Storm Tracker (Jun. 28-Jul. 4)

Jackson - 26.0
Bird - 18.0
Sam - 11.0
Vodichkova - 6.5
Greco - 6.0
Jackson - 8.0
Sam - 7.0
Vodichkova - 3.5
Barnes - 4.0
Edwards - 3.0
Bird - 6.5
Sam - 2.5
Jackson/Vodichkova - 1.0 PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Jeff Reinking/NBAE/Getty
Sue Bird
18.0 ppg, 6.5 apg, 1.5 spg, 66.7% fg, 5-9 threes
Prior to this week, Bird was in something of a scoring slump, totaling just 26 points on 11-for-35 shooting in her last four games. In the absence of injured guard Betty Lennox, the Storm needed Bird to score more, and she did just that, hitting 20 points for the second time this season against San Antonio and following it up with another 16 points in the win over Sacramento. Bird did not neglect her distribution duties, handing out 13 assists to push her season average to 5.4. While Bird was more aggressive looking for her shot, particularly off of ball screens, she was still extremely efficient, hitting two-thirds of her shots overall and better than 50% from downtown.

Jun. 28-Jul. 4
Record for the week: 2-0
Overall Record: 10-4
Standing: 1st, Western Conference

Thursday, Jul. 1, 2004

San Antonio 20 32 52
at Storm 43 33 76
In a matchup of the best and worst teams in the WNBA, the cellar-dwelling San Antonio Silver Stars scored the first two points of Thursday's game at KeyArena. It was all downhill from there. The Storm clamped down on defense to put together a 14-0 run and hold the Silver Stars to just 20 points in the first half, taking a 20-point lead to halftime. Things got so bad that San Antonio Coach Dee Brown used only one of his starters during the last seven and a half minutes of the half. The Storm cruised to its fourth win of the season by 20 points or more, 76-52, with the bench seeing heavy action. That came on the same night the Storm made its first lineup change of the season, with Adia Barnes replacing Betty Lennox (out after her fractured nose was repositioned Wednesday) in the starting five. Barnes scored just four points, but had six rebounds and three steals and sparked the Storm defensively. Sheri Sam also helped out on the glass, recording the third double-double of her career with 11 points and 10 rebounds. The scoring load was taken up by Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, who scored 20 points apiece. Adrienne Goodson (10) was the only Silver Stars player to score double-figures.

Saturday, Jul. 3, 2004

Sacramento 32 29 61
at Storm 49 26 75
On Saturday, the Storm again got off to a quick start at KeyArena. MVP Lauren Jackson started the game by hitting three straight three-pointers and scoring the first 11 points put up by either side. The Monarchs weren't done yet, cutting the lead to 26-22 with 7:48 left in the half. Jackson, however, wasn't done either. She scored two straight baskets to start a 9-0 run. The Storm would never lead by less than 10 points the rest of the game. Jackson finished the first half with 23 points, breaking her own franchise record. The Storm took a 17-point lead to halftime and was again able to build it as high as 30 points in the second half. Sacramento kept at it down the stretch, forcing Storm Coach Anne Donovan to return her starting lineup to the game to finish off a 75-61 win. Jackson ended the game with 32 points, falling short of her career high when she missed her last three shots, having run out of gas. She added 12 rebounds, tying her season high. Bird added 16 points for the Storm. None of the Monarchs starters scored double-figures, with Hamchetou Maiga leading the way with a career-high 17 points off the bench.

Weekly Happenings

Adia Barnes made her first two starts of the season in place of an injured Betty Lennox.
Jeff Reinking/NBAE/Getty
Best at Both Ends
For Donovan, it is a somewhat dubious accomplishment that her recent Charlotte and Seattle teams have been stellar on offense. In 2002 and 2003, Donovan's teams led the league in Offensive Efficiency, and this year's Storm easily tops the league as well at 103.1 points per 100 possessions (Phoenix is second at 99.5 points per 100 possessions). But now Donovan can point to her team being the best at the defensive end of the court as well, with the Storm passing the Houston Comets on Saturday to move atop the league in Defensive Efficiency as well. The Storm has allowed 90.8 points per 100 possessions, the Comets 91.1. No one else in the WNBA is below a 93 rating.

