FOUL TROUBLE: Burse picked up her fourth foul, knocking into Milton-Jones. C Ashley Robinson replaced her in the lineup. Now Seattle’s lack of post depth is on display. But Wright hit a jumper, so…nah, Little has three fouls and Agler is going to have to get creative. LA is up 31-20 with 2:38 remaining in the half.
SPOTTED: Lakers G Derek Fisher, Orlando star Dwight Howard and Lakers reserve Josh Powell are all seated in front of press row.
GETTING WARMER: C Suzy Batkovic-Brown and Cash each made three-pointers to at least add some drama to this saga that is the Storm’s postseason woes. Seattle is 2-of-6 from the field in this half, an improvement if not desired. Seattle is also playing better defense. LA is up 22-14 with 7:14 remaining in the half.
LITTLE COUNTS: Seattle finally made a FG with 23.4 seconds to go in the opening quarter. Little hit a short jumper to make the score 22-6 LA. It’s the Storm’s second-lowest output in an opening quarter this season. Seattle was 1 of 9 from the field in the quarter while LA is 5-of-13. The Sparks’ frontline is making a difference. Their long limbs and tough defensive effort forced seven turnovers, scoring 10 points of the Seattle miscues. LA isn’t overwhelming, Seattle just needs to find its offense and play better defense to get back into the matchup.
NOT FREE: If either team could make a free throw, the score differential might be a little more. With Burse leaving a few hanging, the Storm is down 8-2 with 4:05 remaining in the opening quarter. Seattle has missed all five of its shot attempts, not able to get anything inside. The team also has four early turnovers, a result of trying to force the ball in the paint.
Seattle and Los Angeles’ locker rooms mirrored each other, each playing game film of matchups against each other. You’d think the teams would know everything there was to learn, facing each other for the fourth time (second consecutive) in the playoffs.
But if you’re thinking things are the same, think again.
“They’re completely different and so are we,” L.A. coach Michael Cooper said.
True, Seattle is without two-time MVP Lauren Jackson for the second straight postseason. But F Swin Cash is healthy, returning from outpatient surgery in March, and she’ll be an X-factor in this matchup. Her defense is strong and she’ll have to be on point offensively to keep the Sparks honest, instead of swarming the paint and pressuring PG Sue Bird.
Speaking of Bird, she was getting a neck massage pregame. She said she’s fine and she’ll be back in the lineup, missing the team’s final two games due to the injury. She’s practiced with the team, but coach Brian Agler remains concerned about her chemistry with the team.
His final points were along the line of defense and rebounding while Cooper emphasized transition defense and rebounding.
“No regrets,” L.A. center Lisa Leslie told local media about her goals heading into the postseason, her final of an illustrious 13 years in the WNBA.
The Sparks had a fabulous crowd and show for her final regular-season game at Staples Center last week, but ownership already is worried about tonight’s numbers. The notorious L.A. freeways are parking lots, so with 20-minutes remaining before tip-off, the arena is sparse.
“No one is going to anticipate that,” said co-owner Carla Christofferson, who was 30-minutes behind her own schedule because of traffic. “The second half the place will be rocking.”
Not many are giving the Storm a chance, including me. Cooper said his team is “very healthy” and Seattle just isn’t. Reserve G Katie Gearlds is out with a knee injury, limiting the Storm to nine available players.
It’s going to take miraculous play that the Storm is capable of, they’ve done it down the stretch of this season, but in a possible three games? With L.A. having won 10 of 13?
Well, there’s only one way to see and that’s to play the game.
“It feels like the playoffs,” G Tanisha Wright said. “It’s another game. A more significant game because we’re working to win a championship, but another game.”
So, let’s get to it with you starting lineups:
F Swin Cash
F Janell Burse
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
F DeLisha Milton-Jones
F Candace Parker
C Lisa Leslie
G Tina Thompson
G Kristi Harrower