Insider Preview - Storm at Tulsa
Friday, Sept. 2, 5:00 p.m.
Radio: 1090 AM
LiveAccess: Live Video
Kevin Pelton, StormBasketball.com
It did not take long for Seattle Storm Head Coach Brian Agler to be proven prophetic. Before and after last Thursday's visit to KeyArena by the Tulsa Shock, Agler reiterated that the Shock could be a factor in the playoff race in the Western Conference because of strong play of late.
24 hours later, Tulsa ended its league-record 20-game losing streak in impressive fashion, knocking off the Los Angeles Sparks at the Staples Center on the strength of Sheryl Swoopes' buzzer-beater. Two days after that, the Shock earned an even more impressive win at home, beating the East's second-best team, the Connecticut Sun, 83-72.
"I could just sort of tell the way they were starting to play they were going to wreak some havoc the rest of the way," Agler said after Tulsa put together a winning streak. "I can't tell you this is it for them. They're playing much better. They're playing with a purpose. They're going to be competitive."
The consecutive wins were a sweet reward for a Shock team that continued to play hard for Interim Head Coach Teresa Edwards long after the season had gotten away. Tulsa had a pair of close calls at home the previous week, challenging the Sparks and the Minnesota Lynx, that were typical of the team's performance this season. Many times, the Shock has been competitive or even led into the second half before suffering an untimely dry spell.
"I think it's experience, just experience being in that position," explained Edwards. "We don't have enough players that have played that many games like that to handle momentum changes and shifts. When that happens, you've got to have that mentality to bear down and meet that same intensity. I just think we're not experienced enough to do that at times when that happens.
"I'm always looking at the clock, thinking, 'It's just too soon.'"
While much of the roster is young, including key rookies Liz Cambage and Kayla Pedersen, Tulsa does have a few players who have been there before - none more so than Swoopes, who has seen it all. Swoopes remains an effective player for the Shock and was key to the back-to-back wins, putting up a combined 39 points and 16 rebounds. The performances capped a stretch where Swoopes scored double-figures in five consecutive games. Not bad for a player who turned 40 before the season.
Besides Swoopes, Tulsa is relying heavily on power forward Tiffany Jackson. Jackson had 36 points and 23 rebounds in the two games, coming up with her third and fourth double-doubles of August. Jackson averaged 13.5 points and 8.2 boards in the month. Point guard Ivory Latta also stepped up in the two wins, combining for 37 points on 16-of-22 shooting.
Phoenix was able to stop the Shock's streak by containing both Swoopes and Jackson Tuesday in Tulsa. The two players combined for 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting. For the Storm last Tuesday, Jackson presented major problems in the first half, when she scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds, making five of her six shots. The Storm was much more focused on Jackson defensively after halftime and she had just two points and missed all six shot attempts.
"I think we did a good job of congesting her and making her play against more than just one player," said Storm guard Tanisha Wright. "It helped."
The Storm also managed to get going on offense in the second half, piling up as many points in the third quarter (28) as in the entire first half. The key was something readers are probably getting sick of hearing about: holding on to the basketball. The Storm had just one turnover in the period, getting up 16 shot attempts and going to the free throw line eight times. In three games against the Shock since Edwards replaced Nolan Richardson, the Storm has averaged 10.3 turnovers per game - more than a third lower than the team's overall season average.
|No. 2 overall pick Cambage torched the Storm for 24 points and 10 rebounds on Aug. 11 in Seattle, but failed to score double-digits again until she had 16 points in 20 minutes against the Mercury. Cambage's production has been inconsistent, as has her time on the court. She played just 13 minutes against the Storm. While Lauren Jackson's return means Cambage no longer enjoys the immense size advantage over the Storm's post defenders she previously had, she is still a tough matchup in the best of circumstances because of her size and skill. Cambage has been dealing with a shoulder injury recently, but played effectively through it on Tuesday.|
The Shock never lost contact, but the Storm was able to maintain a double-digit margin nearly throughout the fourth quarter of a 74-57 victory last Thursday at KeyArena. The play of the Storm's reserves and other starters allowed Sue Bird and Jackson to sit out the entire period. Bird played just 25 minutes and Jackson was held to 15.
Jackson made the most of the minutes she did play, scoring a team-high 14 points. Jackson knocked down a pair of three-pointers and had two three-point plays to help propel the Storm forward after halftime. Wright was also effective, scoring 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting and handing out three assists. 10 of the Storm's 11 players scored in the game as Coach Agler opened up his bench.
Storm - Center Lauren Jackson (recovery from hip surgery) is probable.
Tulsa - Guard Betty Lennox (concussion) is doubtful.Comments blog comments powered by Disqus