Although the Seattle Storm (25-6) have rested their starters on the road, we shouldn't necessarily expect the league's best team to set aside winning for rest at home two games away from being undefeated.
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After approaching last week's East Coast road trip with mixed goals - wanting to win, but also aggressively limiting the minutes played by starters - the Seattle Storm has returned home with increased clarity. Three games away from the start of the playoffs, the Storm has refocused on winning as the primary objective now that key players have gotten a chance to get some rest.
"We have to keep people rested, healthy and sharp," Storm Head Coach Brian Agler said after Sunday's loss at Washington, during which starters played heavy minutes but not quite as much as usual. "You have to have a feel for what your team needs and now we’re closing in on the stretch run so we have to get these people back ramped up going in the playoffs."
Another potential reason for the Storm to take tonight's game against the Minnesota Lynx (12-19) a bit more seriously than the games on their Eastern Conference road trip is that it could foreshadow a first round matchup. Although the Storm have already wrapped up the top seed in the playoffs and home court advantage throughout, the bottom half of the four team field in the Western Conference playoffs is not yet set.
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Out west, there's still some work to be done. Seattle is way in and Phoenix took its postseason position despite four straight losses. But there are two spots left and three teams -- Los Angeles, San Antonio and Minnesota knotted up at 12-19. Yes, 12-19. It's not pretty, but in the west, it's playoff-worthy.
Right now, it looks tough for the Lynx. Minnesota has Seattle, Los Angeles and Indiana in its closing stretch.
The Stars will finish with Washington, Indiana and Phoenix, while the Sparks end up with Phoenix, Minnesota and Seattle.
And the Lynx have played the Storm relatively well, grabbing a win in Minnesota on August 1.
Minnesota Lynx Playoff Scenarios | KSTP TV - Minneapolis and St. Paul
The Lynx matchup with potential first-round opponent Seattle tomorrow night at KeyArena. The Lynx have battled the Western Conference-leading Storm close this season, winning on Aug. 1 vs. Seattle (72-71) and dropping the other two contests by a combined five points (5/19 at Seattle, 76-79; 7/17 vs. Seattle, 72-74).
The key to Minnesota's victory against the Storm in their August 1 victory was forcing the Storm into turnovers, a common pattern in the Storm's losses this season. Although the Storm are still a difficult team to beat, the formula to success certainly seems to include turnovers...among other things.
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Seattle...However, if there is anything to be taken from this, it is the negative turnover differential. The common denominator in their losses is turnovers and if some playoff opponent can figure out a way to stop them from scoring (2nd highest points/possession in the league), keep them off the boards (best rebounding percentage in the league), stop center Lauren Jackson, and pressure them into turnovers, a playoff upset in KeyArena -- they have already secured home court advantage throughout the playoffs -- is really quite simple. Really. I promise.
So although this game doesn't necessarily mean anything in terms of wins and losses, it might mean quite a bit in terms of looking forward to that first round matchup.