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.