Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Game Two: Storm vs. Monarchs 20 May, 2008

The crowd was not a bad size for an early season, midweek game, and was much louder than you would expect from the announced 6,871. The crowd at Key Arena is back and at the top of their game, even if the team is not.

They may not be the Perfect Storm quite yet, but they are still pretty darn good. They are at least good enough to win games at home after giving up big leads early. With regards to that trend, I think the roster changes are a big reason for their ability to come back. The mentality of Griffith, Cash and most importantly Swoopes is what makes the difference so far this season as opposed to last season's team. In the past, when LJ struggled, Sue was the only option to change things up, and that would only work if her pull up shot in transition was on. Unfortunately, even if the Storm scored points in those situations, they would fail to defend and eventually lose their confidence.

Twice now, Swoopes has proven that when she needs to dig in her teeth and do something for this team, she is able to do so. Her play from tip off to final horn has not been fantastic, but twice in a row she has proved clutch in the third/fourt quarters. She gets that steal when it is needed, or that rebound or even hits a shot when you need one. She was 3-13 from the field last night, but all I remember is her clutch put back of her own miss and her key three pointer. Additionally, the addition of Cash cutting, posting up on mismatches and hitting the midrange jumper has made a big difference. It doesn't hurt when Katie's shot is on either.

The real key is attitude. This team doesn't seem willing to quit and the veterans are able to pull just enough of their MVP, All Star, champion mentality together in spurts to make a difference and spur on the team.

Lauren seems to be thinking too much about her shot. Her cleanest shot last night was on a bobbled play where she had to pick the ball off the floor and elevate to shoot before the shot clock expired. That action alone tells me that she just needs to relax and let her shot flow...her MVP body knows how to put the ball in the basket.

As for my keys to the game, let's see how they did...

1) Execution and Focus: they waited until the second half to find it.
2) Rebound and Run: They allowed Sacramento to rebound 38% of their offensive rebounds, and that number is misleading since the Storm outrebounded the Monarchs in the second half. They were unable to get their running game going until the second half. It is frightening to me that Sacramento had more total possessions than the Storm.
3) Patience in the half court: Too often they kept the ball on the same side of the court falling prey to the "white line" defense.
4) Use your post players size: Agler tried to matchup with the Monarchs after his bigs were completely obliterated on the glass in the first half.

1) Trust your post defenders: The Storm didn't help too much, and Brunson was the only post player to do much damage, but she was a handful, even hitting a midrange fadeaway on the baseline at one point.
2) Beware the perimeter shooters: Lawson and Powell were hitting everything in the first half even with hands in their faces. I don't fault the defense for many of those threes, those two were just on fire.
3) Use your size on the glass: Ouch. It took two and a half quarter for that to happen.


PlayerFloor %Eff FG %

Swoopes had a low effective field goal percentage (27%) but she got to the line well earning a decent floor percentage of 44%.


PlayerOffensive RatingIndiv Rating



Beck didn't play much, but it sure is nice to see her continue to be effective. She is much better at the point than Wright, but I think it is good that Agler is bringing her along slowly and letting her build confidence for later in the season.

Gearlds: +16 (+13 on floor)
Cash: +14 (+12 on floor)
Ely: +12 (+11 on floor)
Beck: +10 (+10 on floor)

Who says the Storm has no bench? Of course Cash is really a starter and played starter minutes last night, but the bench dominates the ratings and the plus/minus in this game.

Bird-Swoopes-Cash-Ely-Jackson: +8
Bird-Gearlds-Cash-Jackson-Griffith: +7
Beck-Gearlds-Cash-Robinson-Griffith: +4


PlayerFloor %Eff FG %


PlayerOffensive RatingIndiv Rating



Rookie Laura Harper was much better offensively than veteran Williams-Strong, how long before she cracks the starting lineup for Jenny Boo?

Williams: +22(+5 on floor)
Kelly: +16 (+2 on floor)
Brunson: +14 (+1 on floor)
Allen: +12 (0 on floor)

Boucek used 24 different lineups in the game, only her starters and her starters with Harper instead of Williams-Strong were used more than once.

Penicheiro-Lawson-Powell-Kelly-Brunson: +11
Penicheiro-Lawson-Powell-Brunson-Williams: +2
Franklin-Allen-Atkinson-Brunson-Williams: +2
Pencheiro-Lawson-Powell-Brunson-Harper: +1

That +11 lineup was used during the big second quarter run for just over 3 minutes from the 8:22 to the 5:05 mark. We never saw them again. The Storm matched that lineup with three different ones (+/- is for the interval only, not the game):

Bird-Wright-Swoopes-Jackson-Griffith: -2
Bird-Swoopes-Cash-Ely-Jackson: -2
Bird-Swoopes-Cash-Jackson-Griffith: -7

Final Thoughts

In the end, the Storm put another W on the schedule, but as Dick Fein said quoting Adia Barnes in the post game interview, the Storm can't give up double digit first half leads on the road against teams like Phoenix and San Antonio. Phoenix has lost their first two games, and they will be hungry for a win. Taurasi is a fierce competitor and will absolutely be up to play Sue, Swin and Lauren, she will be a force. Cappie Pondexter is virtually unstoppable regardless of who guards her...she will get 20+ points. Of course, if the Storm can shut down the rest of the Mercury they will have a shot. San Antonio will also be tough, but the Storm can leverage their depth and new rotation system to wear down a team that is playing 8 people at the moment. Sophia Young and Becky Hammon will get their points, as likely with Buescher off the bench, they need to focus on Riley Darling and Johnson.

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