If the Storm can keep up its first-place rank in both categories, it would be a well-balanced form of domination that hearkens back to the Comets when they were in the midst of their four-year run as WNBA Champions. Houston led the league in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

Defensive Dominance
How has the Storm gone from the middle of the pack in the WNBA defensively to the top of the league? With an incredible defensive streak over the last 10 games that hasn't really gotten the attention it has deserved. As Storm radio color commentator Elise Woodward observed before Saturday's game, the most points the Storm has allowed in a game dating back to Jun. 3's 72-45 victory over Phoenix was 67 to the New York Liberty in Spokane. During the stretch, the Storm has not allowed any opponent to post an Offensive Efficiency of greater than 100; by comparison, three of the Storm's first four opponents were over that mark.

Add it up, and over the last 10 games, the Storm is allowing just 60.0 points per game - better than any WNBA team has allowed over the full course of the season (Charlotte, at 60.8 points allowed, leads the league). That's despite the Storm playing one of the league's fastest paces. If you account for that by looking at Defensive Efficiency, the Storm's 86.6 points allowed per 100 possessions over the last ten games is even more impressive. In fact, over the course of a full season, only the 1997 Phoenix Mercury (85.5) has posted a better Defensive Efficiency rating.

Force in the Middle
An underrated factor in the Storm's defensive prowess has been backup center Janell Burse. Burse has struggled at times on offense this season, but she's been a consistent defensive presence in the paint. As Woodward's colleague, David Locke, mentioned during Saturday's broadcast, Burse has been the league's best shot-blocker on a per-minute basis this season. The only player blocking more shots per 40 minutes than Burse (3.5) is Minnesota rookie Vanessa Hayden, who has only played 72 minutes this season.

In terms of blocks per foul, another good measure of shot-blocking efficiency, Burse ranks eighth amongst players who have played at least 100 minutes, with a block for every two fouls. Using that metric, Jackson shines. The league's second-best shot-blocker in terms of blocks per game, Jackson is also second to only New York's Elena Baranova with 0.75 blocks per foul. Thanks to Burse's and Jackson's efforts, the Storm tops the WNBA with 4.43 blocked shots per game.

Injury Woes
The Storm was able to put together a 2-0 week despite dealing with its worst injury problems this season. The cast Lennox wore after having her nose repositioned forced her to miss both of the Storm's games, while rookie Michelle Greco missed Saturday night with a sprained ankle. Kamila Vodichkova sprained her right foot Thursday and was questionable for Saturday's game, but was able to start and play 19 minutes. Only Greco should miss any playing time on the Storm's upcoming three-game East Coast swing.

Injury Report

  • Forward Trina Frierson continues to rehabilitate her left knee after undergoing surgery during training camp. She is on the injured list, but has been participating in many drills during recent practices.
  • Guard Michelle Greco sprained her right ankle in Thursday's game and did not dress on Saturday. She should return at some point on the Storm's road trip.
  • Guard Betty Lennox had her fractured nose reset last week, forcing her to miss both Storm wins. She is expected to return to the starting lineup Wednesday at Washington.
  • Center Kamila Vodichkova sprained her right foot in Thursday's game, but was able to start Saturday nonetheless.

    Around the Web

  • Jayda Evans of the Seattle Times discusses how the Storm replaced Lennox in the lineup.
  • Is it too early to call Jackson one of the best players in women's basketball history? Maybe not, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Mark Bergin.
  • The Storm is just one of many WNBA surprises this season, writes Wendy Carpenter of The News Tribune.

    Fantasy League Update
    The excitement continued last week in the Fantasy League, with Mark Bergin, Karen Bryant and Kevin Pelton trading the lead, though Pelton again came out on top at week's end thanks to Jackson's big Saturday night. This week's transactions could make the difference in tight races for first and fourth place. Check out the Fantasy League homepage daily for complete updated standings.

    The Week Ahead

    Wed, Jul 7 Washington Mystics 4:00 p.m. MCI Center 950 KJR AM
    Thu, Jul 8 Charlotte Sting 4:00 p.m. Charlotte Coliseum 950 KJR AM
    Sat, Jul 10 Detroit Shock 1:00 p.m. The Palace of Auburn Hills 950 KJR AM and ABC

    Storm Tracker Archive