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Insider Preview - Storm vs. Atlanta (Game 2)

HEAD-TO-HEAD
1-0 RECORD 0-1
79.0 PF 77.0
97.8 Off. Eff. 95.7
36.0 RPG 34.0
.503 Reb % .497

Storm vs. Atlanta
WNBA Finals Game 2 (Storm leads 1-0)
Tuesday, Sept. 14, 6:00 p.m.
KeyArena
TV: ESPN2
Radio: 1150 AM KKNW
Buy Tickets:

Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com


In both of the Seattle Storm's playoff series to date, Game 2 has taken on an entirely different complexion from Game 1 of the series. That's fairly common in the playoffs, and limits how much the results of Game 1 can really indicate about what lies ahead. In this case of Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, it's clear that the way the game unfolded was an outlier. Both teams saw their small forward stuck on the bench for extended periods because of foul trouble and, in the case of the Atlanta Dream's Angel McCoughtry, a cut above her eye that required three stitches.

The Dream is hoping that a full night from McCoughtry, who scored 19 points in just 21 minutes of action, will make the difference in Game 2.

"I would like to keep her in the game and I would like her to play about 35 minutes," said Atlanta Head Coach Marynell Meadors. "That's what I want to happen on Tuesday night."

With McCoughtry on the floor, the Dream outscored the Storm by six points. Atlanta was outscored by eight points during the 18-plus minutes she spent on the bench or in the locker room. From the Storm's perspective, part of the issue was McCoughtry being on the floor while Swin Cash was on the bench dealing with foul trouble of her own. Cash picked up three quick fouls in the first quarter and sat out an extended stretch of the final period after being whistled for her fifth foul.

"It was annoying," said Cash. "I just kept saying that I needed to stay focused because I needed to make plays in the fourth quarter. You just want to be out there on the floor. You want to be helping your teammates. It was tough, but I was happy with our bench coming in and making some key plays. I just tried to go back in the fourth and do what I could."

From a plus-minus perspective, Cash's impact on the game was just as large as McCoughtry's. The Storm was +7 in her 19 minutes of action, -5 when she was on the bench. As valuable as McCoughtry is to her team - and she was named to the All-WNBA Second Team yesterday - Cash is crucial to the Storm as the team's catalyst on the floor. Game 1 was the second time in the playoffs the Storm has won despite Cash being held to single-digits. The team was 1-3 in such games during the regular season.

Her fouls cleared from the book, and the officiating unlikely to be as tight in the early going of this game, Cash is ready to move on.

"This is a new game," she said.

The Storm spent nearly an hour watching film before getting on the practice court Monday to work on adjustments. The focus was primarily on the defensive end of the floor.

"They're really athletic and they're able to take advantage of certain situations," said Sue Bird. "Even Armintie Price, who doesn't shoot, she gets in the lane, you have to help, Sancho Lyttle's cleaning up the boards. So just little things defensively and also on offense. You're not changing much - you're just adjusting to what they're doing."

Atlanta did a good job much of the night of slowing down Storm star Lauren Jackson. Jackson had 14 points in the third quarter, when she caught fire beyond the arc, but just 12 the rest of the game. Jackson made just four two-point baskets in 10 tries.

"We played through Lauren a little bit more in the third quarter and I think that we can do a good job of playing through her more consistently," said Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. "There's no question they're putting a lot of attention on Lauren. They're trying to deny her in the post and help on the backside. We'll have to make some adjustments and tweaks to combat that."

If anything, Meadors thought her team did too much helping on defense, which freed up the Storm beyond the arc.

"We were very gullible in trying to help each other out," she said. "That's the good and bad of our team, because we do help each other. On defense, we'd get sucked in and then they'd kick it out and they'd shoot a three and make it. We can't allow that to happen."

From the Storm's perspective, the most critical aspect of Game 2 could be taking care of the basketball. The team had 18 turnovers in Game 1, which led to 27 Dream points. Atlanta scored 1.5 points per possession after a turnover, nearly double the team's scoring rate on other possessions.

"That's not acceptable," said forward Camille Little. "Most of their points came from the turnovers we had. That's something we can control - having better composure and taking care of the ball."

Don't be fooled by the relatively low point totals. Game 1 was very fast-paced, with each team having 80 possessions. That's around where the Dream has played all season, but faster than the Storm would prefer. Combined with the sloppy play, it appeared the Storm was falling into Atlanta's style of play. Agler did not believe that was the case, however.

"I think we sort of had an understanding of how we wanted to play," he said. "It's just that we have to do a better job of executing that."

KEY MATCHUP
The Storm got little scoring off its bench in Game 1, with reserves combining for eight points. Svetlana Abrosimova is the player most likely to provide that punch. Expect her to shoot better than 2-for-7 from the field tonight. Atlanta's rotation opened up in the fourth quarter, when Kelly Miller saw her first real action since suffering a high right ankle sprain against the Storm on Aug. 10. "I thought that was good for her and good for our team," said Meadors. "She came in and played very well. We'll just have to see how she reacts in practice." The Dream outscored the Storm by nine points with Miller on the floor.

INJURIES

Storm - Center Abby Bishop (concussion) is day-to-day.

Atlanta - None.