Prior to their 86-72 loss to the Seattle Storm on June 29th, San Antonio Silver Stars coach Sandy Brondello was already at a loss as to how to stop her friend and former teammate Lauren Jackson.
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"We just hope she has a bad night," said Brondello, ignoring Jackson's protestations. "But we'll try and throw some different looks at her and see how she comes up."
Of course, Jackson ended up going for 31 points on 11-20 shooting and 15 rebounds in 32 minutes at KeyArena. And that was just one of many outstanding performances in a season that has included tying her personal record for Player of the Week awards with a fifth this past week as well as winning Player of the Month awards for both May and June.
So since hoping for a bad night doesn't seem to be the answer for stopping Lauren Jackson and the Seattle Storm, maybe hoping for a bad morning on the road will work a little better.
The Storm will conclude a grueling stretch of playing 5 of 7 games on the road with a 9:30 am tip-off in San Antonio against the Silver Stars this morning, their earliest game of the season. Of course, all that's meant by "grueling" is a lot of travel -- since losing to the Indiana Fever at Conseco Fieldhouse on June 17th the Storm haven't lost a game, already defeating the Silver Stars twice in Seattle. With a win tomorrow, the Storm would not only finish off the season series with the Silver Stars at 4-0, but win their 10th consecutive game and extending a franchise record.
Coach Brian Agler and the Storm are never ones to get cocky so although they blew out the Silver Stars 84-56 in their last trip to San Antonio, getting that 10th victory is certainly not a given. As much as the Silver Stars have improved since that early point in the season, the bigger issue is that they've been one of the most inconsistent teams this season.
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So far during the 2010 season, the San Antonio Silver Stars have been one of the WNBA's most unpredictable teams. That's certainly been true over the last two weeks. The Silver Stars picked up one of their best wins of the season on July 6, beating Connecticut in front of a national TV audience. San Antonio followed that up with back-to-back losses by 20-plus points, then lost at home to Tulsa on Friday. The Silver Stars then bounced back to beat Los Angeles in a crucial Western Conference matchup.
One aspect of that inconsistency for San Antonio has been this: When the Silver Stars struggle, they really struggle. Five of their 12 losses have come by 20-plus points, which has sunk San Antonio's point differential.
Some ups and downs were certainly to be expected with the Silver Stars making a change on the sidelines as well as bringing in two new starters. Sandy Brondello, a long-time assistant coach, got the chance to move up when veteran Dan Hughes decided to concentrate on his duties as general manager.
However, although a number of changes could help explain the Silver Stars' struggles, another key factor is the play of All-Star Becky Hammon, who is actually putting up some nice numbers.
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On the other end, Becky Hammon has averaged 13.7 points per game, while Chamique Holdsclaw has averaged 12 points.
On the season, Sophia Young has been the leading scorer for San Antonio, with 14.9 points per game. She also averages 5.4 rebounds.
Starting at point guard, Hammon is tied with Minnesota's Lindsay Whalen for second in assists in the WNBA with 5.2 per game. Hammon also averages 14.3 points and 3.2 turnovers.
While the numbers are somewhat impressive relative to the league, it's also interesting that Hammon -- and Whalen for that matter -- are arguably having down years, perhaps only exemplifying the troublesome nature of assists as a measure of point guard quality. The Silver Stars are known for their outstanding ball movement and the team's assist to field goals ratio is down this year in addition to Hammon's turnover percentage as the primary ball handler rising to 15%. After being arguably the best point guard in the league last year, Hammon's down year could be considered one major factor in the Silver Stars' struggles.
On the bright side for the Silver Stars is the play of center Michelle Snow, who is having a strong season with the strongest field goal percentage of her career at 56.6%. It is likely that she will be one of a few players tomorrow morning to get a chance at stopping Jackson.