Lauren Jackson scored six points of her 14 points in a decisive 8-0 run and Seattle clinched the top overall seed in the playoffs by rallying for an 80-70 win over the Atlanta Dream on Tuesday night.
ATLANTA — Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors just laughed.
Storm coach Brian Agler rest his starters in the second half?
“I don’t believe what Brian says,” said Meadors before her team played league-leading Seattle on Tuesday. “When it comes down to winning the game, you know he’s gonna want to win the game.”
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So with her Dream leading by two points with 3:11 to play, Meadors wasn’t a bit surprised to see Storm star Lauren Jackson gather a feed from Svetlana Abrosimova and nail a three-pointer. The basket ignited a 13-1 Seattle run that produced an unexpected 80-70 Storm win that clinched homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs for Seattle (25-4).
Unexpected because Agler had said his starters wouldn’t be in the game at that juncture, wanting to give them some rest and possibly avoid the injuries that have derailed the Storm’s recent playoff appearances.
“That wasn’t the plan,” said Agler of playing his starters in the second half.
Instead, he benched them for most of the first half — after Atlanta bolted to a 12-4 lead. The Storm starters, aside from Camille Little, had gone scoreless from the field and slept on rebounding opportunities. Agler benched his players one other time this season, in the second half of a loss to Chicago in May.
“It felt like a Twilight Zone out there, a weird game of basketball,” said Jackson, who scored eight of her 14 points in the fourth quarter. “He got us rest; he just faked the other team out. Faked us out!
“Initially, I was like, ‘What is he doing?’ How many times have we been down in the first five minutes of the game? Probably 90 percent of the time. So it was weird and I didn’t think we were going to go back in.”
Seattle reserves Abrosimova, Abby Bishop, Le’coe Willingham, Ashley Robinson and Alison Lacey shared minutes with starter Tanisha Wright to help pull the Storm ahead 32-31 at halftime. Bishop scored all seven of her points during a 10-3 run headed into the break.
“We knew we had to make something happen,” Bishop said. “They (Atlanta) didn’t know what to do with all of us. They probably didn’t know the scout and didn’t expect us to be subbing five on and five off in the first quarter. It made them out of sync.”
The Dream’s poor shooting also didn’t help. Atlanta, which lost its third consecutive game, was 5 of 20 from the field in the second quarter against the bench’s aggressive defense and shot 29.5 percent from the field overall. Angel McCoughtry was 3 of 19 from the field for 16 points while forward Sancho Lyttle had 12 points and 17 rebounds for the Dream (18-12).
“We fought our way back, but at the last minute, they hit two three-pointers and that was the end of the game,” said Lyttle of the shots by Jackson and Little, which broke the fifth tie of the matchup.
And as long as the starters show hustle, Agler will keep his plan to rest players in the second half of games on this trip.
“Brian made a great move,” said Wright, who finished with 14 points and seven rebounds. “The reserves didn’t back down and kept us in the game.”
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Percentages: FG .412, FT .739. Three-point goals: 7-23, .304 (Willingham 1-1, Wright 1-2, Bishop 1-3, Jackson 1-3, Lacey 1-3, Abrosimova 1-4, Bird 1-6, Cash 0-1). Team rebounds: 9. Team turnovers: 15 (9 PTS). Blocked shots: 8 (Robinson 3, Jackson 2, Bishop, Cash, Little). Turnovers: 15 (Abrosimova 5, Jackson 3, Little 3, Willingham 2, Bird, Wright). Steals: 6 (Abrosimova 2, Willingham 2, Bird, Jackson). Technical fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .295, FT .667. Three-point goals: 2-12, .167 (K.Miller 1-2, Castro Marques 1-5, Lehning 0-1, Leuchanka 0-1, McCoughtry 0-3). Team rebounds: 17. Team turnovers: 13 (16 PTS). Blocked shots: 2 (Bales, Desouza). Turnovers: 13 (Lyttle 3, McCoughtry 3, Leuchanka 2, Bales, Desouza, Lehning, C.Miller, K.Miller). Steals: 6 (McCoughtry 4, Bales, Desouza). Technical fouls: Coach Meadors, 2:48 second; Desouza, 2:02 fourth.
|Seattle||11||21||20||28 — 80|
|Atlanta||16||15||24||15 — 70|
Attendance: 6,042 (10,160). Time: 2:18. Officials: Sue Blauch, Clarke Stevens, Brenda Pantoja.