Key game number 2.
This is another opportunity for the Storm to clinch, this time for the #2 spot in the West and home court advantage in the first round. Unless the organization decides to fly the Key Arena crowd with them on the road in the playoffs, it is clear how important home court is to this team. They are 12-3 at home and 6-11 on the road. Only Detroit has a bigger home/away disparity among the top 8 teams in the league (4-12 on the road, 11-5 at home).
In their last meeting with the Monarchs, the Storm were completely smothered by the Monarch perimeter defense. Sacramento has torn up the league this season with their perimeter defense. The PG turnover stats show that this is fairly consistent.
Last ten games...
Guard TO TO Avg. +/-
Taurasi 9 3.3 +5.7
Bird 6 2.82 +3.18
Johnson 8 3.39 +4.61
Hodges 1 1.47 -0.47
Taurasi 4 3.3 +0.7
Staley 4 1.65 +2.35
Darling 9 1.69 +7.31
Johnson 6 3.39 +2.61
Harrower 3 1.61 +1.39
Hodges 3 1.47 +1.53
The only loss of those ten games was to Phoenix when Taurasi was able to maintain control of the ball and stay near her season averages. The Monarchs have held their opponents to 13.5 assists per game this season. Despite have the league leader in assists running their point, Seattle has been held to 12, 20 and 13 assists in the three games played this season so far (including the preseason game). In the one win Seattle was able to break the assist barrier. This was mostly off the spectacular play of the Great Barrier Reef. LJ had 31 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. Suzy came off the bench for 14 points and 3 rebounds. Kara Lawson did not play in that game, and Zara was able to come in from the bench for 7 points, 3 assists and 0 turnovers in 13 minutes. Sue, Betty and Tanisha went 2 for 16 from the field with Betty the only one hitting any shots. Sue managed to avoid turning the ball over and still got the ball to LJ enough to rack up 8 assists. In fact, the Storm defense forced 3 more TO on Sacramento than they have averaged for the year.
Both Walker, their leading scorer at 14.1 ppg, and Lawson, their spark off the bench at 8ppg, are out for the evening. The starting lineup should remain strong, with Yolanda Griffith and Rebekkah Brunson making up for Walker's scoring and rebounding. Griffith has had monster games with Walker out of the lineup. She had 25 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocked shots against Phoenix on Tuesday. On Saturday against Seattle she put up 26 points, 6 rebounds and 1 blocked shot. Brunson had foul trouble in Phoenix against Kamila and Belinda Snell, managing 7 points and 6 rebounds. Against Seattle she had a solid 11 points, 9 rebounds and 1 blocked shot.
The Sacramento bench should be the weak point which the Storm should attack tonight. With solid reserve play from Lennox, Batkovic and Zara the Seattle bench should easily outscore the decimated Monarch's bench. With Brunson starting and Lawson out there is not much scoring available off the bench. Seattle's comeback in Sacramento was stymied this weekend by Kara Lawson's hot shooting. That won't be a problem tonight.
Seattle needs to focus on controlling the ball on the perimeter and should use the pick and roll with Sue and LJ right out of the gate. This should create opportunities for JB, Tanisha and Izzy which will free things up later for LJ. When Sacramento's bench comes in the game Seatlle needs to attack on offense and make Sacramento be forced to climb out of a hole.
I am really looking forward to the game tonight, despite my wife standing me up for the evening. It should be an exciting evening, though I am not sure if I will like watching the game from the suite...Will I feel separated from the energy of the crowd? Maybe I will sneak into an empty seat in the lower bowl at halftime.