After the Seattle Storm's 81-66 win over the Los Angeles Sparks, forward Swin Cash and center Ashley Robinson celebrated winning their first round playoff series since 2004 in perfect fashion: they went to Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles.
And Robinson was apparently very excited about her order of three wings and a waffle (which fills me with jealous hunger even as I write this).
Yet if their response to a season full of reaching milestones and setting records is any indication, that is probably about as much celebration as we're going to see from this team about their first round victory. Although the franchise's return to the second round is certainly significant, if we've learned anything about this season it's that these small non-championship milestones are not the kind of the thing that this group is going to dwell on very long. As a team that has four veterans who already have at least one championship under their belt, a first round win is not a big deal to this team, no matter how significant it feels for fans to "get the monkey off their back".
"We've been here before in the first round -- it's nothing new -- but we also have experience," said Cash after Thursday's practice. "Not only in Lauren (Jackson) and Sue (Bird) and myself, but also in Le'coe (Willingham). And so I think the focus in our locker room is still that we're just taking it game by game. Not really looking too far ahead."
Yet even when putting the first round playoff win in the broader perspective of the team's championship aspirations or Bill Russell's sage advice to the team on Thursday that "every year is different", there is at the very least some symbolic significance to the second round matchup that will put this aspiring championship team up against the defending champion Phoenix Mercury. It's only fitting that the best team in the 2010 regular season should have to knock off the team that actually won the championship last year before even earning the right to play for their own championship glory. And it promises to be an exciting season not only because of what Phoenix accomplished last season, but also because they have already engaged in three rather exciting contests already this season -- two overtimes in Phoenix -- including a triple overtime -- and a thrilling 18-point second half comeback in Seattle.
So as much as there might be an effort to dismiss the significance of finally overcoming this first round hex that has plagued them since their last championship and doing it against the team that has knocked them off in three of the last four years, there should be some anticipatory excitement among fans about the prospect of a Storm vs. Mercury second round matchup that starts on Thursday.
Nevertheless, although a first round win against a Sparks team that snuck into the playoffs in the final days of the season is probably low on the Storm's list of pre-season priorities, there is some value to looking at their Game 2 victory this afternoon simply as yet another reminder that this team is more than just Lauren Jackson and the Jacksonaires. Although Jackson is unquestionably the MVP of the team, over and over this season it has been the contributions of other players across the roster that has made this one of the league's greatest regular season teams ever.
Today, that was Cash who finished with 16 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and certainly earned that celebratory and, more importantly, delicious Roscoe's dinner.
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