Resilient Storm Returns Home
Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com | July 22, 2010
After more than a week on the road, which added to the Stars at the Sun break meant longer than two weeks between games at KeyArena, the Seattle Storm is settling back in at home. The WNBA's top team will put a franchise-record 10-game winning streak on the line at the Key over the next eight days, playing three home games.
While the Storm was happy to finish up the road trip, it was a productive one. With victories at Phoenix, Minnesota and San Antonio, the Storm continued making history. Not only is the team's overall 10-game winning streak a franchise record, but so too is the six straight games the Storm has won on the road.
Even bigger milestones are looming. With another win, the Storm will tie the 1998 and 2000 Houston Comets for the best start in WNBA history. In 1998, the Comets began the season 20-1 before suffering their second defeat in their 22nd game. Two more wins would also allow the Storm to match the best start ever by any Seattle pro sports team. The 1980 NASL Sounders hold the record, having started 21-2 (see the bottom of this article for the best starts by various Seattle teams).
Despite the gaudy overall record, this past road trip was more about demonstrating the Storm's mental toughness. All three games were decided in the fourth quarter or overtime, and against both the Lynx and the Silver Stars the Storm trailed before rallying for come-from-behind victories. Given the lengthy period on the road and difficult travel, which included the team's stars flying across the country and back for The Stars at the Sun, the Storm had every excuse available to drop a game or two. Players refused to take them.
"We have been through this a lot," said Storm Head Coach Brian Agler after Tuesday's win. "It has sort of been a rhythm of whatís going on with our team. We have a group of people that are resilient as a group and as individuals, but they really bring it out when they are playing together."
That specific word - resilient - has been applied to the Storm frequently. Agler used it after all three games of the road trip, as did starting guard Tanisha Wright in Minnesota. The team has established a never-say-die attitude, coming back to win nine times this season when trailing after three quarters of play.
"Just stay positive," said Lauren Jackson of the team's mindset when trailing. "We donít really get panicked. Everyone just sort of rallies and does their own thing."
"Itís the same as the beginning of the game, itís the same as halftime and it never really changes," added Sue Bird. "Thatís the beauty of our team, and itís kind of what allows us to continue to win."
A different kind of resiliency was on display in the first game of the road trip at Phoenix. While the Storm never trailed by a substantial margin, it blew chances to win in regulation and in the second overtime, when Diana Taurasi drew a three-shot foul to tie the game in the closing seconds. A lesser team might have folded, especially on the road, but the Storm battled back to win one of the longest games in WNBA history despite heavy legs.
The one blessing of the Storm's road trip was two days between each game. Overall, the schedule has been light in July, with the Storm playing five games in three weeks. As the WNBA enters its stretch run, that pace will pick up considerably. The schedule offers at least three games a week the rest of the way.
That starts on Sunday, when the Tulsa Shock pays its first visit to Seattle since moving to Oklahoma and undergoing an extensive makeover (6:00 p.m., KONG 6/16, 1150 AM KKNW, ). Nolan Richardson's crew of scrappy players offering full-court pressure gave the Storm - playing without Bird - problems on June 27 in Tulsa before the Storm turned the game around over the final quarter and a half. The first 4,000 fans at Sunday's game get Swin Cash bobbleheads, and the Storm will also celebrate Go Red Night during the game.
On Tuesday, it's a rematch with the defending champs, fresh off their visit to the White House this week (6:30 p.m., ESPN2, 1150 AM KKNW, ). The Storm has won all three games against the Mercury this season, but Phoenix has taken the Storm to overtime both times the team has visited the Valley of the Sun. The Mercury will be looking to parlay that success into a victory in front of an ESPN2 audience.
The homestand wraps up Friday, when the Chicago Sky makes its lone trip to KeyArena (7:00 p.m., KONG 6/16, 1150 AM KKNW, ). The Storm still owes the Sky payback for a May 27 loss at Allstate Arena, having already avenged its other loss this season (at Indiana). Third-year center Sylvia Fowles is enjoying a breakthrough campaign and is a top MVP candidate.