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Insider Preview - Storm vs. San Antonio

HEAD-TO-HEAD
7-7 RECORD 9-4
L-3 STREAK W-2
2-3 LAST 5 2-3
71.1 PF 85.2
96.3 Off. Eff. 106.4
71.1 PA 79.2
97.5 Def. Eff. 99.6
31.8 RPG 33.8
.505 Reb % .470
73.4 Pace 79.0
7.0 Exp. Wins 9.1

Storm (7-7) vs. San Antonio (9-4)
Thursday, July 21, 7:00 p.m.
KeyArena
TV: NBA TV
Radio: AM 1090
LiveAccess: Live Video
Buy Tickets:

Kevin Pelton, StormBasketball.com


When the San Antonio Silver Stars host Saturday's All-Star Game at the AT&T Center, they'll have the most unique player there. Four of the 22 players on the court will be rookies, which ties 2006 for the most ever. Of the 16 first-year players in league history selected for the All-Star Game, however, 15 of them have been first-round picks. All were selected in the top six picks, in fact. The exception is Danielle Adams. Less than three months after she slipped to the 20th overall spot in the second round, Adams will be part of the WNBA's midsummer showcase.

San Antonio aggressively remade its roster over the offseason, bringing in six new players. All three Silver Stars draft picks made the team, and newcomers Tully Bevilaqua, Jia Perkins and Scholanda Robinson are all playing key roles in San Antonio's rotation. Yet no one else can come close to matching the impact Adams has made during the first half-season of her WNBA career.

Adams began the season modestly, playing just 15 minutes off the bench as the Silver Stars opened 2011 with a blowout victory over the Tulsa Shock. It soon became clear, however, that Adams would be a difference-maker for the Silver Stars. In her third pro game, Adams erupted for 32 points on 11-of-19 shooting in just 20 minutes of action. Her remarkable scoring turned a deficit against the Atlanta Dream into a comfortable victory.

Since then, Adams has scored double figures in eight of the last 10 games, thriving in the role of super-sub. Her average of 27.5 points per 40 minutes leads the WNBA, and Adams has also proven a highly efficient scorer. Overall, Adams - drafted behind three players who have since been waived by the teams that selected them - has been one of the league's most valuable players.

The Seattle Storm found that out last Thursday in San Antonio. Adams carried the Silver Stars during the fourth quarter of a narrow 69-66 win, scoring 15 points in the final 10 minutes. Included in that total was the three-point play that gave the Silver Stars the lead for good. In particular, Adams torched the Storm from long distance, even when she had a hand in her fact. She shot 3-of-5 from three-point range and is hitting 37.9 percent from beyond the arc for the season - impressive for any player, let alone a post.

Beyond just Adams, it was the San Antonio bench that doomed the Storm last Thursday. Reserves scored an incredible 47 of the team's 69 points, including all 25 in the fourth quarter. Danielle Robinson, the first-round pick by the Silver Stars out of Oklahoma, made key plays down the stretch. Third-round pick Porsha Phillips gave San Antonio a lift with five points in limited action. The Silver Stars also boast veteran newcomer Jia Perkins, an All-Star during her days with Chicago who averages 13.3 points per game off the bench. Apparently, having Perkins in a reserve role is crucial for San Antonio's rotation. She started two games earlier this month, both of them losses in the midst of a three-game slide. Perkins returned to the bench against the Storm, and the Silver Stars have won both games since then.

The reserve firepower has helped make up for the fact that San Antonio's go-to scorer, Becky Hammon, has struggled at times playing through an injury to her shooting shoulder. Hammon shot just 4-of-24 from the field over a two-game stretch including the matchup against the Storm, but she looked healthy on Monday. Playing in Los Angeles, Hammon poured in 26 points and four three-pointers to lead the Silver Stars to a road victory.

All season long, San Antonio has ranked among the league's most potent offenses. The Silver Stars defense has been more up and down, determining the team's success. In Head Coach Dan Hughes' style, San Antonio forces relatively few turnovers, putting pressure on the defense to force misses and complete the stop with a defensive rebound. The Storm's sloppy play in the first half last Thursday allowed the Silver Stars to add steals to the mix, which produced both empty possessions for the Storm and transition buckets for San Antonio. When the Storm got the turnovers relatively under control in the second half, the team was able to take control of the game.

For the Storm, KeyArena will be a welcome sight after an 0-3 road trip. After the All-Star break, the Storm will head back out for another three-game trip, making this the last of just three home games in the month of July. Head Coach Brian Agler has emphasized taking advantage of the limited opportunities at home. The Storm did just that earlier this month, blowing out the Los Angeles Sparks and knocking off the Washington Mystics. Home court advantage is always crucial for the Storm, but it has loomed even larger so far this season, as Seattle is 5-1 at home and just 2-6 on the road.

KEY MATCHUP
While the Silver Stars will have Adams and Hammon in the All-Star Game, Sophia Young won't be on the roster Saturday after being named to all three All-Star Games played during her career, as well as last year's Stars at the Sun game. Young's performance hasn't really dropped off. She's averaging 15.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, making her one of the league's best all-around forwards. Young was simply a victim of the depth at her position in the Western Conference. Storm forward Camille Little, who started her career as Young's backup with the Silver Stars, is looking to get out of an offensive slump. Little has scored double-figures just once in her last six games and shot 1-of-8 from the field last week in San Antonio.
LAST TIME

The Storm was unable to come up with the big bucket that might have won last Thursday game in San Antonio. The teams spent more than two minutes of game time deadlocked at 62 before Adams gave her team the lead for good with a three-point play with 28.7 seconds left on the clock. The Silver Stars made four free throws to preserve their lead, the last with 1.6 seconds remaining. The Storm was unable to attempt a length-of-the-court shot that would have tied the game.

To get in position to win, the Storm had to come back from a dreadful first half that saw the team commit 12 turnovers. By the end of the third quarter, the Storm had rallied within two points, and the two teams traded the lead throughout the final period. Tanisha Wright led the Storm with 18 points, while Swin Cash's energy and 13 points were key to the comeback. Sue Bird struggled with her shooting against a San Antonio defense that prioritized taking her away, but she handed out seven assists to go with her 10 points. Adams had a huge game for the Silver Stars, scoring 15 of her 23 points in the fourth.

INJURIES

Storm - Center Lauren Jackson (surgery, left hip labrum) is out.

San Antonio - None.

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