Despite missing star Lauren Jackson, the Storm hammered out a 78-70 victory over the New York Liberty that gives Seattle the WNBA's best record heading into the All-Star break.
Glance at the Storm’s record and look at Tuesday’s win against New York and it’s easy to believe it was easy.
A shot here. A rebound there. A seventh consecutive victory to remain the WNBA’s top team headed into the All-Star break.
Well, it wasn’t easy.
“Grind” was the word most often used after the Storm defeated the Liberty 78-70 at a KeyArena matinee Tuesday. It refers to both the game and the opening half of the season.
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“From the outside looking in, it looks like things are absolutely perfect,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “But on the inside, it’s a grind where you just try to keep getting better and keep focused. It’s probably a good time for us to get a little vacation from each other just from the standpoint that they’re probably getting tired of hearing my voice a little bit.”
Agler harped on a familiar theme Tuesday — rebounding.
The Storm (16-2) played without two-time MVP Lauren Jackson, who was out because of a concussion, using a smaller lineup. Le’Coe Willingham, who is 6 feet, replaced the 6-foot-5 Jackson. The drop in size and early lack of defensive tenacity resulted in Seattle trailing by 11 early, getting outscored 13-6 on second-chance shots in the opening half.
Seattle’s defense began to click with two minutes remaining in the first half, holding New York without a field goal. The effort extended to the third quarter, when the Storm started strong and took the lead for the first time, 43-42, on a basket by Swin Cash with 8:26 to play in the third.
The Liberty hung in and took a 63-62 lead on a three-pointer by guard Leilani Mitchell with 6:18 left in the game. A 14-3 Storm run — during which it held New York without a field goal for 5:23 — gave Seattle a 76-66 lead after two free throws by Sue Bird. Bird also had a nice pass to Camille Little, who darted across the baseline for a layin.
Cash was a rebounding machine defensively, as she helped hold All-Star Cappie Pondexter to 1-of-10 shooting in the second half. Cash had seven of her season-high 11 rebounds in the final quarter, and Bird scored 11 of her final 16 points in the fourth.
“I felt like I had to be aggressive (getting) to the backboard to help out our bigs down low,” said Cash, who led the Storm with 20 points. “Early on, they tried to exploit our size inside and really try to go to Taj (McWilliams-Franklin) and Janell (McCarville). But we feel like our strength is our quickness.”
Jackson is doubtful to play in the WNBA vs. USA Basketball game Saturday, too. She has been evaluated three times since suffering a concussion after a hit from Los Angeles forward DeLisha Milton-Jones on Saturday and will continue to be monitored.
Jackson, whose team is 18-22 all-time without her during the regular season, still expects to travel to Connecticut for the All-Star festivities, along with Storm reserve Abby Bishop, Cash, Bird and Agler. Bishop will participate in the Australia national team’s training while Cash and Bird are representing USA Basketball in the midseason event.
Agler is coaching the WNBA stars, whose full roster was announced Tuesday.
“We all decided this is the right time to get away from each other,” Cash said. “Take a deep breath, regroup and come back.”
Bird agreed. “We’ve got concussions, we’ve got back aches, and we’ve got people who need to get a break from each other,” she said. “It’s definitely a good time — mentally and physically.”
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Percentages: FG .375, FT .714. Three-point goals: 6-18, .333 (Powell 3-4, Spencer 1-1, Mitchell 1-3, Pondexter 1-7, Carson 0-1, Greene 0-1, McWilliams-Franklin 0-1). Team rebounds: 7. Team turnovers: 9 (15 PTS). Blocked shots: 1 (Powell). Turnovers: 8 (McWilliams-Franklin 3, Pierson 2, McCarville, Pondexter, Powell). Steals: 11 (McCarville 3, Greene 2, Spencer 2, Carson, McWilliams-Franklin, Mitchell, Pondexter). Technical fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .556, FT .625. Three-point goals: 8-12, .667 (Bird 3-3, Vesela 2-2, Cash 2-4, Willingham 1-1, Abrosimova 0-1, Little 0-1). Team rebounds: 8. Team turnovers: 18 (22 PTS). Blocked shots: 6 (Cash 2, Little 2, Willingham, Wright). Turnovers: 16 (Bird 3, Cash 3, Little 3, Wright 3, Abrosimova 2, Robinson, Vesela). Steals: 2 (Bird, Little). Technical fouls: Coach Agler, 8:47 second.
|New York||24||17||17||12 — 70|
|Seattle||15||22||17||24 — 78|
Attendance: 11,012 (9,686). Time: 1:55. Officials: Michael Price, Maj Forsberg, Marcus Clayton.