Chicago 70 at Seattle 81

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Smith, Little lift Storm over Sky 81-70
Monday, Sep 12, 2011

SEATTLE (AP)—Katie Smith found her shooting touch for the second straight game and helped the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm head into the playoffs on quite a surge.

Smith and Camille Little had 17 points apiece to lead the Storm to an 81-70 win over the Chicago Sky on Sunday night. Smith scored 10 more than her average and hit five 3-pointers.

“It’s just a mindset and going out and playing,” said Smith, who had a season-high 26 in an 85-70 win over Phoenix on Friday. “I might not hit every shot but I’m going to take shots like I’m going to make them and just have an attack mentality.”

Swin Cash added 15, and Sue Bird had 10 for Seattle (21-13), which had already secured the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The Storm have won eight of nine.

Sylvia Fowles scored 19 of her 30 points in the fourth quarter to lead Chicago (14-20), which finished fifth in the Eastern Conference and failed to make the playoffs.

Fowles made all 12 of her free throw attempts and tied a league record with 11 in the fourth quarter. She also had 13 rebounds.

“She plays hard consistently,” Smith said of Fowles. “She gets you deep and pinned. She is strong and can jump. She is just relentless. She is a handful.”

Fowles averaged 20 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. She joins Chamique Holdsclaw (2003) as the only WNBA players to average 20 and 10.

Cathrine Kraayeveld added 12 points for Chicago, which lost its fifth straight game.

Seattle’s Lauren Jackson sat out to rest for the playoff opener Thursday at home against Phoenix. Jackson had played in eight straight games, including seven Storm wins, since returning from a hip injury that sidelined her for 20 games.

Kraayeveld made a 3-pointer to help Chicago cut a 12-point deficit to five before Little, Smith and Le’coe Willingham responded with baskets to put the Storm up 57-47 after three quarters.

“Seattle is getting ready for their postseason play so they went hard and were trying to fine tune some things,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. “We battled. We didn’t shoot the ball very well but I thought we stayed aggressive and attacked. The bottom line is it’s a loss. We’re done and we have a lot of work to do in the offseason.”

Little and Bird scored 10 each, and Cash added nine to help give Seattle a 41-33 halftime lead.

Bird scored seven, and Smith added five to send the Storm to a 26-17 first-quarter lead. Fowles scored eight in the half.

Smith sank a 3-pointer in the first quarter to go over 6,000 career points. Smith, in her first year with the Storm, ranks third on the career list behind Tina Thompson and Lisa Leslie.

The Storm improved to 15-2 at home and they hold home-court advantage in the best-of-three series against Phoenix. Seattle won the season series 3-1.

But none of those stats are making the Storm overconfident as they head into the playoffs.

“It’s a great feeling but we have to worry about these games coming up with Phoenix,” Little said. “They’re a great team and they don’t care about the eight of nine we just won.”

Seattle has advanced to the playoffs eight straight years, and won the championship in 2004 and 2010. Phoenix won the 2009 title.

Chicago rookie Courtney Vandersloot scored five in her hometown return. She received a loud ovation when she entered the game and relished the chance to play against Bird in Seattle.

“You can tell she kind of runs this place and she does it well,” Vandersloot said. “She’s a great player. It’s just fun to be out there with her.”

The win moved Seattle coach Brian Agler into a tie with Van Chancellor for most wins in women’s professional basketball with 211, including 139 in the WNBA. Agler won 72 games in the old American Basketball League.

Updated Monday, Sep 12, 2011

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Sunday, Sep 11