On the off-day between Games 2 and 3 in Seattle, players and coaches practiced
at KeyArena and spoke with the media:
Mike Thibault, Connecticut Sun
Q: Who do you see as a key for you tomorrow?
Thibault: Somebody on one of the teams is going to step up and make some shots.
Our front court didn't make any shots yesterday. Hopefully we'll be better in
that area and I'm sure they're saying that to themselves too. It's a one game
season. I told my team, 'If I had told you last May 22 that you'd be playing
on October 12 and you have one game to win a championship would you take it?'
Well, yeah. They'd all take it. Here we are doing it.
One thing that surprises me about all this, because I listen to all the rhetoric,
is that I hear about how physical this series is. I watched LA and Detroit last
year. That was like WWF. So we're probably just in the middle of the pack in
being physical in this league. They just got finished playing Sacramento and
I think that's about as physical as you can get. If they had played LA it would
have been the same way. Writers in the East will tell you what it's like to
play Detroit and Washington. So I think the physical nature of this series has
been highly overrated.
Q: Has the defense been what you hoped for this series?
Thibault: Yeah. I think, I'll have to look at the stat sheet, but I think that
every Playoff game we've played, we've held every team we've played under 40
percent from the floor. If you had told me yesterday that we would hold them
to 37 percent and the boards and turnovers were equal, I would have said we
won. We missed some easy shots. Basically it was a nine free throw difference
in the game. They beat us because of that.
Q: You talk about how well-rounded your team is, but because of her Game
2 scoring do you think that with the shot clock winding down tomorrow the tendency
will be to go to Nykesha Sales?
Thibault: I don't think so. That's not the nature of our team. Our team tends
to go to who's got it going that night. Last night they recognized that Nykesha
had it and she felt it. That's what great players do. They know when their time
comes to try take over a game. She did that last night. I think Betty (Lennox)
felt it for her team too.
Q: How is Wendy Palmer?
Thibault: I think she'll be fine. We're going to take it easy on her today because
she's sore. But I think she'll be fine to play.
Q: What's the difference in Game 3?
Thibault: Emotional swings probably can get a little higher because every possession
gets magnified a little bit. Personally I think the pressure is a little bit
more on the home team because they're the favorite. They're home in the final
game because they had the better record. Our team wasn't supposed to be here.
I don't think they feel as much pressure. I don't sense it anyway. Being around
them, they're pretty loose.
Lindsay Whalen, Connecticut Sun
Q: Talk about tomorrow's game.
Whalen: It's going to be a game of runs and it's going to be fun; another great
atmosphere in here.
Q: Talk about how the fans in Connecticut have embraced you?
Whalen: The fans are great. There are great fans all over the league. It's been
a lot of fun.
Q: Do you try to energize yourself off a crowd like to tomorrow's that will
be rooting against you?
Whalen: I think it's great. I think it's great to see 17,000 people in here.
I think it's great for women's basketball. They aren't just here. They know
what a good play is; they are smart fans. They cheer for their team. They are
rowdy and they are intense. That's what you want to play in front of.
Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Connecticut Sun
Q: Talk any adjustments you are going to make as far as post play is concerned.
McWilliams-Franklin: It's all about hitting shots. [In Game 2] we had the same
shots we always have. I think maybe four of our post shots we had to shoot as
the clock was winding down. But for the most part, all of other shots were doable,
Q: How do you feel about last night's loss?
McWilliams-Franklin: We lost a game that we had a chance to win at the end.
Now it's new game, a new series. It's a one-game series.
Q: Talk about limiting Seattle's hot starts, which they also had against
McWilliams-Franklin: I think we have the three-pointers under control. I think
that in their last game against Sac they were a ridiculous percentage from the
three-point line. If we contain that like we have been doing this series, we'll
be in good shape.
Nykesha Sales, Connecticut Sun
Q: It's down to one game and basically time to just let it all go, right?
Sales: We've been letting it go thus far, anyway. We sort of want to get it
over with, but now we can just get it over with. This is it for another six
or seven months until we start again. You have no choice but to put it all out
there. There's no holds barred. There's no other reason to go out and play but
for this championship.
Q: You've played at this high level before at UConn. How does this compare?
Sales: It's hard to describe. It's a lot harder in the pro ranks, because at
Connecticut, we definitely were better than most teams by a pretty wide margin.
