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Storm Two Games Away From Clinching WNBA's Best Record With Shock In Town Again

Two games away from clinching the WNBA's best record and home court advantage throughout the playoffs, here's something else for Seattle Storm fans to chew on: the sooner they clinch home court, the sooner coach Brian Agler might "adjust their minutes" a bit.

Or, in fan speak, he might actually start giving the starters more of a rest after they make absolutely sure that no tie-breaker scenario will put their coveted home court advantage in jeopardy.

On Clinching the WNBA’s Best Record " StormTracker - The Official Blog of the Seattle Storm
There’s been some confusion lately over whether the Storm has a chance to clinch the best record in the WNBA and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs with a win tonight. The league has told us that the Storm’s magic number is officially two because, though one more win would guarantee the Storm no worse than a tie for the league’s best record, there is still the possibility the Storm would lose said tie.

So although the team appears to have little to play for with the 5-22 Shock coming into town, fans interested in seeing their regulars get a break might have something to root for.

That's just more reason not to overlook the Shock who return to KeyArena tonight after beating the Storm 84-75 in Tulsa on Tuesday. It was a special game for Tulsa, who not only got a much needed win, but also for Tulsa Shock coach Nolan Richardson.

Tulsa's Tuesday Win About More Than Basketball for Coach Richardson - Swish Appeal
After the game Nolan Richardson shared a story with his players that for many might just be reserved for family, but this team is growing into an arm of his extended family. August 3rd is not just some hot summer day in the mind of the Tulsa head coach, but rather a day of reflection and memorial for Yvonne Richardson.

"It was an emotional game for me simply because as I told my girls - not before the game, but after the game - that I really appreciate because it was something wonderful for me to be coaching the women and have lost a daughter that loved the game so much 23 years ago."

A story that many might not associate with the on-court winning of Nolan Richardson is the off-court struggle of loss he and his family had to face just when his coaching career was taking off to new heights. Yvonne had recently been diagnosed with leukemia and was being treated for the deadly disease in Tulsa just as Arkansas came knocking at his door to lure him to the SEC and lead the Razorbacks to an eventual national championship.

Even after a loss last night in Los Angeles, it's likely that the Shock have Agler's attention.

Preview: Tulsa improving as a team and as individuals - Swish Appeal
"I'm a true believer in this – I think Tulsa's a much better team than what their record shows," said Storm coach Brian Agler after the Storm's 84-75 loss in Tulsa on Tuesday. "I don't know that we're head and shoulders above everybody else in this league like our record sort of shows. I think it's a little bit closer than the gap might indicate."

The big problem for the Storm in Tuesday night's game was the Shock's ability to force turnovers -- the Storm set a season-high in Tulsa. While their one turnover 4th quarter on Thursday night against the Connecticut Sun would seem to suggest that they've kicked that problem, the sloppy performance has to weigh on their minds.

STORM: Insider Preview - Storm vs. Tulsa
A big reason the Storm was unable to come back was that the team continued to hamper its own cause with turnovers. When the Storm turned the ball over 25 times against Tulsa's pressure on June 27, it was understandable because the team was playing largely without star point guard Sue Bird, who left the game after less than two minutes because of a sore lower back. This time around, Bird took care of the ball reasonably well (four turnovers in 38 minutes) but the Storm still combined for a season-high 26 miscues, two shy of the franchise record.

In a more comfortable home win over the Shock, the Storm was able to take care of the basketball well enough to succeed, committing 18 turnovers--just 11 of them in the first three quarters before Head Coach Brian Agler went deep into his bench with the game in control.

So although the Storm are comfortably in first in the Western Conference and will likely secure home court throughout the playoffs shortly, it's games like Tuesday's in Tulsa that the Storm are looking to correct.

Storm | Storm celebrates Jackson's decade | Seattle Times Newspaper
The Storm wants to sharpen its defense and build more chemistry with the reserves before the postseason while remaining healthy. Jackson, a 6-foot-5 forward, missed the past two playoffs due to ankle surgery (2008) and two stress fractures in her lower back (2009).

"Lots of things happen during the course of the season," Jackson said recently, never caring about the 13-game winning streak or being undefeated in 14 games at KeyArena. " ... This season just feels a little more complete than we've had in a while. We're a lot deeper, and there's a very positive feeling."