Keys to the Game: Storm, Aug. 23

By Ben York,
Posted: August 22, 2013

On Friday, August 23 the Phoenix Mercury and Seattle Storm meet for the fourth and final meeting in 2013. The Storm won four of five meetings in 2012.

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Seattle has won 15 of the last 17 regular season head-to-head matchups overall.

The Mercury’s Aug. 30 win in Seattle last season was the first regular season road win in the series for Phoenix since Sept. 10, 2009, snapping a six-game road series losing streak.

The Mercury defeated the Storm 2-1 in the 2011 Playoffs, advancing to its third-straight Conference Finals. In fact, the Mercury’s 81-79 win over Seattle Aug. 16, 2011 was its first win in the series since Sept. 10, 2009, snapped a nine-game series losing streak to the Storm, including postseason play.

Here are the keys to the game for the Mercury:

Continuing to Improve Defensively

Under the direction of interim Head Coach Russ Pennell, the team has switched its focus. Pennell has promised to fine-tune the Mercury’s defense to better support its already notorious offensive game plan.

Before Pennell, the Mercury allowed 84.6 points per game. Under Pennell, they are holding opponents to 71.0 points and 39 percent shooting.

The biggest key from a defensive point of view will be to limit Seattle's three-pointers. In their previous three games against the Storm, Seattle has averaged more than six made-threes per game.

Limiting Scoring Runs

In their last meeting, a devastating third quarter left the Mercury struggling to grab its bearings. The score was tied at 38-38 with 7:34 remaining in the third quarter before forward DeWanna Bonner went down with a right knee injury at 4:44 and All-Star center Brittney Griner left game due to a left ankle sprain with 1:47 remaining.

Seattle went on a 23-9 run to end the quarter. The Storm outscored the Mercury 30-17 in the third and maintained its distance through the fourth quarter to win three straight against Phoenix.

For the Mercury to win, they cannot allow the Storm to get into a continual rhythm offensively.

Making a Statement

A win would put the Mercury that much closer to securing a playoff spot.

But more importantly, it's important that they gain some confidence against a Seattle team that has had the Mercury's number of late.

In two of those games, Seattle made huge runs in the third quarter. Conversely, in the team's 14 wins their scoring margin has been +5.1. In their losses, it has been -6.8.