the age of 99. The crowd gave a warm applause afterward. Los Angeles plans to play a video tribute when it returns to Staples Center on Tuesday to play Phoenix. There isn’t a jumbo screen at Home Depot Center. Seattle is up 23-8 with 2:07 remaining in the first quarter.
TIMEOUT: LA called a timeout with 5:34 remaining in the opening quarter after the Storm rattled off a 9-0 run capped by a Jackson three-pointer. Little is grabbing the needed rebounds for put backs and only Parker has attempted a shot for the Sparks since the last FG (by Toliver). Seattle up 14-6.
BLOODY NOSE?: Play stopped briefly for Jackson to handle a bloody nose. Sparks up 4-3 with 8:01 remaining. Weather doesn’t seem to be a factor for anyone.
OK, the back-to-back and Los Angeles’ 1-5 record are putting a slight damper on the WNBA’s outdoor game Saturday at the Home Depot Center’s tennis stadium.
“This is a little bit of a distraction,” said Sparks star Candace Parker, whose team lost to Phoenix on Friday. “We would definitely want to be at Staples (Center) playing Seattle, the best team in the West right now. That’s a no-brainer. This is more for the fans and I’m excited about the opportunity. Both teams are facing the same situation so, we’ll be alright.”
Maxwell and Jill Scott are performing at Staples, so that nixes playing there. The concert coupled with the NBA playoffs made the outdoor setting perfect for the game, which was being discussed the past year. It’s part of the team’s “Get Outside and Play LA” initiative, promoting health among youth.
The Storm (6-1) had a slight edge, getting out on the court after arriving Friday evening. They also had a shoot-around Saturday morning, but it only lasted 30-minutes as players needed shades to protect from the sun.
There’s no need for the gear now as the sun has set over the 8,000-seat stadium’s western horizon. There’s a slight wind and chill, but if you’re running up and down the court, it’s not going to make a difference. Well, the wind might be a factor.
“Wind is the one thing in life you can’t control,” Storm star Sue Bird said. “If a gust takes the ball the other way, so be it. You just have to shoot normally and not think about it.”
Kind of like adjusting to an opponent?
“No, because in a way that can be predictable,” Bird said. “You can kind of get them off-balance. The wind is the wind.”
The Sparks have bigger issues than the elements, however. In addition to struggling to score and defend, the team will play Saturday without veteran PG Ticha Penicheiro, who sprained her ankle in the loss to the Mercury. She’ll be replaced in the starting lineup by second-year G Kristi Toliver.
“Just when she’s getting back, she gets injured again,” Sparks coach Jennifer Gillom said. “Kristi has been good coming off the bench and getting a lot of experience, hopefully she’ll be able to take on that role.”
The Storm is without rookie Alison Lacey, who felt ill for Tuesday win against Atlanta and did not play. She didn’t practice this past week nor make the trip. Her absence will put more pressure on G Tanisha Wright and Bird to handle the ball, but Seattle has also had reserve F Svetlana Abrosimova handle the ball, too.
Other than the rotation switch, the Storm is heading into the game with the same tactic it used to defeat the Sparks by 11-points in Seattle’s home opener.
“It’s still basketball, it’s just outdoor basketball,” Wright said.
Here are your starting lineups:
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
F DeLisha Milton-Jones
F Tina Thompson
C Candace Parker
G Kristi Toliver
G Noelle Quinn
Tonight’s officials are Cameron Inouye, Kurt Walker, and Tim Greene.