As exciting as the Seattle Storm's 79-66 win over the Los Angeles Sparks on Wednesday might have been to fans who witnessed their first victorious playoff opener since 2006, Seattle PI writer Todd Dybas described it as having a "sandpaper consistency".
Storm coach Brian Agler doesn't seem to mind that rough aesthetic in the playoffs.
"If you came into KeyArena last night for the first time, you're going to be impressed in terms of the fans and the intensity of play," said Agler after practice yesterday. "You know, we shot the ball well at times. But playoff games are going to be ugly -- you scout each other so much, you know each other's tendencies so well, that you sort of muddy up the waters for your opponents, make it difficult. So for somebody that liked watching us play early in the year, they're not going to see a lot of consistent just up and down smooth play. And in all honesty, we like our defensive end to be muddy -- we like to clutter things up down there. So the main thing is for us is to get stops and play a little bit out of transition and if we don't get that we have to execute."
As ugly as the game might have been to some, as the Storm continue their quest for a title in Los Angeles their playoff opener was a good sign in that they were able to pull out another gritty contest against the Sparks but also because they demonstrated how quickly they can put a team away.
"To be honest with you, from my perspective you never want to peak as soon as you come into the playoffs and I thought tonight we missed some free throws, shots we normally would make, turnovers, things we can improve on," said Cash after the game on Wednesday. "So to me we're not peaking right now, but we're in the best possible place, where we need to be. As long as our players keep getting a rhythm and getting better game-by-game, I like our chances."
It either sounds weird or scary to hear the Storm talk about getting better -- they shot 56.1% from the field, kept the Sparks off the offensive boards, and probably could have turned the ball over less, but had 5 of their 13 in the second quarter which means they did well overall. But making adjustments between games is the focus.
For game two, it's difficult to imagine the Sparks coming out and shooting that poorly again while the Storm shoot 60% from the field through three quarters. But it's also difficult to imagine keep the Storm -- the league's best rebounding team by percentage this season -- off the offensive boards for a second consecutive game.
And if there's anything the Storm demonstrated this season, it's that they're both resilient and able to adjust to the style of play of just about any team in the league. As point guard Sue Bird said in her diary on USA Today, the team has worked hard to get to this point and as veterans they know what it means for each player to fulfill their given role on the team.
Diary: Sue Bird, Storm bracing for Game 2 against Sparks - USATODAY.com
We're expecting a battle when we get to L.A. The first game was rough. I expect we're going to be spending a lot of time in the film room, making adjustments. But at this point in the season, I truly feel as though our team has put in most of its work. Now, winning is all about getting rest and treatment and preparing mentally. Personally, I have to focus on controlling the game and the tempo; on deciding when to push the opponents and when to make certain calls.
More reactions to the first game and prep for tomorrow's game:
Why the Storm call Jana Vesela "Dirk" and other playoff notes - Swish Appeal
Seattle Storm forward Jana Vesela might have surprised the Los Angeles Sparks on Wednesday, but she didn't necessarily surprise her teammates.
After Tuesday's practice, Veselá and teammates joined color analyst Adia Barnes on a cruise to Tillicum Village on Blake Island in Puget Sound. Celeste Keaton, the partner of Lisa Brummel from Force 10 Hoops L.L.C., led the group and encouraged the players to get in touch with their surroundings.
"We walked around there and enjoyed the nature," recalled Veselá. "Celeste saw a tree and said, 'Let's hug it.' We were taking the energy from it, so we hugged it. That's our secret."