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From King5.com, Seattle Storm fans greeted the team as it arrived at SeaTac Airport last night after 10 p.m. Sue Bird also talks more about her big shot while Swin Cash called the comeback "something that was epic".
Good to find out that Cash was as surprised as we were by the comeback.
Cash thought the fans were unbelievable too.
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.
Nate Parham has broken down the final play of the WNBA Western Conference Finals -- a play that saw Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird hit an unbelievable game-winning three pointer -- and now you can watch it for yourself, courtesy of WNBA.com.
Bird's shot comes right at the one-minute mark.
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.
The Phoenix Mercury might have had a few injury problems.
They might have lackadaisical play from a key contributor.
But the bottom line, according to Seth Pollack of SBN Arizona, is the Mercury and Seattle Storm showed their true colors when the game came down to its final clutch moments.
With about five minutes to play and 13-point Phoenix lead it seemed like a Game 3 in Seattle was all but assured.
What happened next, in retrospect, wasn’t nearly as unexpected as it might seem.
In fact, the Seattle Storm coming back late and the Phoenix Mercury losing their focus was par for the course for both teams proving once again the old adage that who you are in the regular season matters when it comes time for the playoffs.
You are who you are: Mercury = inconsistent. Storm = resilient.
For more on the Mercury perspective, check out the game summary at SBN Arizona.
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:
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.
As anyone who knows anything about Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi might have guessed, not only did her Game One performance not discourage her but she’s also come out on a mission to stave off elimination.
Taurasi had 16 points on 5-for-8 shooting as well as five rebounds and two blocks, showing the kind of versatility from her 2009 MVP season. And while she was taking open shots on occasion, they weren’t exactly easy shots and were the result of solid halfcourt execution from the Mercury. Point guard Temeka Johnson has been a large part of that execution with six assists to go with eight first half points.
For the Storm, the first half was essentially an exercise in trying to catch up with the Mercury’s improved first half execution defensively. The fact that they ended the first half on a 6-0 run is encouraging.
To follow along with the second half action, check the game thread at SBN’s Swish Appeal.
Believe it or not, the Storm can actually make more history today with a win in Phoenix: no team in WNBA history has gone 7-0 against another opponent…and of course Diana Taurasi has never lost a playoff series.
Follow along with the game on the game thread at SBN’s Swish Appeal.
If nothing else, you can expect Game Two of the Western Conference Finals between the Seattle Storm and Phoenix Mercury to be filled with adjustments on both ends.
Of course the most noticeable one will probably will probably be 2010 scoring champion Diana Taurasi, who went 2-for-15 in Game One.
STORM: Insider Preview - Storm at Phoenix (Game 2)
A better performance by Taurasi will go a long ways toward getting the Phoenix offense going. The Mercury scored just 74 points, the team's lowest total in a playoff game in the Gaines/Paul Westhead era, and was limited to 38.0 percent shooting from the field. The Storm has done a good job defensively against Phoenix all season long, but the Mercury's offense will inevitably pick up.
But Taurasi's performance is probably only the beginning of a number of adjustments we can expect in Game Two.
Storm | Storm knows Taurasi's team still dangerous | Seattle Times Newspaper
"We can't let her get into a comfort zone," Storm guard Tanisha Wright said of Taurasi. "But they're a full-packaged team. You don't expect it to just be Diana and that's it. They have Penny, they have Candice, they have Tan (Smith) and they have (DeWanna) Bonner, a sixth woman coming off the bench. We're definitely not just keying in on one person. We're going to play our normal defense and take it from there."
Keys to the game:
When Bonner plays more it shows up on both ends of the floor and if she plays more and has a bigger game it could change the outcome with the Mercury playing at home.
Storm Defense Too Much For Flat Phoenix Team, Seattle Takes 1-0 Series Lead - SB Nation Arizona
The second interesting decision was how little Gaines used his best lineup which consists of DeWanna Bonner on the floor instead of undersized point guard Temeka Johnson. Bonner finished with only 22 minutes compared to 32 for Johnson. DeWanna certainly didn't look as sharp as we've seen her and perhaps she's dealing with an unreported injury or illness.
Ultimately, Game One simply was not the best the WNBA has to offer and well below the standard that either team had set for themselves going into the playoffs, whether that be in terms of the Mercury scoring their fewest post-season points in a decade or Lauren Jackson getting another playoff career-high in rebounds (17) while being held under her normal offensive rebounding percentage.
But that's the past, the Storm are up 1-0 with an opportunity to eliminate the defending champions, and secure a spot in the WNBA Finals.
Whether the Storm win or lose, at the very least we can hope for the type of game that generated so much anticipation about the Series to begin with.
For more on Game One, visit the review at SBN's Swish Appeal.
For more on the series, see SBN Seattle's storystream.
To follow along with the game live, look for a game thread at Swish Appeal about 30 minutes before game time.
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