The first two first round games between the Phoenix Mercury and Seattle Storm have been so unpredictable that the only thing to be said for certain is that tonight's game should be exciting: the winner will go on to the Western Conference Finals, the loser will go into the off-season wondering what happened.
But what, if anything, can be taken from those first two games?
Well, put simply, it's all about defense. But a few more specific suggestions about what might determine the final outcome:
Three keys for the Seattle Storm:
- Rebounding: As noted previously in this storystream, the Mercury had one of their best defensive games of the season against the Storm on Saturday night. A large part of that was the way they flipped the rebounding margin from Game 1. The odds of that happening again are low, but the Storm simply got outworked in the paint and that can't happen again if they want to move on.
- Limiting Mercury point guard Temeka Johnson: You can't really stop what the versatile DeWanna Bonner does, Diana Taurasi is so good that she'll burn you for 28 in a half if she gets hot regardless of what you do, and Candice Dupree has had a number of good games against the Storm because of her ability to run the floor and score in transition. But the Storm simply cannot allow Johnson to so easily distribute the ball to all the Mercury's weapons. Johnson had nine assists to two turnovers in Game 2 and only three assists to two turnovers in Game 1. Johnson is in some ways the X-factor for the Mercury and making things hard on her is something much easier to control than the other factors.
- Establish Lauren Jackson in the post: When Jackson is a threat in the post, opposing defenses have to focus more attention - double to triple teams - on her which leaves other players open. In Game 1, Jackson didn't have a major impact in the final boxscore, but Camille Little killed the Mercury in the post. Against the Mercury on Saturday night, Jackson didn't hit a field goal inside the 3-point line and the Mercury effectively shut down the paint with effective rotations. A pattern for the Storm this season is to go away from the post and resort to jumpers when they encounter resistance. They can beat the Mercury without Jackson at all, but the bigger point is to remain persistent about going inside even if the Mercury come with the same defensive intensity.