Two blowout wins.
Two blowout losses.
Which team do we see tonight is the question I keep hearing and reading everywhere I turn. I really believe that the Houston loss was precipitated by two key elements. First Houston overmatched Seattle with height in the post with Janell Burse still out of the lineup. Second, the emotional evening sucked necessary focus out of the team and left them without the internal strength needed to overcome an early deficit. The Storm have proved over the past two seasons that when their offense struggles their defense falls apart. Some teams feed their offense off of their defensive success, but the Storm live and die by their offense to the point that their defense erodes more and more as their offense fails them.
I have no idea what happened in Sacramento. With a radio only broadcast we are limited in what we can extract. The guards failed their defensive assignments, or so the coach felt in benching them for the start of the second half. The team still lacks the fire, the internal strength of will that is needed to recover from failings within a game. The only two players with strength on defense from the numbers were Lauren Jackson and Shaun Gortman. On offense it was Lauren and Betty. I don't think the same problem keyed the early fall in these games, but I DO believe the same problem led to their failure to recover. Heart. Confidence. Strength of Will. Those core elements are still lacking from the perspective of the team. Individuals may have one or more of these core elements, but, as a team, they are all lacking.
Phoenix needs a win. They have some locker-room fodder in Lauren's post game comments from last week. They WILL score if allowed to penetrate. Pondexter and Taurasi have shown their competitive fire and they can penetrate if the lanes are open. Seattle has them overmatched down low, however and must capitalize.
Keys to the Game
Defensive Rebounding - allow only one shot
Shot Blocking - the posts must help from the weak side when penetration occurs
Half Court Execution - the Storm should rebound and run when they can but need to control the pace of the game with solid half court execution and low post scoring
Taurasi will try to win the game on her own. Let her. If the Storm focus on stopping her the other players will get opportunities and build confidence, that can't happen.
Phoenix is a young team...Seattle can beat them mentally by taking control of the game early. Phoenix will struggle from a deficit just like Seattle has in their two losses.