Photo via Craig Bennett/112575 Media.
3 Total Updates since July 25, 2010
almost 3 years ago Update 0 comments
Although Seattle Storm fans are probably more than familiar with what guard Svetlana Abrosimova can do, part of first-year Tulsa Shock coach Nolan Richardson’s continued acclimation to the WNBA will have to be figuring out who she is.
“They bring a young lady off the bench who had 25 on us last time we played,” said Richardson, referring to the 21 points Abrosimova had in the Storm's 83-72 win in Tulsa. “I didn’t even know she existed.”
In last night’s 75-59 win over the Shock at KeyArena, Abrosimova hit four threes in the second quarter, including four within a two minute span to help the Storm erase an early five point deficit and take a four point lead. After the fourth three, Richardson took a timeout, which should count as not only increasing recognition of who Abrosimova is, but also that she’s a bit more of a fluke when left wide open for shots.
“Sometimes with their defensive positioning, they run away from her because they’re running after somebody,” said Richardson when asked about Abrosimova’s hot second quarter. “Then when they move the ball at a fast pace and we’re not putting enough pressure to delay it so we can get to it, that’s usually what happens — that’s why she’s open to hit some of those shots.”
Storm coach Brian Agler offered a similar assessment of the game, also reflecting on the previous meeting between the two teams.
“She’s obviously an exceptional shooter when she gets her feet set,” said Agler. “She did the same thing against them there when we started playing better when we had good spacing. She played away from the basketball a lot. They like to flood the ball side with people. When we reversed the ball, she had open looks and knocked them down – good for us.”
While the majority of national media attention on the Storm gets directed primarily at their trio of All-Stars — Sue Bird, Swin Cash, and of course Lauren Jackson — what we can learn about the Storm from last night’s big win is that beyond any records they’re breaking the key to their success is that once opponents commit to taking one thing away, they’ll find another way to hurt them.
"I don't think they really were concentrating on me as being the only one shooter on this team," said Abrosimova. "It's hard to play against us. Everyone can hit threes. Lauren hit some, Swin and Tanisha (Wright). That's why it's not easy. You have to guard everybody and you have to sometimes sacrifice certain players."
In fact, in last night’s win, it’s almost as if forcing the Shock to scramble after Abrosimova’s shooting spree and essentially putting them in a survival mode is what turned the tide of the game in the Storm’s favor.
“Of course, we tried to go to man and they can go post up someone, like Jackson got posted up or [Le'coe Willingham] gets posted up,” said Richardson. “We’re so mismatched with our team so this team is very hard to matchup with.”
It’s not just that the Storm come out fixated on exploiting mismatches, but that they know what they’re capable of as a unit and they’re the rare team that can identify opportunities to exploit mismatches within the flow of the game. It can be explained with chemistry or synergy and all that type of intangible stuff, but a large part of it comes down to balance.
“We’ve played all the teams and I think Seattle is so balanced,” said Richardson. “Balance is so important in basketball. Even though (Lauren) Jackson is a great player, all the cast around her is great…It’s just amazing how many players can come in and contribute. That’s a trademark of a very good team…They can just keep coming at you with a balanced attack. Their top seven or eight people are very, very good.”
Prior to the game, Richardson shared that basketball is ultimately a very simple game revolving around scoring points and stopping opponents from scoring points. What the Storm did well last night — and for what it’s worth, what the Shock did extremely well in the first quarter — is find the most efficient ways to create scoring opportunities.
There isn’t a whole lot of one-on-one play and it’s rare to see plays where players dominate the ball. Quite simply, the Storm’s success is predicated on taking advantage of the balance they’re privileged to have by moving the fall and identifying opponents’ weaknesses in the flow of the game. When they’re clicking, it’s a beautiful thing to watch even if the opponent is so obviously over matched.
In addition, right now keeping things simple is pretty much what the Storm are doing in trying not to get caught up in all the records. The attention has to be welcome, but they’re goals are bigger than that — a championship.
“It’s basically taking one game at a time and going from there,” said guard Tanisha Wright.
For more on the game, check out Swish Appeal's statistical summary of the game.
almost 3 years ago Update 0 comments
As the wins pile up, the Storm bandwagon is starting to get a little full.
The Underappreciated Seattle Storm
While it is understandable that some people do not care much about women's basketball, the hometown Seattle Storm are currently dominating the WNBA. Self-admittedly, I am not a huge fan of the Storm, but I did go to the game today.
