Insider Preview - Storm at Phoenix (Game 2)
Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com
Western Conference Finals Game 2 (Storm leads 1-0
Sunday, Sept. 5, 12:00 p.m.
US Airways Center
Radio: 1150 AM KKNW
The Seattle Storm has one big concern entering Sunday's Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals: Diana Taurasi. Taurasi suffered through a dreadful Game 1, shooting 2-of-15 from the field and turning the ball over six times. That performance figures to serve as fuel to motivate the Łber-competitive Taurasi going into Sunday's game.
Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com
"2-for-15? You can probably call that 14-for-15 the next game," said Sue Bird, Taurasi's long-time teammate and friend. "I know she's going to be even more focused, which is dangerous for us. She's a competitor, and I expect her to come out blazing next game. So we have that to look forward to."
"Last time I saw this from Diana was in 2007 Ė I think it was a game in Detroit," said Phoenix Mercury Head Coach Corey Gaines. "Next game she came out and had 30-something. Iím not worried about it. Itís gone, itís over. She doesnít have any more of those. It happens."
A better performance by Taurasi will go a long ways toward getting the Phoenix offense going. The Mercury scored just 74 points, the team's lowest total in a playoff game in the Gaines/Paul Westhead era, and was limited to 38.0 percent shooting from the field. The Storm has done a good job defensively against Phoenix all season long, but the Mercury's offense will inevitably pick up.
Fortunately for the Storm, there's room for improvement at the offensive end of the floor. Like Taurasi, Swin Cash was held to single digits, an unusual occurrence for the Storm's All-Star as well. Cash scored fewer than 10 points just four times throughout the regular season, and two of those came when she played limited minutes because the Storm was resting its starters. Historically, the Storm has struggled when Cash has been held to single digits, including a 1-3 record in 2010 (the Storm was 27-3 in all other games). Phoenix has been a tough matchup for Cash this season, but she's due to shoot the ball much better in Game 2.
The Storm did not shoot the ball well as a team, hitting 38.8 percent from the field. Seattle was able to overcome the low-percentage shooting by doing everything else well. The Storm knocked down 10 three-pointers, had just 10 turnovers as a team and got second chances. The single biggest factor working in the Storm's favor was the team's ability to get to the free throw line. The Storm shot 29 free throws to 17 attempts for the Mercury. (The missed shots did extend to the charity stripe, where both teams shot well below their season-long percentages.)
Gaines switched up Phoenix's defenses throughout the game, relying heavily on man-to-man early and the rover zone defense during the late first and second quarters. The second half saw a more even mix. The Storm was stifled at first by the rover before beginning to find open attempts beyond the arc and in the paint.
"We just had to get better ball movement, play both sides of the floor, reverse it," explained Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. "They put a lot of size out there and take things away. But we have to find out what we can get. Itís like anything - the defense is going to take things away from you, but theyíre also going to give you something. Itís a puzzle and you have to figure it out."
Both teams have spent the last couple of days working to figure out the other. They'll put those adjustments to the test on Sunday.
|A couple of trends from the regular season continued in Game 1: Foul trouble for Tangela Smith and good perimeter defense by the Storm against her. Smith picked up five fouls, though she was able to play a full night (32 minutes). Within that span, she got off just two shot attempts. Smith made an early three-pointer, but otherwise the Storm blanketed her on the perimeter, taking away her looks beyond the arc. Storm post Camille Little will get opportunities against the Mercury zone and when Lauren Jackson draws a double-team. Little made four of 10 shot attempts during Game 1, making the difficult, off-balance attempts but missing some easier shots.|
Storm - None.
Phoenix - None.