Monarchs reign over Storm, 81-72
Seattle Times staff reporter
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — It appeared over in the third quarter.
Like a pendulum, Sacramento dropped three-pointers from opposite sides of the arc — seemingly putting a win for the Storm embarrassingly out of reach.
Not to forward Wendy Palmer, however.
The 11-year Storm veteran cleaned the glass better than Windex, grabbing five defensive rebounds in a three-minute span in the waning minutes of the final quarter. Sue Bird turned one of those rebounds into a three-pointer at the 2:01 mark, making it a one-possession game, 71-69.
But while Bird was able to find her offense — she finished with a game-high 21 points — teammate Iziane Castro Marques was not. The Storm was outscored 10-3 to close out the game, losing 81-72 before 6,600 at Arco Arena on Thursday night.
The Storm lost its third straight and also dropped to 2-11 all time in Sacramento, which has former Storm assistant coach Jenny Boucek at the helm.
And it's not like Arco Arena is an easy place to play, even with a sparse crowd. The Western Conference-leading Monarchs (5-2) have won a franchise-record 12 consecutive home games dating to last season.
"One of the positives is we didn't quit, we continued to fight," Palmer said. "But we've got to stop the bleeding. Stop losing, and that's always frustrating."
The Storm played without All-Star Lauren Jackson, who remained in Seattle with an undisclosed illness. Palmer was an energetic replacement, finishing with a game-high 13 rebounds, but was not an offensive plug for Jackson's team-leading 22.5 scoring average.
Bird, who wore a black sleeve over her left knee because of recent swelling, played better offensively. And rookie Katie Gearlds' game finally clicked, with 10 points coming off the bench. Yet guard Betty Lennox continues to struggle (1 for 7, eight points) and did not play in the final quarter while Castro Marques was 5 for 13 from the field, scoring 10 of her 12 points in the opening half.
Seattle is 4-11 all time without Jackson.
"We did a lot of different things defensively and everybody was on the same page," Bird said. "It gave us an opportunity to be in this game. But we had a bit of a breakdown and let them get easy things on offense and defense. They got some layups that got the crowd into it, but I'm just really glad we responded."
Storm coach Anne Donovan pointed to her team being outrebounded 16-7 on the offensive end, but 11 of Sacramento's boards occurred in the opening half. The Storm also gave up 14 points on 17 turnovers, but gained 16 off 14 Monarchs miscues.
The real difference in the game was the third quarter, which Seattle spent the fourth quarter trying to recover from.
Up 43-38, Sacramento reserve Kara Lawson hit two three-pointers in the midst of a 15-3 run as the Monarchs built the lead. Bird and center Janell Burse each had key buckets to help Seattle challenge, but Sacramento responded with another rush of baskets to keep the deficit at double digits.
The Monarchs led 64-50 going into the final quarter.
"I thought we did a great job of staying focused, not getting frustrated and working hard together," Donovan said. "It's probably the most difficult arena to play in across the league and we showed great composure and connectedness in order to come back. We were a little bit better prepared this year [to play without Lauren] than we have in the past, but that's not something I want to rely on very often. It was a great basketball game without Lauren."
Jackson was listed as NWT-flu, meaning "not with team — flu," but the Storm public-relations staff and Donovan would not give details.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com
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