They looked good, real good.
After the 75-59 loss, Tulsa Shock coach Nolan Richardson described what makes the Storm such an impressive team this season.
Women's Hoops Blog | Seattle Times Newspaper
"Seattle is so balanced," Richardson said. "Balance is important in basketball. Even though Jackson is a great player, all the cast around her is great. It's amazing how many players come in and contribute. That's a trademark of a very good team. They can just keep coming at you with a balanced attack."
In last night's game, Svetlana Abrosimova was the best representation of that balance.
Storm | Storm equals WNBA record for fast start | Seattle Times Newspaper
Abrosimova nailed four consecutive three-pointers to turn a two-point deficit into a 30-26 lead with 5:18 remaining in the second quarter. The Storm opened the third quarter on a 14-0 run, burying the Shock before a sellout crowd of 9,686 that was giddy to celebrate the return of Seattle's only winning professional sports team.
"I felt like I was at home in Russia playing with my family around," said Abrosimova, who fouled out with 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting from three-point range. "It felt so good because a lot of people traveled during the All-Star break. Then we came back for two days and went back on the road. It was just three weeks of traveling."
But despite media hype around their record start, the Storm are not even talking about the record according to Storm coach Brian Agler and it won't mean much without playoff success.
Storm blasts Tulsa, stays in pursuit of history
Abrosimova has been around the league for some time. She doesn't want to hear about the records. "You have to win the championship, otherwise you're just going to be the biggest joke of the season," Abrosimova said. " 'Oh, you won 20 games in a row but you lost a championship.' Maybe when I'm 70 years old, I'll be like, I remember that time, but right now it's not ... I just want to get the ring and the win."
almost 3 years ago Update 0 comments
A storyline to watch — or perhaps a time to get up and get refreshments — is that the Shock strangely seem to struggle during the third quarter. Consistently, as in almost all the time.
Freelantz pretty much laid out one of the biggest and most mystifying thing about the Shock’s season: the quarter that occurs after halftime.
Game preview: Tulsa’s five things to watch as Shock (4-18) takes on Seattle (19-2) – Swish Appeal
…the third quarter meltdown. It’s like a different team arrives on the court to start the second half, in almost every game Tulsa has played. Everyone sees it and knows it, the players and coaches continue to try to rectify the issue and nothing appears to work. Personally, I’d like to move to either a) ban third quarters all together or b) change their name to something other than ‘third quarter’. Pretty please.
No official word from the Storm, but I suspect the third quarter will not be banned in KeyArena prior to game time.
almost 3 years ago Update 0 comments
You may remember Nolan Richardson from his days leading the Arkansas Razorbacks to back to back Final Fours, winning the national championship in 1994 and losing to current Seattle University coach Cameron Dollar and the UCLA Bruins in 1995.
Storm | Nolan Richardson finds new challenge as Shock coach | Seattle Times Newspaper
Richardson's storied career is chronicled in "Forty Minutes of Hell" by Rus Bradburd, a book that addresses many of the inequities black coaches faced in the pre- and post-Civil Rights era.
Arkansas' 1994 NCAA men's basketball championship should have been a culmination of Richardson's rise from one of the poorest areas in El Paso, Texas, to the pinnacle of his profession. But he clashed with athletic director Frank Broyles, and at a 2002 news conference, he unleashed a litany of accusations, including charges of racism. Soon after, he was dismissed as Razorbacks coach.
Now Richardson has brought his "40 Minutes Of Hell" approach to the WNBA as a first-year coach for the 4-18 Tulsa Shock, a WNBA franchise in its first year since being relocated from Detroit. In a system unlike any the WNBA has ever seen, pressure is applied in seemingly random waves, the team races up and down the court shooting threes at a 37.1 percent (tied for third in the WNBA) and Richardson makes five-player substitutions that are more reminiscent of hockey line changes than a consistent basketball rotation. Perhaps the problem right now is that since relocating from Detroit, the Shock have lost a considerable amount of the talent that helped Shock coach Bill Laimbeer win four WNBA championships.
