Storm Tracker (Jun. 28-Jul. 4)
|storm.wnba.com PLAYER OF THE WEEK|
Jun. 28-Jul. 4
Record for the week: 2-0
Overall Record: 10-4
Standing: 1st, Western Conference
Thursday, Jul. 1, 2004
Saturday, Jul. 3, 2004
Adia Barnes made her first two starts of the season in place of an injured Betty Lennox.
For Donovan, it is a somewhat dubious accomplishment that her recent Charlotte and Seattle teams have been stellar on offense. In 2002 and 2003, Donovan's teams led the league in Offensive Efficiency, and this year's Storm easily tops the league as well at 103.1 points per 100 possessions (Phoenix is second at 99.5 points per 100 possessions). But now Donovan can point to her team being the best at the defensive end of the court as well, with the Storm passing the Houston Comets on Saturday to move atop the league in Defensive Efficiency as well. The Storm has allowed 90.8 points per 100 possessions, the Comets 91.1. No one else in the WNBA is below a 93 rating.
If the Storm can keep up its first-place rank in both categories, it would be a well-balanced form of domination that hearkens back to the Comets when they were in the midst of their four-year run as WNBA Champions. Houston led the league in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency in 1998, 1999 and 2000.
How has the Storm gone from the middle of the pack in the WNBA defensively to the top of the league? With an incredible defensive streak over the last 10 games that hasn't really gotten the attention it has deserved. As Storm radio color commentator Elise Woodward observed before Saturday's game, the most points the Storm has allowed in a game dating back to Jun. 3's 72-45 victory over Phoenix was 67 to the New York Liberty in Spokane. During the stretch, the Storm has not allowed any opponent to post an Offensive Efficiency of greater than 100; by comparison, three of the Storm's first four opponents were over that mark.
Add it up, and over the last 10 games, the Storm is allowing just 60.0 points per game - better than any WNBA team has allowed over the full course of the season (Charlotte, at 60.8 points allowed, leads the league). That's despite the Storm playing one of the league's fastest paces. If you account for that by looking at Defensive Efficiency, the Storm's 86.6 points allowed per 100 possessions over the last ten games is even more impressive. In fact, over the course of a full season, only the 1997 Phoenix Mercury (85.5) has posted a better Defensive Efficiency rating.
Force in the Middle
An underrated factor in the Storm's defensive prowess has been backup center Janell Burse. Burse has struggled at times on offense this season, but she's been a consistent defensive presence in the paint. As Woodward's colleague, David Locke, mentioned during Saturday's broadcast, Burse has been the league's best shot-blocker on a per-minute basis this season. The only player blocking more shots per 40 minutes than Burse (3.5) is Minnesota rookie Vanessa Hayden, who has only played 72 minutes this season.
In terms of blocks per foul, another good measure of shot-blocking efficiency, Burse ranks eighth amongst players who have played at least 100 minutes, with a block for every two fouls. Using that metric, Jackson shines. The league's second-best shot-blocker in terms of blocks per game, Jackson is also second to only New York's Elena Baranova with 0.75 blocks per foul. Thanks to Burse's and Jackson's efforts, the Storm tops the WNBA with 4.43 blocked shots per game.
The Storm was able to put together a 2-0 week despite dealing with its worst injury problems this season. The cast Lennox wore after having her nose repositioned forced her to miss both of the Storm's games, while rookie Michelle Greco missed Saturday night with a sprained ankle. Kamila Vodichkova sprained her right foot Thursday and was questionable for Saturday's game, but was able to start and play 19 minutes. Only Greco should miss any playing time on the Storm's upcoming three-game East Coast swing.
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Fantasy League Update
The excitement continued last week in the storm.wnba.com Fantasy League, with Mark Bergin, Karen Bryant and Kevin Pelton trading the lead, though Pelton again came out on top at week's end thanks to Jackson's big Saturday night. This week's transactions could make the difference in tight races for first and fourth place. Check out the Fantasy League homepage daily for complete updated standings.
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