STORM WINS: Seattle won 78-68 behind Burse’s season-high-tying 14 points. Yet, Storm coach Brian Agler spent a long time in the team training room talking to doctors, but wouldn’t say what it was regarding once he finally spoke with media. Jackson, the team’s leading scorer, was also in the room getting treatment. She played just 18 minutes, partly because of the Storm once led by 28 and partly because of her tweaked back. It was good to see Burse getting extended minutes, playing well beside Jackson with Little at the small forward position. But Jackson’s back is a visible problem. “There was one play where she fouled a girl and she [Lauren] was leaning on her back,” Bird said. “I think she couldn’t get herself to come back up, so they had to call a foul. You can tell, it’s definitely bothering her.” There’s no break for the Storm or Jackson, however. They play Thursday and Saturday before heading on a three-game road trip. All of the matchups are against teams that could possibly be in the playoffs. But the Storm could ease one goal, winning its next game to clinch a sixth consecutive berth.
JACKSON BACK: Jackson checked back into the game after getting a long rest and tending to her back on the bench. Then she left the game again. Seattle is up 71-54 and will win its fourth straight game against the Mystics at KeyArena. The series is tied at eight games apiece overall.
WALKER DEBUT: Rookie Ashley Walker returned from a tough right toe injury, missing 16 games. She entered with 3:38 remaining in the third quarter and the Storm up 62-36.
AUSSIE FASHION: With a beer spilling out of her cup, Katrina Hibbert was introduced during a third-quarter timeout. She did the “cut” sign to the camera, though. A ballgirl had to clean up the mess.
BEARD IN: Nope, Beard put her shoes back on and looks like she’ll re-enter the game.
BEARD OUT: With 7:01 remaining Beard left the game with an apparent right ankle injury. She could barely walk to the bench on her own and is currently taking off her shoes and socks to be treated by the team trainer. Beard is shaking her head “No,” possibly knowing she’s done for the night. Seattle up 52-33 in the third.
AT THE HALF: Storm had a breezy first half, taking a 47-24 lead into the break. Seattle is playing textbook defense, limiting the Mystics to two offensive boards and 31 percent shooting. Seattle also has 12 assists on 16 made FGs with Wright leading with six. But she also has four turnovers for a return to an old trend many thought she overcame. Three Seattle players lead with eight points apiece. Harding has six for Washington.
BARRIER REEF: Australia’s best frontline just checked in with Bird. Wright’s still on the floor along with Cash. Personally I would have kept Jackson and Bird out until the second half. Jackson picked up a foul and the flow has changed. But Seattle is up 36-17 with 5:41 remaining.
WOW: Hard to believe Washington defeated Phoenix right now. The Mystics just called a timeout with 7:55 remaining as back-to-back three-pointers by reserve PG Shannon Johnson made the score 33-13. Bird and Jackson are getting a deserved rest on the bench and the backups are getting a good run.
END OF FIRST: The Storm is definitely using its defense to create an entertaining transition game. Jackson is providing the blocks and teammates are laying it in. Or setting up the offense for threes. The sweetest offensive play was a fastbreak with Cash, who passed to Bird and watched her tap the ball to C Janell Burse for the finish. Seattle is up 27-13, looking as if they’ll put a stamp on this game early. Washington is young and despite being a solid rebounding team, isn’t getting to the boards. The Mystics are being outrebounded 11-4.
THREE CITY: Cash’s trey with 3:47 remaining makes the Storm 5-of-5 from that range tonight. They were 4-of-18 from three-point range against Indiana.
BLOCK IT: Jackson looks to be better tonight, so Storm coach Brian Agler may not have to watch her minutes as closely as he did on Saturday. But he will have to watch his team’s turnovers. Despite the Mystics not having a huge frontline, they are clogging the paint and disrupting passing lanes to force three turnovers inside already. Treys by Little, Jackson, and Bird have the Storm ahead 15-9 with 4:41 remaining.
Tonight’s matchup already had plenty of drama to it, but USA Basketball Women’s National Team Director Carol Callan’s presence could add an extra dose. She presented Storm PG Sue Bird her ring for winning gold in the 2008 Beijing Games.
But, as part of the national team selection committee, you can bet those not picked to represent America at the 2010 World Championship will display their best tonight.
Los Angeles forward Tina Thompson said she’s looking to compete in the 2012 Olympics and that could open the door for Storm F Swin Cash to return to national team prominence. Cash suffered from a back injury and wasn’t selected to the 2008 team after winning gold in 2004. Cash said she’s been in contact with members of the committee and coach Geno Auriemma. He doesn’t pick players, but has experience with Cash from their University of Connecticut days.
At the WNBA All-Star game, he said he’d use his influence to be sure Cash had an opportunity to try-out for the team. Trouble is, there are a ton of talented players to choose from. Some playing tonight in Washington’s backcourt Alana Beard, another MVP candidate, PG Lindsey Harding, and F/C Crystal Langhorne.
After years of disappointment, the Mystics are currently seeded fourth in the Western Conference and appear ready to return to the postseason.
“We need to get our bench helping us and be more consistent,” first-year coach Julie Plank. “I had a lot of confidence in Alana Beard when I took the job. I knew she was a great franchise player and she couldn’t be any better. She works hard, she’s a leader, she sets examples and I’ve been very pleased.
“So, our goal from Day 1 is to make the playoffs and I think it’s very realistic. I’d be disappointed if we didn’t.”
Seattle’s goal is the postseason, too. And a win tonight could move them one win from clinching a berth. Let’s get to it.
Here’s your starting lineup:
F Monique Currie
F Crystal Langhorne
C Nakia Sanford
G Alana Beard
G Lindsey Harding
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are June Courteau, Denise Brooks, and Marat Kogut.