Someone asked me the other day if I knew before the season began that the Seattle Storm would be this good.
I have no problem admitting that I didn't and to be completely honest I'm not sure anybody -- including the Storm -- expected them to be this good either. "This good" meaning "handing out epic beat downs with some measure of regularity".
There are at least three reasons for the Storm's success this season: first, the fact that they returned their entire core (and coach) while other teams either made major moves and had players coming in late from "off-season" play overseas was a huge advantage. Second, although neither will get strong consideration for Sixth Woman of the Year, both Svetlana Abrosimova and Le'coe Willingham have been huge for the Storm off the bench, both giving the team a Spark on more than one occasion and providing Agler with some regular options to look to on the bench. The obvious third factor is that center Lauren Jackson stayed healthy.
In any event, the Storm stand one win away from tying the record for most wins by any team in the history of the WNBA, a record currently held by the 2000 and 2001 Los Angeles Sparks.
STORM: Insider Preview - Storm vs. Los Angeles
With last night's victory, the Storm has a chance the make some league history with a win tonight. A victory would be the Storm's 28th of the season, tying the most wins by any WNBA team. The Sparks will be defending their own record. In both 2000 and 2001, Los Angeles went 28-4. With the retirement of Lisa Leslie, Milton-Jones is the only player left from those Sparks teams. In 2001, L.A. also set a record by finishing the season undefeated at home. A Storm win would match that accomplishment and actually do it one better. The Sparks went 16-0 at the Staples Center, while the Storm has a chance to finish 17-0 at KeyArena during the regular season thanks to the extended schedule.
It's an impressive feat and the fact that they have the opportunity to accomplish it against the Sparks with fans yelling "Beat-L-A" -- which might just be the best chant in all of sports -- as they also seek to go undefeated at home should make it a fun environment for fans.
For the Sparks, there are still playoff implications for this game. The bottom half of the Western Conference playoff picture is still far from clear and the Sparks could end up being the Storm's first round opponent when the playoffs begin next week. So although continuing to rest starters with an irregular rotation might make sense for the Storm, coach Brian Agler might see this as a good tune-up for the playoffs against a potential opponent and use the type of rotation he would normally use in a playoff series. With Agler and multiple players having said that the undefeated home record is something they take pride in, one would expect them to play to win...especially on Fan Appreciation Night.
The first 3,000 fans at the game will receive a free "I am home court advantage" shirt to honor the fans that create the home court advantage.
If you haven't followed the Storm closely, tonight's game -- potentially a celebration of a historic season -- could be a good time to start.