It's to that point in the WNBA season where the demands of the Seattle Storm's physical style of basketball are starting to take their toll as the San Antonio Silver Stars limp into Seattle for a game tonight at 7 pm PST.
"We're trying to keep the same routine," said Storm coach Brian Agler last Wednesday. "We're getting to the halfway point of the season where we're trying to fight the monotony of the games and the season. You gotta try to find a way to stay motivated to practice and stay motivated to play. The really good teams do that. I hope we're one of those."
Most people around the league would consider the 13-2 Storm a "really good team". However, being good doesn't protect the Storm from a little wear and tear, in addition to point guard Sue Bird being listed as day-to-day with back spasms a week after hyperflexing her knee.
After the Seattle Storm's physical 85-81 victory against the Indiana Fever on Friday, Jayda Evans of the Seattle Times reported that the Storm didn't even celebrate because they were so "battered".
In the Seattle locker room, Sue Bird sat in a chair, icing her left knee. Lauren Jackson slumped at her corner locker. And Swin Cash, who's suffering from a sinus infection, walked around with her eyes half open. Combined, the trio rested just eight minutes; Cash played all the way through the roughest game yet this season.
"Everyone just breathed a sigh of relief," said Jackson, who finished with a team-high 28 points and seven rebounds. "After that game we didn't really feel that great winning atmosphere in here. Everyone is a bit battered, happy we won and very aware how close we were to losing, too."
ESPN's Mechelle Voepel reported on their game in Tulsa on Sunday that the team wasn't feeling a whole lot better.
The official diagnosis for Jackson was that she "felt like crap." Well, that's close enough. She guessed it was food poisoning or some kind of stomach distress … combined with a missed-connection, turbulence-filled trip from Washington state to Oklahoma that got the Storm to their downtown Tulsa hotel around the witching hour Saturday, with an afternoon game Sunday.
Yet as much as the Storm are just trying to struggle through this period in the season, the Silver Stars have considerably more to worry about as they return to Key Arena for a rematch with the top team in the league.
Center Ruth Riley was out for last week's 82-61 loss to the Storm and will remain out for at least a month. Second-year forward Megan Frazee was just released today after learning that she will need knee surgery that will keep her out for an as yet unspecified amount of time. With rosters limited to 11 players, the Silver Stars re-signed forward Crystal Kelly just to fill out the rotation. Given that Silver Stars coach Sandy Brondello said after last week's game that her team got "out hustled and out punched up in all areas of the game", things don't necessarily look more promising for the Silver Stars tonight.
For more on the game -- including a game thread -- see SBN's SwishAppeal.com.