Storm shows much work still remains
Seattle Times staff reporter
If Detroit was the gauge, Seattle is still a few pieces short of a WNBA championship.
Playing above .500 basketball but without a win against the league's top teams, the Storm wanted to see where it really is by playing the defending-champion Shock at KeyArena on Wednesday.
The answer was clear as Seattle lost 87-71 before an announced crowd of 7,335.
"We're not at their level, that's for sure," said Storm coach Anne Donovan, who retains four players from her 2004 championship team. "Intensity-wise they came out sharp, they came out focused.
"Cheryl Ford on a bad [left knee] came out and just really went to work inside. More than anything, we can't approach games with less than 100 percent intensity and Detroit showed us — hopefully."
The Shock backcourt of Katie Smith and Deanna Nolan were the main culprits, each hitting three-pointers in the momentum-changing third quarter as if they were bunny shots underneath the basket. Nolan, a 34.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc last season, is at 48.1 so far this year.
Smith finished with 23 points, and Nolan 18.
"There were a lot of problems," Storm guard Sue Bird said. "You can't give a team that's that good all the opportunities that we gave them. Call it intensity, call it aggressiveness, call it whatever you want — we just didn't play well.
"It's not one thing you can just pinpoint. It's a lot of areas and it's been areas that we've been suffering with since Day One. If you guys were flies on the wall in this locker room at halftime you would hear the same things over and over. We have to collectively put our foot down and try to fix it."
The Storm (5-5) started slowly, missing nine of its first 10 shot attempts. Meanwhile, Detroit had an easy time against the Storm's porous defense, jumping out to an 8-0 lead. The Shock was shooting 66.7 percent from the field after reserve Plenette Pierson hit a midrange jumper with 3:07 left in the first quarter to make the score 18-6 in favor of Detroit.
Seattle didn't show any life until late in the second quarter, when guard Betty Lennox drove for a layin to make her team's deficit 39-30. Lennox then set up Bird for a three-pointer and made another dazzling drive to cut it to 41-35.
The Storm trailed 44-35 at halftime. But Nolan kicked it up a notch after the break, leading her team on a 22-11 run to open the third quarter to build a 66-46 lead.
"They're two of the best, and Katie Smith is damn near the best of all-time," said Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer of his backcourt. "Nolan might be the best right now. They complement each other very well. And our bench played well. When they come in and help our starters, we're pretty good."
The Storm departs today for a two-game trip against Minnesota and Los Angeles. Both teams lost Wednesday, with the Sparks losing to previously winless Houston, a team Seattle has beaten twice.
Donovan, who played 10 of 11 players by halftime, said the Storm's issues are correctable. Still, the coach said she deserves some responsibility for the team's struggles.
"It reflects on all of us," Donovan said.
All of the Storm's five losses have been blowouts, including a 28-point whopper to Indiana last week.
Foul trouble did play a part for Seattle on Wednesday, as Jackson earned her third technical of the season in the third quarter and had to sit out. She was 5 for 11 from the field for 11 points and seven rebounds.
Center Janell Burse led the team with 21 points.
The Storm was left looking for answers the Shock provided with ease Wednesday.
"They just walk out on the court and everyone goes 'ooh-ahh,' we need to get that," Jackson said. "Honestly, if I could say I wanted this team to be like one team in the league, I would say Detroit."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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