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For those of you that haven't followed closely, Seattle Storm coach Brian Agler has been reluctant to say directly that he would rest starters even in early season blowout situations.
However, with last night's blowout of the Tulsa Shock, wins and losses are essentially meaningless from this point on and Agler is finally looking to get his starters some rest.
Statistical summary of a historic rout: Storm put their foot on the gas...for 20 minutes - Swish Appeal
An opportunity for rest and development Although the Storm are still focused on refining their game as they move toward the playoffs, handling business last night and moving closer to locking up home court advantage throughout the playoffs means the Storm can finally start redistributing some of the minutes to rest their star players and avoid risking injury.
"This is going to be a good trip for the Janas and the Ashleys and the Abbys and the Allisons because they're going to get extended minutes in the second half," said Agler. "What I hope doesn't suffer is some of our starters that could be getting some awards at the end of the year that people look at this stretch of games and punish them for that. But we also want to get everybody to the starting gate of the playoffs and one way to keep them fresh is cut their minutes down. But we want them to stay sharp too so I don't know how much we'll just set people completely out."
Although his strategy isn't yet set in stone, he's thinking about playing the first half as a normal game and then adjust some minutes in the second half. With wins and losses having so little bearing on their post-season, they can also focus on the development of their younger players.
"The two goals are to stay sharp and to be fresh going into the playoffs," said Agler. "And I can't tell you we'll play exactly like that when we play at home -- I think there's a pride here in playing at home. So we may not do that once we get back here. But this is a good 8 or 9 days where we can hopefully help ourselves in those areas."
For Seattle fans, the best part of this is that home games might not be less competitive as the Storm look to continue taking pride in protecting their undefeated (15-0) home record.
The Storm's next home game is on August 17th at 7pm PST against the Minnesota Lynx, but more importantly there are playoff tickets available for the first round. Personally, I'd recommend getting one of those while they're available because Storm games have a tendency to sell out.
Not that any coach expects to lose by close to 50 points, but Tulsa Shock coach Nolan Richardson was certainly aware that he had a challenge ahead of him in facing the Seattle Storm at KeyArena tonight.
“Back to backs — that’s murder,” said Richardson prior to the game after lamenting a 77-70 loss on Friday night against the Los Angeles Sparks at the Staples Center. “Anytime you play your hearts out and you have a chance of winning a game, then you have nothing left. You’re hoping that you have a little bit left because of the way we play.”
The standard challenge of playing back-to-back road games was only compounded by the Storm holding the Shock without an offensive rebound in the first quarter and then getting into the bonus with 5:34 left in the second quarter. Ahead by 33 by halftime, the Storm cruised a record 111-65 margin of victory against a weary and generally overwhelmed Shock team.
“This is the widest margin of victory in the league — that shocked me,” said Storm coach Brian Agler. “I didn’t think that and we weren’t trying to go there. We were just trying to play and they were pressing and we were trying to attack. That’s about the extent of it.”
However, while Agler and Storm players attributed the historic margin of victory to coming out intense and ready to play, no team mounts a 33 point halftime lead simply by “just trying to play.” The Storm crushed the Shock on the offensive glass 10-1 in the first half, had more offensive rebounds than the Shock had total rebounds for the game, and ended up setting a new WNBA record for rebounds with 57 while the Shock had a much more pedestrian 21.
“We just wanted to be aggressive tonight,” said guard Tanisha Wright. “Set the mode, be aggressive, make a statement.”
Yet as much as the Storm’s historic margin of victory was the result of outworking an overworked Shock team -- perhaps as retribution for a loss in Tulsa on Tuesday -- the league’s best team also made a statement by playing some of the most beautiful basketball one could imagine in mounting that huge first half lead.
Already up by 27 with under five minutes left in the second quarter, the Storm showed the type of execution that has made them the best team in the league. However, rather than relying on point guard Sue Bird to facilitate a fluid offense, the Storm used a combination of sharp cuts off the ball and beautifully timed passes to take advantage of gaps in the Shock’s defense all over the court.
“I enjoyed it — I really thought Svetlana really had a great game,” said Agler when asked about the Storm’s ball movement and referring to Storm guard Svetlana Abrosimova’s team-high 20 points and 8 assists. “And Le’coe even though statistically didn’t have big numbers, she really played well tonight…And the one intangible that you’re getting me to talk about is that she sees the floor — she finds other people and it makes everybody better that way.”
Coming down the court with a little more than four minutes left in the second quarter, Abrosimova was unable to find a passing lane to a wide-open Ashley Robinson under the basket on the right block but patiently initiated the offense. Meanwhile in the opposite corner, forward Swin Cash caught her defender sleeping and made a backcut moments later to get herself open for a pinpoint pass from Abrosimova for an easy layup.
With just under two minutes left, Cash missed a 3-point shot, but Willingham got the offensive rebound on the right block and, without flinching at the oncoming trap, found Abrosimova cutting to the free throw lane for an easy mid-range jumper. Yes, it was “that kind of night”, so to speak, but when at team is working together in that fashion — staying in motion, maintaining awareness of teammates, and filling gaps — it’s difficult to stop them.
While more preparation might have helped the Shock to a closer margin than 46 points, at the same time when the Storm are playing the way they did tonight they’re going to be difficult to stop. Ultimately, they showed why they are a game away from clinching the best record in the league and 15-0 at home, also one game short of a league record.
