PHOENIX - SEPTEMBER 05: Swin Cash #2 and Sue Bird #10 of the Seattle Storm celebrate after defeating the Phoenix Mercury in Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 WNBA Playoffs at US Airways Center on September 5 2010 in Phoenix Arizona. The Storms defeated the Mercury 91-88 to win the series 2-0. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and or using this photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Storm Headed To The WNBA Finals With Amazing Win In Phoenix

The Seattle Storm await their opponent in the WNBA Finals.

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Beyond Bird's Shot: How Did The Storm Come Back To Eliminate The Mercury?

After Game One, all the attention was focused on Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi’s 2-for-15 shooting struggles, but as some observers noted Seattle Storm All-Star forward Swin Cash had an equally difficult game going 1-for-8. Neither one of the former UConn stars played well in the opener of the Western Conference Finals and both bounced back in Game Two.

But just as Cash is sometimes seen as a third wheel on the Storm behind Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, Taurasi’s first game struggles were considered to be the focal point of Game Two.

In the end, it was Cash — who might have been obscured again by Bird and Taurasi while remaining one of the league’s fiercest competitors — who quietly went about her business of earning the largest chunk of credit for the Storm’s victory.

Storm statistical MVP: Swin Cash

Cash’s performance against the Mercury yesterday is actually something Storm fans have seen on multiple occasions — she has a knack for stepping up in big moments when the team is down and not just willing them to victory, but helping to get them refocused.

But aside from her true shooting percentage of 66.39 percent yesterday, what was most impressive about Cash was her rebounding — she had four of her five offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter and finished with an outstanding offensive rebounding percentage of 24.63 percent. It’s not intense focus or dominant skill alone that drives the Storm, but the attention to the details of basketball across the roster that drive the Storm. Cash’s efficient scoring and gritty board work probably had the greatest impact on the game as a whole.

Storm key contributor: Sue Bird

Of course, Cash’s outstanding play during the Storm’s comeback was overshadowed by Bird’s game-winning shot for obvious reasons. But Bird did plenty before that big moment to help lead the team back to within striking distance as well. After going 1-for-8 in the first half, Bird quickly ended the drought by hitting a jumper early in the third quarter and then proceeded to go 4-for-6 in the second half. Although Bird only finished with a true shooting percentage of 50.76 percent after struggling to get going in the first half, you should know by now that scoring is not Bird’s only impact on the team even in her biggest moments.

Bird had an assist ratio of 32.31 percent and a turnover percentage of 4.03 percent which contributed to an excellent pure point rating of 11.71. But more impressive was Bird’s play on the interior and not just her outstanding defensive play on Temeka Johnson at the end of the game that maintained the tie and set up her big shot. Bird had a defensive rebounding percentage of 16.38 percent, which suffice it to say is way above normal. But the most striking thing about it was the tenacity with which she went and got those boards — these weren’t the types of long rebounds that point guards normally get while heading up the court in transition but rather tenacious rebounds where she got the position and aggressively attacked the boards. Uncharacteristic for Bird, but not necessarily unexpected for a competitor who wanted to win the game.

Key statistic: offensive rebounding

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the Storm’s rebounding that was the biggest statistical factor in keeping the Storm in the game and particularly in the fourth quarter. As can be expected from the Storm, the rebounds came from across the board with Cash leading the way but everyone except Bird and Tanisha Wright with an offensive rebounding percentage above 11 percent. When a team can hit the glass that hard it’s not only the resulting second chance points that help, but the fact that they wear the opponent down and force them to play extra seconds in the halfcourt. The Storm beat the Mercury on the offensive boards 50 percent to 10 percent in the fourth quarter and it becomes rather difficult for the Mercury to run when the Storm rebound that well, start hitting shots (they had an effective field goal percentage of 61.11 percent in the fourth), and get to the line at a high rate (44.44 percent free throw rate). When the Mercury are taking the ball out of their own basket more often as well as having to contend with the Storm defensively on extended possessions, it becomes much more difficult to find the transition opportunities that helped them build their lead.

Mercury statistical MVP: Diana Taurasi

Of course, it’s not exactly like the Taurasi just stopped playing as the Storm seemed to get more focused in the fourth quarter. She finished with 28 points with the last points coming on that ridiculous three point shot near the three minute mark and shot 7-for-11 from the three point line which led to a true shooting percentage of 83.53 percent. She couldn’t have expected to be much more efficient as a scorer, especially considering the number of contested shots she took. Sometimes they fall, sometimes they don’t, and yesterday they did. Sometimes she commits more turnovers than people might like (she had a rather high turnover percentage as well yesterday). But that’s just something a team lives with with a player like Taurasi.

But in a game shaped by the Storm’s rebounding, it’s also worth noting that Taurasi also had a game-high defensive rebounding percentage of 23.76 percent, especially crucial against a team like the Storm. Unfortunately it just wasn’t enough to beat an extremely resilient Storm team.

