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Insider Preview - Storm vs. San Antonio

HEAD-TO-HEAD
13-2 RECORD 5-7
W-4 STREAK W-1
4-1 LAST 5 3-2
83.4 PF 76.0
111.5 Off. Eff. 99.8
73.3 PA 80.8
98.1 Def. Eff. 105.0
36.4 RPG 30.9
.566 Reb % .453
74.1 Pace 76.5
12.5 Exp. Wins 4.1

Storm (13-2) vs. San Antonio (5-7)
Tuesday, June 29, 7:00 p.m.
KeyArena
Radio: 1150 AM KKNW
LiveAccess: Live Video
Buy Tickets:

Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com


If it weren't for the Seattle Storm, the San Antonio Silver Stars would be feeling pretty good about the way the 2010 season has gone. In 10 games against other opponents, the Silver Stars are 5-5 and have been outscored by a cumulative nine points all season. That kind of performance has been good enough to earn San Antonio second place in the Western Conference, which isn't bad at all for a team trying to integrate two new starters and a new head coach in Sandy Brondello while dealing with injuries, most notably to All-Star guard Becky Hammon.

Yet two games against the Storm have been very different. On May 30, the Silver Stars lost by 28 to the Storm at home during the midst of their worst stretch of the season, when Hammon was battling a strained right quadriceps that would sideline her the next two games, both losses. San Antonio seemed to be on track by the next meeting on June 20, but the Storm still pulled away after halftime in a 21-point win at KeyArena.

On paper, the matchup is a problematic one for the Silver Stars because of rebounding. San Antonio is the league's weakest team on the glass, while the Storm has been the WNBA's best rebounding team. That disparity played out in the second meeting, when the Storm had a 46-23 rebounding advantage and held San Antonio without a defensive rebound for the entire third quarter.

At the same time, the Silver Stars were competitive against the Storm last season. Of the three meaningful head-to-head meetings (both teams rested starters when they played each other in the season finale, having already clinched playoff berths), San Antonio won at home and forced overtime in one of two losses in Seattle. So perhaps this season's results are simply random.

In general, the Silver Stars have seen their results play to expectations. Against the league's top four teams, San Antonio is 0-6. When faced with lesser opposition, the Silver Stars have taken care of business, losing just once (at home to New York) and coming up with all five of their wins. With the Western Conference struggling, that's been more than enough to earn San Antonio second place.

The Silver Stars boast one of the league's most balanced offenses, especially with Hammon looking to distribute more and shoot less because of her injury. Hammon and Sophia Young remain the go-to players on offense, but newcomer Chamique Holdsclaw has also averaged 14.1 points per game and gives San Antonio scoring punch from the wing the team has lacked in recent seasons. Center Michelle Snow, the other key addition to the lineup, gives the Silver Stars a fourth player averaging double-figures, while former Storm guard Edwige Lawson-Wade is playing the best basketball of her WNBA career starting alongside Hammon.

The bench has provided less production, especially since center Ruth Riley broke her finger and was lost through at least mid-July. Forward Megan Frazee recently joined Riley on the sidelines after injuring the meniscus in her left knee during practice, an injury that will require surgery. (Frazee was waived this morning so the team could re-sign Crystal Kelly, who was herself waived a few weeks ago.) That leaves sharpshooting forward Roneeka Hodges as the only active San Antonio reserve scoring more than 2.5 points per game, though rookie center Jayne Appel has the potential to offer more production as she gets acclimated to the WNBA game with regular minutes.

The big question mark for tonight's game from the Storm's perspective is the availability of point guard Sue Bird, who left Sunday's win in Tulsa after less than two minutes because of back spasms. Bird said at the Storm's shootaround that she will make the decision whether to play based on how she feels after arriving at the arena tonight. Bird's condition has improved since Sunday, but the Storm also has experience playing San Antonio without the star point guard. She left the June 20 matchup midway through the third quarter with the game still in doubt, and the Storm managed to extend its lead after Bird's departure with Tanisha Wright and Svetlana Abrosimova sharing ballhandling duties. That partnership in the backcourt also proved effective against the Shock, with Abrosimova scoring 21 points and Wright handing out 10 assists.

KEY MATCHUP
The common theme between the Storm's last two matchups with the Silver Stars is tough travel. The last time San Antonio visited, it was the Storm's third game in four days after traveling cross-country. This time, the Storm is playing for the third time in five days, with a difficult trip to Tulsa in the middle. Swin Cash's energy and persistence were critical for the road-weary Storm on June 20. She had six offensive boards, and her relentless work on the offensive glass created easy baskets. On the other side, Holdsclaw was San Antonio's only consistent factor on the boards, pulling down nine rebounds. She also tied for team-high honors with 14 points.

LAST TIME

The Storm earned its second 20-point victory of 2010 over the rival Silver Stars on June 20. The Storm did an incredible job on the glass, doubling up San Antonio in rebounds 46-23. The Storm held the Silver Stars to 37.3 percent shooting and forced 16 turnovers. No San Antonio player had more than 12 points.

The Storm, meanwhile, was led by Cash's 22 points. Cash had 15 points in the second half and also grabbed nine rebounds, six of them offensive. Lauren Jackson pulled down a season-high 14 rebounds and scored 19 points for her fifth double-double of the season. Camille Little was a force in her own right with 17 points and nine rebounds. The Storm bench chipped in 20 points, outscoring the opponent for the first time all season. That helped make up for the fact that Bird shot an uncharacteristic 0-for-7 from the field before leaving with a sprained left knee.

INJURIES

Storm - Guard Sue Bird (back spasms) is a game-time decision.

San Antonio - Forward Megan Frazee (left meniscus injury) and center Ruth Riley (broken right pinkie) are out.