“Well, we played the best team and they just spanked us,” said Richardson after the game. “It was the worst spanking we’ve had to tell you the truth. Coming away from L.A., playing as hard as we could there, then getting on a plane at 4:30 in the morning and playing again against the best team – nothing good happens usually when you do that. (Seattle) played excellent basketball – shot the ball well, rebounded exceptionally well and did everything they had to do to beat us the way they did.”
Back to back games are hard enough without having to beat a team that has won 14 straight games.
Against a fatigued Tulsa Shock squad, the Seattle Storm cruised to a 111-65 victory tonight at Key Arena, breaking the WNBA record for margin of victory, but more importantly moving one game closer to securing home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Storm guard Svetlana Abrosimova scored 20 points and had 8 assists in a game that was pretty much decided at halftime with the Storm up 33 points. Forward Swin Cash was big in the first half with characteristically aggressive play and finishing with 18 points and 7 rebounds on 8-10 shooting.
The Storm got out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter and finished the quarter ahead 28-9 holding the Shock without an offensive rebound. Offensive rebounding ended up being the difference in the big halftime spread with beating the Shock on the offensive glass 10-1 in the first 20 minutes.
With the win, the Storm advance to 24-4 and got some rest for their starters while the Shock fall to 5-24.
To review a moment-by-moment account of the blowout, see the game thread at SBN's Swish Appeal.
Two games away from clinching the WNBA's best record and home court advantage throughout the playoffs, here's something else for Seattle Storm fans to chew on: the sooner they clinch home court, the sooner coach Brian Agler might "adjust their minutes" a bit.
Or, in fan speak, he might actually start giving the starters more of a rest after they make absolutely sure that no tie-breaker scenario will put their coveted home court advantage in jeopardy.
On Clinching the WNBA’s Best Record " StormTracker - The Official Blog of the Seattle Storm
There’s been some confusion lately over whether the Storm has a chance to clinch the best record in the WNBA and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs with a win tonight. The league has told us that the Storm’s magic number is officially two because, though one more win would guarantee the Storm no worse than a tie for the league’s best record, there is still the possibility the Storm would lose said tie.
So although the team appears to have little to play for with the 5-22 Shock coming into town, fans interested in seeing their regulars get a break might have something to root for.
That's just more reason not to overlook the Shock who return to KeyArena tonight after beating the Storm 84-75 in Tulsa on Tuesday. It was a special game for Tulsa, who not only got a much needed win, but also for Tulsa Shock coach Nolan Richardson.
Tulsa's Tuesday Win About More Than Basketball for Coach Richardson - Swish Appeal
After the game Nolan Richardson shared a story with his players that for many might just be reserved for family, but this team is growing into an arm of his extended family. August 3rd is not just some hot summer day in the mind of the Tulsa head coach, but rather a day of reflection and memorial for Yvonne Richardson.
"It was an emotional game for me simply because as I told my girls - not before the game, but after the game - that I really appreciate because it was something wonderful for me to be coaching the women and have lost a daughter that loved the game so much 23 years ago."
A story that many might not associate with the on-court winning of Nolan Richardson is the off-court struggle of loss he and his family had to face just when his coaching career was taking off to new heights. Yvonne had recently been diagnosed with leukemia and was being treated for the deadly disease in Tulsa just as Arkansas came knocking at his door to lure him to the SEC and lead the Razorbacks to an eventual national championship.
Even after a loss last night in Los Angeles, it's likely that the Shock have Agler's attention.
Preview: Tulsa improving as a team and as individuals - Swish Appeal
"I'm a true believer in this – I think Tulsa's a much better team than what their record shows," said Storm coach Brian Agler after the Storm's 84-75 loss in Tulsa on Tuesday. "I don't know that we're head and shoulders above everybody else in this league like our record sort of shows. I think it's a little bit closer than the gap might indicate."
The big problem for the Storm in Tuesday night's game was the Shock's ability to force turnovers -- the Storm set a season-high in Tulsa. While their one turnover 4th quarter on Thursday night against the Connecticut Sun would seem to suggest that they've kicked that problem, the sloppy performance has to weigh on their minds.
STORM: Insider Preview - Storm vs. Tulsa
A big reason the Storm was unable to come back was that the team continued to hamper its own cause with turnovers. When the Storm turned the ball over 25 times against Tulsa's pressure on June 27, it was understandable because the team was playing largely without star point guard Sue Bird, who left the game after less than two minutes because of a sore lower back. This time around, Bird took care of the ball reasonably well (four turnovers in 38 minutes) but the Storm still combined for a season-high 26 miscues, two shy of the franchise record.
In a more comfortable home win over the Shock, the Storm was able to take care of the basketball well enough to succeed, committing 18 turnovers--just 11 of them in the first three quarters before Head Coach Brian Agler went deep into his bench with the game in control.
So although the Storm are comfortably in first in the Western Conference and will likely secure home court throughout the playoffs shortly, it's games like Tuesday's in Tulsa that the Storm are looking to correct.
Storm | Storm celebrates Jackson's decade | Seattle Times Newspaper
The Storm wants to sharpen its defense and build more chemistry with the reserves before the postseason while remaining healthy. Jackson, a 6-foot-5 forward, missed the past two playoffs due to ankle surgery (2008) and two stress fractures in her lower back (2009).
"Lots of things happen during the course of the season," Jackson said recently, never caring about the 13-game winning streak or being undefeated in 14 games at KeyArena. " ... This season just feels a little more complete than we've had in a while. We're a lot deeper, and there's a very positive feeling."