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Both Storm And Mercury Should Expect Adjustments In WCF Game Two

If nothing else, you can expect Game Two of the Western Conference Finals between the Seattle Storm and Phoenix Mercury to be filled with adjustments on both ends.

Of course the most noticeable one will probably will probably be 2010 scoring champion Diana Taurasi, who went 2-for-15 in Game One.

STORM: Insider Preview - Storm at Phoenix (Game 2)
A better performance by Taurasi will go a long ways toward getting the Phoenix offense going. The Mercury scored just 74 points, the team's lowest total in a playoff game in the Gaines/Paul Westhead era, and was limited to 38.0 percent shooting from the field. The Storm has done a good job defensively against Phoenix all season long, but the Mercury's offense will inevitably pick up.

But Taurasi's performance is probably only the beginning of a number of adjustments we can expect in Game Two.

Storm | Storm knows Taurasi's team still dangerous | Seattle Times Newspaper
"We can't let her get into a comfort zone," Storm guard Tanisha Wright said of Taurasi. "But they're a full-packaged team. You don't expect it to just be Diana and that's it. They have Penny, they have Candice, they have Tan (Smith) and they have (DeWanna) Bonner, a sixth woman coming off the bench. We're definitely not just keying in on one person. We're going to play our normal defense and take it from there."

Keys to the game:

  • The free throw discrepancy: As Seth Pollack noted on SBN's Swish Appeal, the big difference in Game One was the free throw discrepancy with the Storm beating the Mercury by 12 free throws in an 82-74 game. That's unlikely to hold if for no other reason because the Storm do not typically beat teams that badly from the free throw line and the Mercury generally get to the free throw line at a slightly higher rate than opponents at home and slightly lower rate than opponents on the road, which is not terribly abnormal in basketball.

    Mercury forward Penny Taylor in particular was someone that was considerably less effective than usual both getting to the line and converting baskets inside the arc. So it's fair to expect both Taurasi and Taylor to be more efficient scoring while going to the rim, Storm defense notwithstanding.
  • Storm offensive rebounding: For whatever people might say about Taurasi's off game, one thing the Mercury did extremely well -- perhaps unusually so -- is compete with the Storm on the boards, including a -1 differential on the offensive boards as also noted by Pollack on SBN Arizona. The fact that the Storm still got an outstanding rebounding game from Le'coe Willingham and could probably expect more from forwards Swin Cash and Camille Little means that the rebounding story will also likely be very different in Game 2.
  • Bench play: Neither coach brought more than two players off the bench in Game One, which might not change. But will Sixth Woman of the Year DeWanna Bonner go 3-for-9 from the field with two rebounds for the Mercury while Storm guard Svetlana Abrosimova comes off the bench shooting 3-for-4 from the three point line again? It's somewhat difficult to imagine both of those holding in Game Two. Part of that is because the Mercury have apparently been more effective when their bench plays more.

    Storm Defense Too Much For Flat Phoenix Team, Seattle Takes 1-0 Series Lead - SB Nation Arizona
    The second interesting decision was how little Gaines used his best lineup which consists of DeWanna Bonner on the floor instead of undersized point guard Temeka Johnson. Bonner finished with only 22 minutes compared to 32 for Johnson. DeWanna certainly didn't look as sharp as we've seen her and perhaps she's dealing with an unreported injury or illness.

    When Bonner plays more it shows up on both ends of the floor and if she plays more and has a bigger game it could change the outcome with the Mercury playing at home.
  • And yes, Diana Taurasi will likely get hers: When looking closely at Taurasi's performance from last game, the fact is that the Storm did contest a lot of shots and she did force a few shots, but she also missed a lot of shots she normally makes. Even in a somewhat down season in terms of scoring efficiency, Taurasi's regular season true shooting percentage of 59.24% was still among the league's top 20 on the strength of her three point and free throw shooting. It's just not likely that a scorer that good will shoot so poorly -- including 1-for-4 from the three point line -- in two consecutive games.

    At the same time, it's equally unlikely that Storm All-Star forward Swin Cash will go 1-for-8 from the field while Bird and Wright combine to go 6-for-19 from the field. In other words, there could be a lot more scoring coming from all over the court, starters and bench.

Ultimately, Game One simply was not the best the WNBA has to offer and well below the standard that either team had set for themselves going into the playoffs, whether that be in terms of the Mercury scoring their fewest post-season points in a decade or Lauren Jackson getting another playoff career-high in rebounds (17) while being held under her normal offensive rebounding percentage.

But that's the past, the Storm are up 1-0 with an opportunity to eliminate the defending champions, and secure a spot in the WNBA Finals.

Whether the Storm win or lose, at the very least we can hope for the type of game that generated so much anticipation about the Series to begin with.

For more on Game One, visit the review at SBN's Swish Appeal.

For more on the series, see SBN Seattle's storystream.

To follow along with the game live, look for a game thread at Swish Appeal about 30 minutes before game time.