Storm's Mentality Won't Change in Game 2
Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com | August 27, 2010
The Seattle Storm heads to Los Angeles for tomorrow's Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals matchup against the Sparks (12:00 p.m., ESPN2, 1150 AM KKNW) with a chance to win the series and eliminate L.A. An experienced Sparks team with no margin for error, playing at home, will present a major challenge.
"It's do or die, said forward Swin Cash. "I don't expect anything less. They have some veterans who have won championships and provide veteran leadership. But I think we're going to come out just as driven. We don't want to bring it back to the Key. We love our fans, but we don't want to be back on Tuesday. As much rest as possible, as much practice time as we can get, is always a good thing going to the next round."
This is a new position for the Storm because the WNBA adjusted the schedule for best-of-three series in the Conference Semifinals and Finals from a 1-2 format to 1-1-1, with the better-seeded team hosting the first game and the third one, if necessary.
The last two seasons, the Storm split the first two games with Los Angeles. Both teams won at home, but because the Sparks hosted Game 1 this is the first the Storm has led in a series since 2006, also against L.A.
"I applaud the WNBA," said Cash. "This is one thing I can say that they really got right because for so many years it was a struggle for players. It's a mental struggle to have home court advantage and then go back home and you're down. That's always tough. I'm happy that we got to this format and I think it's going to be a plus for us. The way we look at it is we take care of business at home and then try to steal one on the road."
Response to the new format has been universally positive, although Storm guard Sue Bird did point out that one of the most significant aspects of the change did not come into play in this series.
In the past, one disadvantage for the better-seeded team was having to travel twice - to the road city and back - as opposed to just one set of flights for the lower-seeded team. That was neutralized because Los Angeles finished the regular season last Saturday in Seattle and stayed here through Wednesday's game.
Both teams have been at home the last two days. The Storm had a pair of practices at Seattle Pacific University before heading to L.A. Friday afternoon. The coaching staff focused on adjustments based on what they saw from the Sparks in Game 1, as well as the season-long goal of improving as a team. Head Coach Brian Agler's mindset remains heavily focused on process rather than results.
"I still think there are some things at both ends we can improve on," he said. "That's our focus - to try to get better and do everything we can to play well on Saturday. We know that they're going to play better. The focus isn't so much on winning. The focus to me is playing well, because if you do that part the winning and losing seems to take care of itself."
"We have to have a mentality of you want to continue to play well and we want to do what we do best," echoed forward Camille Little. "They're a great team and they've got a lot of veterans. They're going to be prepared. They're going to watch film like we watched film and make some adjustments. It's going to be a good Game 2.Hopefully, at the end of the night you've done that and the game has gone in our favor."
If that's the case, the Storm will earn its first playoff series win since 2004 and just the second sweep in franchise history. The Storm swept Minnesota in the Western Conference Semifinals in 2004. The team knows the benefits that would come from finishing the series early instead of playing a deciding Game 3, but that's not the primary line of thinking.
"I just want to go down and play well," said Agler. "We're going to try to win Saturday. We're just focused on that. We're not thinking about a third game, we're not thinking about the next series, we're not thinking about next year. We're thinking about getting better for Saturday."