I am somewhat at a loss to talk about yesterday's game. I still am not quite sure what went wrong. There are certainly a number of statistical tidbits that could be looked at, but my initial game "experience" leaves me wondering exactly what happened.
You could point to Sue Bird's first 0 assist game of the season. Ticha looked as strong as she has in recent years rather than like a 31 year old player at the tail end of her career. Sue did not appear overmatched however.
You could point to LJ's 16 points, 2.2 below her average. She was 6 for 9 from the field however, and only took 6 free throws. She scored more often than not, and her misses were generally tough shots under pressure.
You could point to the 19 turnovers, but that is only 4 more than their 15.3 season average.
Where was the problem? Could it have been rebounding, or bench play, how about fast breaks and points in the paint?
The Storm outrebounded the Monarchs 41 to 36.
The bench was outscored, with Kara Lawson alone matching the Storm bench's 18, but the rest of the Monarch bench only put up 6 points.
Both teams locked in at 2 fast break points.
The Monarchs clearly owned the paint, outscoring Seattle 42 to 34, but in truth it wasn't really post play that did that. Yolanda Griffith was a monster all night putting in a season high 26 points and doubling her season average. That is five points off the career high she set back in 1999 when she was 29 years old. Brunson contributed 11 more. The bench put up 6 more from the post. That is 43 points from their posts. Seattle put up 37 though between LJ, JB and Suzy alone.
In the end, I think that despite solid play from rookies Zara and Wright, this game was decided by guard play. The 13 team assists for the Storm is not far off the 15.3 season average for the team, but most of those came in a bench led spurt in the second half.
Sacramento pressured the Storm guards throughout the game and bodied up on the posts pushing them off the block. They disrupted multiple fast breaks with one on one coverage. The Storm were out of position and almost never got a play established. In the second half the burst of points were off very quick, early in the shot clock plays off crisp interior passing and solid screens for open jumpers.
Seattle really misses Betty Lennox against the Monarchs. Her ability to break down her defender off the dribble and create shots for herself also opens up shots for the rest of the team. When faced with solid team and individual defense as they were last night, the Storm are unable to execute without more creativity. Betty provides that creativity. How many teams are able to win last second games against the Monarch defense? I don't know the number, but I bet every coach calls a second timeout on the last possession of a close game once they see what defense Whisenant has cooked up for them. Betty is the player who came out of "virtual" obscurity for the Storm last year with a buzzer beater to win in Arco for the first time in franchise history. They will definitely need her back if they advance past the first round of the playoffs or they will struggle mightily to win that needed game in Arco.
By the way...I was so excited to see my first High Definition basketball game, but ended up disappointed. Apparently ABC decided not to broadcast the game in HD...another learning point for me...apparently it is not just the HD station, but the content on the station that determines the quality of the broadcast. I knew ABC airs HD material, but apparently the WNBA does not qualify for the added expense.