Nobody will tell you that the Seattle Storm’s 87-84 win over the Atlanta Dream in KeyArena tonight was an example of how beautiful basketball can be.
“Sometimes, especially in final games of any sort, championship games, it’s never going to be — you can’t expect it to be — pretty,” said Storm point guard Sue Bird, who finished with eight points and four assists. “You’re not going to go out there and win by 20 and everything’s going to be honky-dory; it’s just not going to happen. You gotta grind it out.”
Grinding it out in Game 2 meant the Storm had to withstand the Dream’s pressure defense that forced costly turnovers throughout and led to unforced turnovers in the latter stages of the game as well as the Dream successfully setting the pace once again.
“I think everybody was just focusing on leaving early and looking out ahead — rebound and run, that’s our game plan all the time,” said Dream guard Iziane Castro Marques who tied Angel McCoughtry for a team-high 19 points. “Tonight anytime anybody got a rebound, we were saying ‘push the ball’ and we were fortunate in doing that.”
While the Storm did seem to get caught up in the pace of the game, got badly out-rebounded 11 to 4 on the offensive glass, and struggled to ever fully put the Dream away, the bottom line is they won this game. And in a championship series, all that matters is that the Storm are now within one win of achieving their ultimate goal of a WNBA championship.
“It’s almost like everybody is disgusted with how we played the last two games,” said Storm coach Brian Agler. “The point is we’re up 2-0 and we’ve made plays; we’ve made basketball plays. We have not played perfect, we haven’t played our best, granted, but we’ve made basketball plays.”
Most important is that some of the biggest plays of the night came from players who were less productive in Game 1, demonstrating the Storm’s impressive balance once again.
After having a quiet scoring night and more turnovers than she’d like, Tanisha Wright got going early with a jumper from the top of the key mid-way through the first quarter and then visibly more confident and decisive got hot in the second quarter. With the crowd on edge and the Dream countering every Storm basket with a run of their own, Wright made play after play to keep the crowd involved in the second quarter and help the Storm maintain their lead: a three pointer as the shot clock expired to put the Storm up seven with three minutes left in the quarter, a steal that led to a Camille Little layup to maintain that seven point cushion, and another steal with under a minute.
“She played better, shot the ball at a high percentage,” said Agler of Wright, who finished with 17 points and a WNBA Finals record 5 steals. "We put her in pick-and-rolls quite a bit and she made great plays. She played great defense, she was poised out there, and, you know, it was good. We needed that secondary ball handler tonight."
Meanwhile, forward Swin Cash showed that she was going to be no less aggressive after foul trouble in Game 1. Cash scored from all over the court with a combination of jumpers, post plays, and fast break layups to finish with 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting.
Yet the biggest contributor should be no surprise: Lauren Jackson came up with a team-high 26 points once again and showed her versatility by putting it up in a different fashion than Game 1. Jackson went 13-for-17 from the free throw line and finished with seven rebounds to help the Storm keep pace with a 37 to 23 advantage from the free throw line.
All the Storm did tonight is demonstrate what fans have known all season — even in an ugly game, they have enough weapons to find ways to win. They don’t have to play perfect basketball, but they find ways to make plays when they need them.
Nevertheless, Jackson is no more confident about beating the Dream now in Atlanta than she was prior to mounting their two game lead.
“At this point in time, I don’t feel overly confident in going to Atlanta,” said Jackson. "I think that home court advantage plays a big part in the series and going back to Atlanta it will be difficult for us to get the win. So I think we’re going to have to keep doing what we do, play defense, better defense all game, and then try to get the win down there."