For more on the Storm's resilience against the Mercury, visit SBN's Swish Appeal.

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How Was Sue Bird Left Open For Her Game Winning Shot? (Detailed Breakdown With Pictures)

The legend of Sue Bird’s game-winning 3-point shot that sent the Seattle Storm to the WNBA Finals this afternoon has already started to grow.

“Sue Bird” was a trending topic on Twitter shortly after the game. Someone asked if it’s the biggest shot in WNBA history, given the increased media attention to the game and hype around the Storm and the series (although New York Liberty fans would likely object to any suggestion of something like that). Seth Kolloen of the SunBreak wondered on Twitter where the comeback that the shot capped fits among Seattle’s all-time great professional sports comebacks.

Last, but certainly not least: Are Storm fans ready to call this “The Shot” on par with, not a replacement for, “The Play” from last year’s playoffs?

Perhaps some of those things will be sorted out with time, but for now the question on the minds of Mercury fans is, “How did Sue Bird get open for that shot?”

Drawing upon the brief breakdown posted here earlier, Seth Pollack of SB Nation Arizona and Swish Appeal provided a detailed frame-by-frame breakdown of Bird’s shot with screenshots and the following description of what happened from the Mercury point of view:

The fact that Bonner can close that much distance and still alter the shot says a lot about DeWanna’s ability as a defensive player. The fact the Sue Bird hit the shot says a lot about what a cold-blooded assassin she is.

“We were in an all-out switch which we’ve been doing all year. I have no clue how she got open. Obviously, we didn’t switch and she’s probably the last person you want to leave open. She hit a big shot,” Taurasi said about the play after the game.

To relive the shot (proper noun or not) moment-by-moment, check out the full breakdown on Swish Appeal.

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Breakdown Of Sue Bird's Western-Conference-Finals-Winning Shot

A brief breakdown of the game-winning play by Sue Bird and Tanisha Wright that gave the Seattle Storm a 91-88 lead over the Phoneix Mercury with 2.8 seconds left:

  • Tanisha Wright gets the ball off the inbounds play with 23.7 left and holds it at the top of the key setting up for a last shot.
  • Bird starts in the left corner and jogs along the baseline to the right corner to overload the right side of the court.
  • DeWanna Bonner is guarding Bird but shading way off her standing at the right block while Bird is standing still in the corner with her hands on her knees. Bonner is presumably standing in help position in case Wright drives.
  • Camille Little sets an on ball screen for Wright at about seven seconds left.
  • Wright dribbles toward right wing off the screen as Lauren Jackson sets a down screen on Bonner who is way out of position to get around it cleanly to find Bird.on the right wing.
  • Instead of switching on the screen, Tangela Smith follows Jackson while Bonner fights around it to stick with Bird.
  • Bonner did get out to contest the shot, but only after Bird had already set her feet.
  • Bird hits a contested three — and considering 6'4" Bonner’s length flying at her, by no means an easy one — and the Storm are headed to the WNBA Finals.
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Storm Win In Fittingly Dramatic Fashion To Advance To The Finals

After the kind of season the Seattle Storm have had, nothing should be considered outside the realm of possibility.

Even Sue Bird rebounding from an abysmal first half shooting performance to nail a game-winning three-pointer with 2.8 seconds to lift the Storm to a 91-88 win over the Phoenix Mercury in Game Two of the Western Conference Finals.

With Diana Taurasi scoring 28 points on 9-15 shooting after a dismal performance in Game One, the Storm down as many as 17 points in the third quarter, and 2010 MVP Lauren Jackson out with foul trouble for much of the third quarter, there was almost a feeling of resignation to a decisive Game Three back in Seattle.

But you know the Storm — this is a team that faced 19 fourth quarter deficits during the regular season and won 13. A team known for beating teams with their poise down the stretch rather than simply overwhelming them with talent. And a team that not only has the best player in the world at point guard and center, but the 2010 WNBA Coach of the Year.

The Storm are a team built for big moments and in the biggest moment of their season thus far, one of their biggest stars came through for them even in a game that they very easily could have — and perhaps should have — lost.

Bird finished with 16 points on 5-for-14 shooting and eight assists while forward Swin Cash also rebounded from a difficult Game One with a game-high 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting with eight rebounds. Jackson finished with 20 points and eight rebounds despite her foul trouble.

Aside from Taurasi, Mercury point guard Temeka Johnson finished with playoff career-highs in points and assists with 15 points and 12 assists. The Mercury’s outstanding execution that helped them build their 17 point lead has to at least partially attributed to Johnson’s ability to penetrate and identify shooters as much as it was about Taurasi hitting shots.

With the Eastern Conference Finals not even starting until later tonight, the Storm will have a long rest before finally getting a chance to do the thing they’ve been focused on all year: winning a WNBA championship.

For more on the game, visit SBN Arizona and SBN’s Swish Appeal.

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