Neither of these two teams has played since San Antonio delivered Seattle's first loss of the season before a national television audience last Saturday. In that game San Antonio looked liked the sharper, more focused team. I said in my last preview that LJ has struggled against Young, last weeks Western Conference Player of the Week. Yet, while LJ played well below her season averages last year when faced with the Silver Stars, she still won the matchup. Last game was the first time Young owned the matchup.
Last season LJ was held almost 4 points below her season average, with her FG% eight points below her season average. She did shoot 9 points better from long range, however which shows how much trouble Sophia gives her down low. LJ shot 51% and 40% from three last season but only 43% and 50% against San Antonio. In the game on Saturday, LJ shot 40% from the field and 40% from three point range. Of course, she is only shooting 43% and 30% in the first four games this season. Last season LJ rebounded well (right on her averages) against San Antonio, and that continued last week. She also turned the ball over twice as much against San Antonio as she did for the season.
Young is really playing great this season. She had a fantastic game against Jackson. Last week I said that the Storm should focus on the other players defensively, but I think Young needs to be stopped and Jackson is going to need to be aggressive at both ends of the floor. She needs to work hard down low on Young and find her shooters/cutters. Hopefully a week of practice with her new team mates has given her a little more comfort with the new system.
Becky Hammon, perhaps showing a little extra pep facing a guard who made the US olympic team over her, broke out of her shooting slump against the Storm. She cannot be allowed to penetrate or get open looks early. Becky is a very streaky shooter who will hit everything if she gets a few early buckets.
Helen Darling cannot be allowed open looks. She is not a great scorer or shooter over the course of her career, but she looked like one against Seattle's defense on Saturday.
Buescher and Wauters gave the Storm trouble last week. They know that they will be facing Wauters this week, and they need to step up to the challenge.
KEYS TO THE GAME
- Rebound the dang ball. Yolanda Griffith is one of the best rebounders in the history of the WNBA, yet she only pulled down 4 rebounds in that last game though 3 were offensive.
- Hit the chippies ladies. Everyone was missing layups...that just won't cut it.
- Move the ball around and make the defense work. Look for Cash more, she is very active and made San Antonio pay whenever she got the ball.
- Post up with Swin and Sheryl, it worked when it was tried on Saturday, but we didn't see enough of it, despite Coach Agler stressing it in the locker room at half time.
- Again, rebound the dang ball. San Antonio pulled down 41% of their available offensive rebounds, that is simply unacceptable. The Storm have great size in the post, except when they play LJ at the center position. Use that early to dominate the defensive glass.
- Keep Becky out of the paint, make her shoot contested shots, don't let her get a groove on or she will kill you with her jumper.
- Stay on the shooters, Buescher, Darling and Hammon all knocked down open threes off kick outs from the post. Let the bigs defend the paint and stay on your assignment.
As for the crowd, we need to get loud early and help the Storm get off to a better start. My heart can't take any more of these second half comebacks.
In the simulation I ran for this game at http://nationalsportsrankings.com/, the Storm won a nailbiter 80 to 79. LJ was the game's leading scorer and rebounder with 29 points and 9 rebounds to Sophia Young's 20 and 6. Sue Bird added 15 points and 7 assists while Swing Cash gave 15 points and 6 rebounds. Yolanda and Sheryl came through on the boards with 7 and 5 respectively, while the bench was solid with scoring from Shyra, Katie and Tanisha. The Storm failed to keep Buescher (12) or Hammon (17) in check but limited the bench and the rest of the role players enough to make a difference.