Now, there are some really good teams in the league. Both these teams are here
for a reason. The intensity level is a lot higher in the pros. It's a lot more
physical and everyone is good for what they do. It really is great competition
Q: How do you feel about the way the women's game has progressed?
Sales: I feel really good about it. With fewer teams in the WNBA, the talent
is not as diluted. Before, it was maybe one franchise player on each team. Now,
there's a couple on each team, which makes the competition a lot better. Now,
you're seeing new teams win championships, new teams getting attention, because
there's more talent on each team, and I really like that about the league right
now. That's the major difference.
Q: Can you describe what it felt like to get on such a roll last night?
Sales: It was a situation where I felt everything was going in. The balance
is great, the depth perception is great, the aggressiveness, you just feel that
you're totally under control. I got a lot of open looks. The game opened up
for me. My shot selection was at the right time. When you're a player known
for driving and shooting, a lot can open up for you.
Q: Were you surprised at how open you were on that last shot?
Sales: Yes, I was a little surprised. Unfortunately, I was too far in the corner
and just didn't have a great angle on it.
Anne Donovan, Seattle Storm
Q: Did you ever think you'd ever see a crowd like the one last night?
Donovan: You always dream about it. Always. At one point before the game I had
to take a look. I was looking all the way up to the top row, all the way around
the arena to see if there were any empty seats and there weren't any.
We have such a unique product, plus everybody in the lower bowl knows our players.
Some of it comes from the work we do in the community, there's a connection
there. And the people in the upper bowl were wondering, 'what's so special about
this? What's going on down there?' Because it wasn't just your average crowd
into a game. There was a personalized energy coming from the crowd. The hope
is that all those 7,000 or 8,000 new fans will like what they saw and come back.
Q: What does Lauren Jackson have to do offensively?
Donovan: She's got to mentally be in a place where she's going to have to finish
no matter what at all costs. She knows how they're going to bump her, she knows
where the double teams are coming from, she has to get past all that and finish
plays. Get to the free throw line more than four times.
Q: What was it specifically about the post defense?
Donovan: I thought in Game 1 Lauren did a great job. Once we put her on Taj
(McWilliams-Franklin), she did a great job defending Taj. It was more of the
same last night. We wanted Taj to take more contested shots, which she did.
To be honest, (Asjha) Jones is tougher and more physical on Lauren than anybody
else is. They give up a little bit with (Wendy) Palmer, but they gain a little
bit when Jones comes in.
Q: Who do you see rising to the occasion who we wouldn't expect?
Donovan: I think Betty Lennox in Game 2, I don't know how many people had that
many points lined up for Betty. She had some spectacular plays and I'd say the
same about Nykesha Sales from Connecticut. I think any one of our players is
capable. Kamila Vodichkova is capable of knocking down her jump shots from the
free throw line that Connecticut keeps giving her. That will change the dynamics
of the game. She hit a big one late. But I think you'll see Sue (Bird) and Lauren
(Jackson) step up in Game 3, two of our biggest players, and lead the way.
Q: What happened with your defense against Nykesha Sales?
Donovan: We lost our focus on Sales. We gave her threes where we were three
feet off of her. We were expecting her to drive on every possession, but Nykesha
is the kind of player who can do both. When she gets hot, you'd better be up
on her and we really didn't do that. She scored on everyone.
Q: You've put together runs in the Playoffs, but haven't been able to hold
a large lead, which happened last night again. What's going on?
Donovan: I don't think that at this time of year, especially in the WNBA this
year, any team's going to run away from anyone. Our 20-0 run against Sacramento
to close out the Sacramento series was huge. It wasn't something we expected
to do, it's not something that you expect any team to do - to be able to score
like that and win big. I don't that with this much parity and how close as teams
are that you're going to expect to win by 10 points or more. It's just not that
kind of league anymore.
Q: What do Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson have to do tomorrow night?
Donovan: Both of them have been settling back, both of them haven't been playing
as good as they would like or as well as we need them to play. I think that
the more they play Connecticut the more they figure out that there are no surprises
tomorrow when they take the court. Sue knows how Katie Douglas is going to play
her. Lauren knows and expects contact and I think both will be able to deal
Q: How much will their big game experience, both internationally and in
Donovan: They're experienced. They've been here. With 17,000 people here in
Seattle cheering for us certainly helps both of them. They're on their home
court for this big one. They've experienced big pressure situations and now
on their home court, it's the best situation a coach could want.
Sue Bird, Seattle Storm
Q: Do you think this series has been too physical?
