COOL GONE: Jackson is getting booed as she shoots the FT from a technical foul given to Gaines by Inouye. Gaines was hyped all night and really got in Inouye’s ear. She just walked away but it looked really UGLY. Pondexter had to hold him back and Gaines started ripping his tie off. Guess he forgot this was a TV game. He’ll be fined for sure. Anyway, Seattle won 93-84.
COACHES ON THE COURT: Phoenix coach Corey Gaines is hyped about a no call when Taurasi missed a 7-footer that looked to be blocked (slapped?) by Bird. Jackson capitalized by making a game-saving three-pointer that may seal the win. Seattle is ahead 88-82 with 49.5 seconds remaining. Agler was also on the court, grabbing Wright, who had two turnovers in critical situations. Wright told him “My bad” after he had a long talk with her.
HEY ROOKIE: Taurasi was hanging from the net after Cash made a bucket. The play was made possible by Jackson blocking Bonner’s shot attempt twice. The former Auburn star has the Aussie stamped all over her. Seattle leads 85-74.
BIRD CALL: The Storm is on a 7-0 run to regain their lead 75-65 with 8:30 left in the game. Bird is catalyst, calling her own number to hit back-to-back three-pointers. Phoenix called a timeout.
WHAT THE?: Walker is consoling Inouye right now after a wild performance by the Mercury dancers. They did a drag show where the kicker was the men dressed as women with way too much padding in their rump. They jiggled to Sir-Mix-A-Lots “I Like Big Buts.” One even rubbed his, er, hers on Walker.
GIMME THAT: Just to prove Taurasi plays rough against anyone, she nearly yanked the arm off Bonner when trying to gain control of a rebound. Bonner, a spindly guard, bent awkwardly on the court and had to untwist before the two released and made it down court to continue play. Seattle leads 68-65 with 2.9 remaining in the third quarter.
MERCURY LEAD: Don’t know where the Storm went. Phoenix burst out of the gate to piece together a 6-0 run to take a 50-48 lead off of Willingham’s layin. Agler called a timeout and there’s 7:50 remaining in the quarter. He’s talking to the team about going high-low, a good point since scoring in the paint is what worked in the opening half.
END OF HALF: You knew the lead wouldn’t last, but Seattle looked like it was on cruise control, possibly saving energy for the grueling second half. Phoenix starting shooting better and had a little focus on defense. Seattle is outrebounding Phoenix 20-10 and outscored them 24-8 in the paint to take a small 48-44 lead into the break. Cash leads with 12 points and five boards Taurasi leads the Mercury with 16 while rookie DeWanna Bonner leads Phoenix in rebounding (3) in her seven minutes of play off the bench.
HEATING UP: The Mercury is on a 6-0 run to close the game at 38-32 with 4:17 remaining in the half. Seattle isn’t faring well with the running and they can’t take breaks on defense. There have been a couple of suspect calls in the mini spurt, but you can’t use that as an excuse. Agler is talking it over with the team during a timeout. UPDATE: Bucket changed to a two-pointer. Seattle leads 38-31.
RACE IS ON: Jackson just collected her third foul while being defended by Taurasi. The second quarter has turned into a wild stretch of play. Including Bird missing a layin. Phoenix is finally getting to run, resulting in some points. Seattle still leads 36-26 with 6:32 remaining in the half.
BUZZER BEATER: Perhaps we should change PG Shannon Johnson’s nickname to Buzzer Beater. She entered the game and as time wound down, G Katie Gearlds passed on a late shot, handing off to PeeWee, who nailed the shot as the horn sounded. On Friday, she hit a fast break layin off a pass from C Janell Burse. Seattle is up 34-20, shooting 60 percent from the field.
OHLDE IS NEW: Trade pickup Nicole Ohlde is making her debut after suffering a foot injury. She began practicing with the team this week and was listed as day-to-day. In her first minute on the court, she fouled Jackson, made a bucket, and had a turnover. Seattle leads 25-15 with 2:24 remaining in the quarter.
MAILBAG: Happy Father’s Day! And yes, Nickfan, Agler is in a new tie, but it’s not from me (smile). His family actually celebrated the holiday with him when he drove home to Ohio on the day off in between road games in Indiana and Minnesota. They gave him a coffee gift card and shopping gift certificates. I asked if he bought a tie and Agler laughed.
EQUALIZERS: Pondexter is getting Phoenix on the board, throwing shots up in Bird’s face. But Bird is making up for the defensive foils with two three-pointers of her own. Seattle leads 15-9 with 5:25 left.
WRIGHTLY HOT: Gulbeyan called a tech on Wright after calling a defensive foul on the player when she was covering Johnson in the open court. Wright was immediately upset, cursing as she walked away and had to be calmed by teammates. Storm leads 4-3 with 7:48 remaining in the opening quarter.
NOW BOO: Jackson is at the line and now the fans are booing. She made both to put the Storm on the board first.
MOVING ON: Local media asked questions, but there was nothing but applause for Jackson during player introductions. Bird still receives the most cheers of the starting five, some wearing her jersey.
HELLO, AGAIN: The travel budget for officials is another sign of the WNBA’s budget crunch. West coast-based officials are circling around to cover the region’s games and the same for the rest of the country. So, you’ll see a lot of the same refs as the Storm goes through opening stretch against Western Conference.
It’s been an odd stretch of days for Seattle. The Storm played Friday, traveled Saturday afternoon and plays a weird 5 p.m. start today, so there hasn’t been time for practice. The team didn’t even shoot-around, staying at a resort in north Phoenix that caused logistics problems in getting back-and-forth to the downtown US Airways Arena for a session.
Instead, coach Brian Agler had the players watch film at the hotel then arrived a little early to the facility for a walk-through. Ideal? Not really.
“It’s out of your routine, but if you worry about it too much, it defeats the purpose of playing,” Agler said. “We prepared as well as we can and we’ll see what happens. A big thing in this league is the ability to be as fresh as possible on game night. You’d like to keep the same routine but, to me, it’s a high priority that you’re rested.”
Hope Seattle is refreshed because they’ll be running this evening. Everyone knows Phoenix likes to play a run-and-gun style and new PG Temeka Johnson already used to give PG Sue Bird fits when she played for Los Angeles last season.
Phoenix averages 93.3 percent from the field, shooting 46.7 percent from the field. But don’t let the “LifeLock” logo on their chest fool you. They still don’t play lockdown defense, allowing opponents to shoot 42.5 percent. The Mercury is heavily benefitting from playing five games at home, winning all five and losing badly in Sacramento.
“It seems like we’ve been on the road forever,” said Agler, whose team is 2-2 in road matchups.
Adding emotion to the matchup will be fans’ reaction, if any, to PF Lauren Jackson. She waivered between the Mercury and Storm during the offseason as an unrestricted free agent. She had her normal giggle with Taurasi during pregame and fans seated baseline for warmups didn’t boo.
Well, this should be an interesting one, so let’s get to it. Here are your starting lineups.
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
F Cappie Pondexter
F Le’Coe Willingham
C Tangela Smith
G Temeka Johnson
G Diana Taurasi
Tonight’s officials are Cameron Inouye, Kurt Walker, and Roy Gulbeyan.