STORM: Insider Preview - Storm vs. Tulsa
When the season began, Nolan Richardson referred to his Tulsa Shock charges as a semi-expansion team. Given the heavy turnover when the team moved from Detroit to Oklahoma and Richardson took charge of basketball operations, that seemed appropriate at the time. Now it appears to be an understatement. On Friday, Tulsa traded center Kara Braxton to Phoenix for Nicole Ohlde and a future first-round pick. Braxton became the third holdover Shock player traded since the start of the season, joining guard Shavonte Zellous and forward Plenette Pierson. Now, only Alexis Hornbuckle remains from the Detroit roster Richardson inherited.
However, Richardson has developed an emergent theory about his team's performance.
Struggling Shock braces for solid Seattle squad | Tulsa World
"I don't know why, but it seems we play better on the road. Maybe we just press too much at home because the ladies want to win so badly for the hometown fans."
If a theory needs to describe an observed phenomenon and have some power to predict future outcomes, then consider the Shock's first visit to KeyArena for today's 6 p.m. game a bit of a test -- if they can pull off an upset against the 19-2 Seattle Storm who are undefeated at home and riding a 10-game winning streak, it would certainly add some weight to the theory.
In fact, against a team like the Storm, maybe even a smaller than average point differential would validate the theory to some extent -- while the Shock have a league-low point differential of minus-10.64, the Storm have a league-leading point differential of plus-9.47. If you were to add a few points for KeyArena advantage, this could be a big win for the Storm.
In what's shaping up to be an historic season in Seattle, the Storm have not only won all 10 home games this season and have already clinched a playoff berth, but would also move closer to yet another milestone with a win today against the Shock.
Storm | Storm trying to match Comets' record | Seattle Times Newspaper
En route to winning the WNBA's first four championships, the Comets completed their 1998 season at 27-3, the WNBA's best record. Houston was 20-2 after 22 games for the best start, a mark Seattle (19-2) can tie with a win against Tulsa (4-18) at 6 p.m. at KeyArena.
"I don't know if I really want to think about that right now," said Willingham. Seattle, which is on a 10-game win streak, clinched its seventh consecutive playoff berth Thursday when Los Angeles lost to Indiana.
The worst the Storm could finish this season is 19-15.
Of course, the Storm will insist that these milestones mean nothing without a championship and indeed until they actually win a title, it might be wise to withhold temptation to compare the Storm to the league's all-time great teams, as described by Storm coach Brian Agler.
Storm Practice Notes: The Good, The Bad, and Making Sense of a 19-2 Dream Season - Swish Appeal
"I just think in reality, you have to stay in reality, you know? We'd like obviously to win as many games as we can, put ourselves in the best position. And I know those are kinds of things that you guys like to talk about and write about, which is obviously nice. But it doesn't really get anything for us -- it doesn't win the first round."
And indeed, just getting to that 20-2 milestone shouldn't be considered a given and neither Agler nor the Storm are complacent with the struggling Shock coming into town.
"Well, what they did last week to San Antonio is a good reason," said Agler of the Shock's 75-70 road win over the San Antonio Silver Stars on July 23rd. "They're a really good shooting team. I think the team and the staff itself is learning a little more about the league and how to play in the league. They played real well at San Antonio and got a win."
Indeed the last three road games provide strong support for the play better on the road theory.
"There's probably a lot of truth to that," said Agler. "I think they get away from everything, you don't have to read and hear things, you're just to yourself -- you're with you and your team. And I think there's some truth to that. I think in general people play better at home, but I think in some cases when teams are going through tough times, it might be best to get away. A lot of times you gain some confidence in that way -- you're forced to play in new things together."
After winning the San Antonio game, the Shock traveled to play the Phoenix Mercury and lost by nine. When the two teams played in Tulsa on Thursday, the Shock were routed 123-91. Similarly, when the Shock played the Los Angeles Sparks at home on July 13, they lost by 16; when the Shock visited L.A., they lost by three in overtime. In other words, there seems to be evidence that the Shock have indeed played better on the road lately, but there's a confounding variable to that as well that makes the Shock a bit of a different team since the Storm last beat the Shock 83-72 on June 27: the acquisition of point guard Ivory Latta.
"They've added Ivory Latta, starts at the point now and she's really playing well for 'em," said Agler. "Gives 'em another shooter besides (Shanna) Crossley."
Overall, even though the Storm have proven themselves to be the class of the league this season, there's still a lot of uncertainty surrounding a game that would otherwise be easy to pencil in as a win.