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Down 16 points at halftime, the San Antonio Silver Stars began the second half with five consecutive turnovers.
The Seattle Storm took advantage with a 10-2 run to start the second half with a commanding 24 point lead.
"On the road we've had some lulls at the beginning of the second half and not playing up to our standards so we really wanted to focus on it and make sure we came out with a lot of energy," said Storm forward Swin Cash.
From that point on, the Storm just maintained the advantage and coasted to a 73-55 win without much threat.
And aside from getting a win going into the All-Star break, what made this game most impressive for the Storm was that they got strong performances from across the roster.
"We kind of let them do whatever they wanted to do tonight," said Silver Stars guard Becky Hammon, who finished with 11 points and five turnover. "We also let them push us out of our spots, move us and that's who they are."
Tanisha Wright led the way for the Storm with a game-high 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting and tying a game-high with three steals. While Wright was aggressive driving and getting to the rim, Cash found her touch from 3-point range and scored 15 points, including a career-high tying 4-for-6 3-point shooting and tying a game-high with nine rebounds.
And although point guard Sue Bird didn't have an outstanding scoring game, she had a game-high seven assists and exploited whatever passing lanes the Silver Stars defense gave up to set up players cutting to the basket for layups. The Storm's bench stepped up to match San Antonio's potent bench with 23 points.
It wasn't necessarily the Storm's best game overall, but through three quarters, at least, their offense remained fluid, they dominated a poor rebounding Silver Stars team on the boards, and they won the turnover battle. And a lot of that began with their defense.
'I thought they were extremely tough-minded defensively and physical," said Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes. "They really congested the paint."
With the paint congested, the game pretty went the opposite direction of the two teams' meeting last Thursday.
The Storm out-rebounded the Silver Stars 37-26 and nobody on the Silver Stars had more than three rebounds. Struggling to establish themselves in the paint, the Silver Stars retreated to the perimeter but weren't much more successful there. San Antonio shot just 27.1 percent from the field during the game, a season-low for Storm opponents.
With nothing falling for them, the Silver Stars clearly got impatient. Beginning with those five turnovers early in the second half, the Silver Stars turned the ball over 11 times in the second half.
A lot of that combined defensive effort began with the Storm's ability to contain All-Star guard Becky Hammon and prevent her from driving into the lane and finding shooters.
"We came out and did a good job of limiting Becky (Hammon) and Sophia (Young) kind of plays off of her and that limited that and forced other players to beat us," said Wright.
All-Stars Hammon and rookie forward Danielle Adams were held in check throughout the game, combining to score 12 points with Adams only scoring one. Sophia Young led the Silver Stars with 12 points on 4-for-13 and was rendered almost irrelevant in the second half.
"This is one of the most physical teams in the league, if not the most physical," said Hammon. "We just didn't handle it very well. It was one of those nights where everything went wrong. They're a good team and were a bit hungrier than we were tonight."
What the Storm can take from this game is that once they're focused defensively, they can beat just about anyone in the league. Of course, we already knew that.
But going into the All-Star break, a well-rounded effort like this one is an encouraging sign as the Storm fight to improve their standing in the Western Conference.
"That's the kind of basketball we want to play, right there," said Wright. "I don't know any way else to put it: that's the kind of basketball we want to play, we need to play to be successful."
The easiest way to explain the Seattle Storm's 38-22 first half lead against the San Antonio Silver Stars tonight is simply saying that they're hard to beat in KeyArena.
But the highlight of their first half performance is unquestionably their defense.
The Storm held the Silver Stars to 2-for-15 shooting in the first half All-Star rookie forward Danielle Adams to one point and perrennial All-Star Becky Hammon to three points. As evidenced by the Silver Stars' 15 shots in the second quarter, it's not that the Storm are even forcing a lot of turnovers, but they're just aggressively contesting shots all over the court.
And after a slow start offensively, the Storm found some rhythm of their own in the second quarter as well.
Camille Little has finally found her touch this season, scoring eight points while Swin Cash has seven points and seven rebounds. The Storm's struggles off the bench have also subsided with seven points from Le'coe Willingham.
Sophia Young leads the Silver Stars with 11 points.
Not surprisingly, the keys for the Seattle Storm against the San Antonio Silver Stars are pretty much exactly the same as they were a week ago.
However, Kevin Pelton of StormBasketball.com reinforced one of the major keys for the game with his summary of the Storm's 69-66 loss to the Silver Stars last Thursday.
In Head Coach Dan Hughes' style, San Antonio forces relatively few turnovers, putting pressure on the defense to force misses and complete the stop with a defensive rebound. The Storm's sloppy play in the first half last Thursday allowed the Silver Stars to add steals to the mix, which produced both empty possessions for the Storm and transition buckets for San Antonio. When the Storm got the turnovers relatively under control in the second half, the team was able to take control of the game.
That pretty much summarizes the most significant factor in that last game and a general key for the Storm this season.
Three keys for the Seattle Storm:
For more on the game, visit Pelton's preview at StormBasketball.com.
The silver lining of the Seattle Storm's three-game road losing streak is that there have been signs of improvement in key areas.
Guard Katie Smith is slowly finding her shooting touch, reserve center Ashley Robinson turned in a career-best performance in Chicago, and guard Tanisha Wright is playing some of her best basketball of the season despite a poor performance in Chicago.
More concretely, they haven't fallen out of the top four in the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Sparks struggling through a coaching change after losing Candace Parker.
That's an admittedly optimistic take on a team that is falling well short of pre-season expectations - just taking the performances of those three players alone is also evidence that they still haven't yet entirely come together as a whole but they've made steps in the right direction. But the positive spin is also reason for hope that they can stay close enough in the Western Conference standings to have a shot, however unlikely, of getting favorable playoff seeding.
Today, the Storm host the San Antonio Silver Stars (9-4) in what could be considered something of a basketball litmus test for just how far they have come as a team and perhaps how far they have to go. The Silver Stars are currently half a game out of first place behind the Phoenix Mercury and already beat the Storm in a close 69-66 contest in San Antonio exactly a week ago.
Although it's certainly tempting to highlight All-Stars Danielle Adams and Becky Hammon when looking at the Silver Stars' somewhat surprising rise to the top of the conference this season, forward Sophia Young is also one of the biggest All-Star snubs this year. Young is among the top 15 in points (15.6 per game), rebounds (7.1), and steals (1.7) and remains among the most athletic forwards in the league.
Yet the Silver Stars' strength hardly lies in their star power alone - they're easily one of the most balanced teams in the league. They have the highest scoring bench in the league, getting just under 40 points a game from them. And their overall bench production should improve, particularly as they get even more consistent contributions from second-year Stanford alum Jayne Appel as their reserve center.
The Silver Stars have depth that makes them a formidable opponent tonight even if the Storm still have an advantage at KeyArena, where they've only lost once since losing to the Los Angeles Sparks in the 2009 WNBA playoffs.
And so the game is important not because it will make or break their playoff chances, but because it would add substance to that fuzzy, optimistic silver lining that one might be able to glean from their road trip.