Back at full strength, Storm runs over New York
Coach now has tall front line to work with
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle was finally locked and loaded for the first time this season.
"They have all their big guns, and we get to get here to break them in," said New York coach John Whisenant after learning Seattle no longer has any injuries to report.
Veteran posts Tina Thompson (knee) and Ann Wauters (Achilles) rejoined the lineup Sunday at KeyArena.
Add 6-foot-6 center Lauren Jackson's return this week from the Olympics, and it was the debut of Seattle's entire frontcourt.
The loaded Storm exposed the Liberty's lack of a strong rebounder and inside presence to run away with a 84-66 victory before 6,459 spectators at KeyArena.
Storm point guard Sue Bird orchestrated it all to finish with 18 points and 10 assists.
"They make me look good," Bird said of her frontcourt, including mainstay forward Camille Little. "They make that assist column look really nice."
The Storm opened with a 12-2 run capped by guard Tanisha Wright's fancy bounce pass on a fast break to rookie Shekinna Stricklen for a layin. The shot ignited the crowd.
The Storm (11-13) avoided its first four-game home losing streak since its inaugural season of 2000.
The victory came against a New York team (9-15) wrapping up a five-game road trip that included a defeat Saturday in Los Angeles.
"For us, a win is a win at this point," Jackson said. "We've got to get out there and execute and be strong inside. Last game (losing 68-66 to Indiana) was a real downer for us. Tonight, we were able to sit back up and play our game, which was awesome. Hopefully we keep improving."
The Storm led 28-9 after the first quarter. Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter was visibly frustrated and screamed at her team during the break after being outscored 50-14 the past two quarters — including 22-5 in the fourth against Los Angeles on Saturday.
"Nobody's fighting," she said. "We've got to fight! We've got to stick together!"
There were stretches when New York did look competitive, but Storm coach Brian Agler fiddled with his newfound depth right into the fourth quarter, playing deep reserve Alysha Clark for the final six minutes, to keep the Liberty from finding a groove.
Thompson (11) and Wauters (nine) played scattered minutes.
Wauters, a 6-foot-4 center, has missed nine games due to an injury while Thompson, a 6-2 forward, missed five of the past seven.
"It felt really good," said Wauters, who had nine points. "My Achilles are not bothering me anymore, so that's most important. Now I have to get back into the rhythm of games. Tonight was the first step, and I'm really happy that it went well."
Jackson played 24 minutes, but remains rugged.
Bird even had to remind her to shoot at one point when the center was inside the paint. Jackson was 1 for 7 from three-point range, finishing with 16 points and six boards.
Agler said his team's next step will be finding combinations that work together. Although the posts have all played together on various international teams and in WNBA All-Star Games, it was never within Agler's system.
And sometimes their placement was foreign. Like Agler calling for Wauters and Jackson to play at center and power forward together. They won the EuroLeague championship in April with Jackson playing only on the wing.
Agler liked what he saw Sunday, anyway.
"It's obviously nice to have a lot of size around the rim."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @JaydaEvans
|New York||9||21||16||20 — 66|
|Seattle||28||23||14||19 — 84|