Bird: No, that's just how it is. The one thing I'm learning is that you can't
control that. The refs are going to call what they call; the players are going
to play how they play. You just have to play through it. You can't let it frustrate
you. You can't let it get to you. It's easier said than done, but you have to
try not to.
Q: Do you prepare any differently for a game like tomorrow?
Bird: Like I said, this is just a game. We've already done all of our preparation.
We've talked about scouting. We've had our training camp. We had the regular
season. We've been through it all, and now it's about going out there and leaving
it all out on the floor.
Q: What are your thoughts about playing one game for the title?
Bird: In my experience, you can't try to do too much; it's just a game. You're
going to have your game plan. They are going to have their game plan. It's really
about who can execute better. I think in the first couple of minutes, both teams
are going to be very excited, very anxious. I think it's going to be up and
down, very quick. And that's to be expected in a championship game. Everyone
wants to score 20 points really quickly. But it's really about who can try to
withstand that and make their own run.
Lauren Jackson, Seattle Storm
Q: What will it mean to you to win this thing?
Jackson: It will mean a huge amount. It's been a real hard year for me. For
my family, for my friends and my teammates who supported me, I just want to
win it for all of those people. It just makes it all worth it. I never expected
to be here playing for a championship, but I'm here and I just want to make
the most of it.
Q: Will it be the biggest moment of your career?
Jackson: Definitely, without a doubt.
Q: Seeing a full house at the game, do you feel like this team has really
turned the corner as far as fan support?
Jackson: As a female sport, it's difficult to draw people in. But, I think this
town is starting to believe in women's basketball, and winning a championship
would go a long way I think in building even more interested.
Q: Do you feel fatigued?
Jackson: I don't think so. We're used to traveling. We're seasoned travelers.
We do it all year round, so we can't use that as an excuse.
Sheri Sam, Seattle Storm
Q: How exciting is something like this for young girls watching?
Sam: To be able to come watch this is huge for young women. It shows them that
it's okay to play sports and to be passionate about it. It's okay to compete,
but at the same time be a respectable woman.
Q: Does it concern you that you outplayed Connecticut, yet they still had
a shot to win it at the end?
Sam: No, not at all. We didn't play that well. Betty (Lennox) had a great game
offensively. Lauren (Jackson) did a nice job on defense. But I don't think we've
put together a complete game yet. We were in a position to win the first game.
We feel good about ourselves going into Game 3. We know that if we play 40 minutes
of basketball that we're the better team. And we just have to go out there and
do it, and not have the lapses. They're going to come out aggressive. They haven't
backed down. That's the Finals. We don't expect to blow anybody out, but as
long as we do enough to get the win that's all we want.
Q: What does the Storm have to do to win tomorrow night?
Sam: Control the tempo, take care of the basketball and at the same time rebound
and get defensive stops. I really feel that this game is going to be won at
the defensive end of the court, because both teams have scorers and the team
that's going to be able to stop the other team's scorers will win.
Q: Your team was able to get to the line a lot more in Game 2.
Sam: It was a very physical game. There were a lot of calls that weren't called
for both teams. If we stay aggressive, and we stay on the attack, that's definitely
a plus for our team.
Q: How exciting is this whole experience?
Sam: The atmosphere is awesome, the fans are terrific. When we played Sacramento,
I didn't think it could get any louder, and then last night was unbelievable.
Betty Lennox, Seattle Storm
Q: Do you think everyone was running out of steam in the end?
Lennox: I hope not. At this point in time you can't run out of steam, you have
to give everything you've got until the end of the buzzer. For us, that was
a good thing because no matter what the situation is we're going to continue
to pound the ball down to Lauren. Then when they double- and triple-team her,
she's going to pass the ball out so we're going to continue to try and make
Q: Did you expect a sold out crowd like that last night?
Lennox: I was happy to see it. I didn't really look at it until the game was
over with. But it felt good, as far as the energy they were giving us, the times
where we were down, the times we didn't play aggressive defense. That's the
type of atmosphere you want to play in.
Q: What do you need to do against Connecticut tomorrow?
Lennox: We all have to play aggressive defense as a team. It's not going to
take individuals to win this. Everybody's got to be up to their A game tomorrow.
Q: What is the team looking to Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson for tomorrow?
Lennox: They need to step up and show their leadership. They have to step up
and play their game like they always did all season long and realize how important
it is to play their best game now that it's all on the line.