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Game thread: Minnesota at Seattle

posted by Jayda Evans: Womens Hoops Blog
Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 6:23pm EDT

Jayda Evans covers college and pro women's basketball. While its her first year on the Washington beat, she has covered the Storm since its inception. She'll offer observations, critiques, occasional off-beat tales and answers to select e-mail inquires. Evans also has written a book on the Storm and women's hoops, called "Game On!"

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STORM WINS: Bird was classic after the game, boasting about her career-high-tying two blocks and feeling the Storm "stole one" at home. Seattle did in a way, starting the game flat and not banging inside like it did with LA on Sunday, using late-game heroics, again, to win 79-76. Little, who has been working on her three-point shooting during the offseason, hit one late along with Cash to push the Storm ahead. But Jackson's put-back off a Little miss with 8.1 seconds left in the game shut the door. Cash led all scorers with 24 points on 7 for 11 shooting from the field. Seattle is 2-0 to open its third consecutive season -- all under Agler. Previously the Storm has averaged 20.7 wins when starting 2-0, but it's doubtful any team gets 20-wins this season. Minnesota is tough. We're talking tough and you-haven't-even-faced-the-returning-starters tough. But Agler doesn't think rookie Monica Wright (season-high 19 points) will be taking a seat anytime soon. "I knew she was a good player, what I didn't understand was how explosive she is in getting from Point A to Point B," Agler said. "I didn't get it and I don't think Tanisha got it either until the game went on because she (Monica) was separating herself from us. I know who's out for them (Minnesota) and I don't see her losing that spot. That's not a disrespect to anybody; just a respect toward her. It would be tough to have her on your bench, knowing what she can do." Well, for now, Seattle has escaped with the win, which could be beneficial later when talking berths and seedings. The Storm is practicing Thursday and traveling on Friday to play the defending champion Phoenix on Saturday.
CASHING IN: Cash has eight points in the quarter to help pull the Storm ahead 77-74 with 39.5 remaining in the game. And it's not easy. Minnesota is much improved even without Wiggins and Augustus, so their talk of winning the West is legit -- so far. But Cash and the Storm are pulling out vet moves, like putting Bird at the two and luring the Lynx into fouls, to possibly get by in this tight game.

TREY BIEN: Three-pointers from Cash and Jackson have the Storm down 68-66 with 4:48 left on the clock. Monica Wright is tough. Consider this her intro to the Rookie of the Year campaign. She has 19 points on 8 of 15 shooting. Anosike has 10 boards to frustrate Seattle. Cash, who was scoreless in the opening quarter, now has 20 and the bench is grabbing needed rebounds.

CLICKING?: Abrosimova had a sweet baseline dish to Willingham for two points, pulling Seattle back within four points. The Russian missed a three-pointer and jumper that could have further shrunk the lead, however, There's 7:22 remaining in the game.

TRY AGAIN: Houston could only cover her face in disbelief. Jackson came cross court to swat her "gimmie" layin out of her hands and into the stands with 2:27 remaining in the third quarter. The Storm is getting more production inside from Little and Cash to once pull within four points of Minnesota's lead. But the Lynx are back up by seven because the Storm's defense can't stop the youngsters.

FIRST TECH: There's been a lot of chatter on the court between officials and players. Bird, Whalen, Jackson, and Anosike have tried stating their case. Anosike getting a little too spicy, tagged for a technical foul with 1:21 remaining in the opening quarter. Couple that with two Storm FT and Seattle only trails 41-40 with 41.8 left in the second quarter.

ALL-STAR TREATMENT?: Lacey is getting no love from official Inouye. Whalen clearly charged into the rookie and Lacey was tagged, again, for the foul. KeyArena went ballistic. On the other end, Quanitra Hollingsworth was called for a charge, which looked like a makeup call. At least that's how Lynx assistant coach Jim Petersen saw it, screaming "They don't even know what a charge is anymore! It's ridiculous!" Lynx up 37-28 with 5:31 left in the second quarter.

THREE GUARDS: Storm rookie Alison Lacey is on the court in a three-guard lineup with Bird and Wright. She was tagged for a foul with 7:44 remaining in the second quarter but the look is improving the Storm's offense. Too bad Minnesota's Wright is hot. She nailed a three-pointer to keep the Lynx ahead 31-21 with 7:09 left before halftime.

NEW KIDS: You can tell when the newcomers hit the court. The flow gets a little shaky. Against Minnesota, it's resulting in a mini 9-0 Lynx run to take a 23-14 lead to end the first quarter. Le'coe Willingham and Svetlana Abrosimova had some good plays, but also missed baskets and crowded the defensive assignments to open up Whalen for three-pointers or scoring in the paint. Seattle has been outscored 12-2 overall inside. The Storm is winning the rebounding battle 9-5. Agler worked the newcomers extra hard on Tuesday in preparation for the game, running different lineups to get everyone acclimated with another. They've only all been together for a week.

WRIGHT LOOKS: The rookie is making a splash and both offenses are playing better than in their previous games. Seattle is shooting 50 percent from the field with Jackson leading the highlight reel early. She has a three-pointer off a Bird dish and a block on Whalen. Seattle is up 7-6 with 5:40 remaining in the opening quarter.

TAKE TWO: Storm TV has been working hard to fix problems from opening night debut with own production team. Let me know how it goes. Also, WNBA will archive the opener once it receives the file from the team, which I was told will be sent. Wednesday's Live Access should work, the backup plan is to take it directly from Universal if the in-arena connection coding still has glitches.

Funny how a storm seems to roll in right when Seattle starts to take the court for its games this week. On Wednesday, it was a summery 70-degrees after shootaround and, just as meteorologists projected, the clouds covered the city with pouring rain right around 4 p.m..

Symbolic of the home team on the court? We'll see.

The matchup with Minnesota (1-1) is an interesting one. On paper, you'd think Seattle (1-0) would have an easier night because of the Lynx's youth. The Storm's starters are entering their second full season together as a unit.

It took three quarters to find the groove, again, but by the fourth of Sunday's debut win against Los Angeles, stars Sue Bird and Tanisha Wright were playing off of Lauren Jackson and Swin Cash's defense to create a 22-5 run to end the game. The only player limited was post Camille Little due to foul trouble.

The Storm is 20-14 all-time against the Lynx, losing once last season to Minnesota when Jackson and Bird were out of the lineup due to injury. Minnesota was aggressive, but inexperienced.

The visiting team is completely changed this season, gathering a collection of All-Stars via trade (Lindsay Whalen) and the Sacramento dispersal draft (Rebekkah Brunson). That could make things exciting. But leaders Candice Wiggins (knee) and Seimone Augustus (fibroids) are out, keeping the roster at nine active players.

"This team has played well at times and not so well at times," said first-year Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve. "I expect a team that's going to come out and show some personality tonight. That's physically and mentally tough-minded with an attention to detail on the defensive end."

The attention to defense has Storm coach Brian Agler looking to lure the Lynx into foul trouble to get to the FT line. He also wants to win the rebounding battle.

Then maybe the Storm on the court will be as strong as the one outside. Let's get you covered with the starting lineup:

LYNX
F Hamchetou Maiga-Ba
F Charde Houston
C Nicky Anosike
G Lindsay Whalen
G Monica Wright

STORM
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright

Tonight's officials are Michael Price, Camaron Inouye, and Maj Forsberg.

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