Series Preview With

By Ben York,
Posted: September 15, 2011

Kevin Pelton is one of the best basketball writers on the planet.

Fortunately for the Seattle Storm (and all WNBA fans), he is also the beat writer for the teamís website and has been for nearly a decade now. To preview the epic matchup in the Western Conference Semifinals between the Phoenix Mercury and Seattle Storm, Kevin and I asked each other a few questions about what we can expect from each team. The Q&A session will run on both and

Below, youíll find his answers to my questions about the keys to the series for the Storm. Be sure to check back to to see my responses regarding the Mercury. To win this series, Seattle needs to...

Kevin Pelton, Keep playing the kind of basketball seen in the regular season against the Mercury. I know that sounds simplistic, but the Storm has already set the template. Holding Phoenix to 74.8 points per game is nothing short of remarkable, while the Storm has gotten terrific offensive balance against the Mercury this season - six players averaged at least 9.5 points in the head-to-head meetings. As far as a specific key to consider, it's almost certainly taking care of the basketball. The Storm this season went 13-1 when turning the ball over 15 times or fewer.

Phoenix Diana Taurasi is averaging 33.5 ppg against Seattle this season, but the Storm has won three of four. What has the Storm done to secure wins in spite of Taurasi having big games?

Kevin Pelton, I think there's some connection between the two factors. As compared to many teams, the Storm doesn't do much to adjust its defense for Taurasi. The system is the system. The Storm's defense is good enough by itself to shut down virtually every high scorer in the league. Taurasi is the exception. Even with three of the league's better individual defenders on the wing, the Storm simply can't control Taurasi, but that's worked out because the rest of Phoenix's go-to scorers haven't feasted on the open shots Taurasi usually creates for them.

Phoenix What can we expect from Lauren Jackson in this series? Is she back to full health?

Kevin Pelton, As Jackson told reporters after practice Tuesday, she's not 100 percent. Brian Agler guesses she won't get to that point until the winter. Playing every other day in this series will be a major challenge for Jackson, who has struggled at times to bounce back after games. Offensively, Jackson has looked like her MVP self at times and struggled a bit at others, which is to be expected. Even when she's not scoring, Jackson helps the Storm with her mere presence at the offensive end and her size on defense. So she may well make a difference in this series even without a huge stat line.

Phoenix Other than Taurasi, what player will receive the most attention from the Storm's defense? Penny Taylor? Candice Dupree?

Kevin Pelton, Again, I don't know that the Storm will change a lot to deal with any Phoenix player - not out of disrespect but simply because that's Coach Agler's philosophy. If anyone besides Taurasi merits that kind of extra attention, I think it's Taylor. She can put up points so efficiently in addition to creating for teammates that keeping her quiet is key to the series for the Storm defense.

Phoenix These two teams are obviously very familiar with each other. What makes this matchup so compelling?

Kevin Pelton, The contrasting styles make for some of the best basketball the WNBA has to offer. The Mercury's offense is too good to ever be shut down completely by the Storm's defense, while Phoenix's free-flowing style creates room for the Storm to operate at the other end. The result is a high caliber of play that is also aesthetically pleasing. And, since the teams are so evenly matched, that means close finishes and historic comebacks. I'm almost giddy thinking about how good this series should be.