After the Atlanta Dream beat the Indiana Fever today, the Seattle Storm do have something to play for against the Chicago Sky today.
With the Dream finishing their regular season with a record of 20-14 and beating the Storm 2-0 in their regular season series, a Storm loss would mean that the Dream would have home court advantage should the two teams face each other in the WNBA Finals again. Given that the Dream have gone 11-3 in their last 14 games, the likelihood of winning the Eastern Conference is pretty strong even though they're only the third seed after dropping games early in the season.
Having already noted this as something important to the team, the biggest question is how Storm coach Brian Agler will balance resting players to avoid injury and winning this game to put themselves in the best position possible should they get the opportunity to defend their title.
Three keys for the Storm:
- Turnover margin: Both of these teams happen to be the league's best defenses and the league's most turnover prone teams. The Storm are the best defense in the WNBA while the Sky are tops in the Eastern Conference despite missing the playoffs again - neither team has allowed more than 95 points per 100 possessions. Working in the Storm's favor today is that they've generally been better controlling the ball with center Lauren Jackson back to bring some balance to the court, so their season numbers are somewhat deceptive. With Tanisha Wright putting pressure on the turnover-prone Sky guards, the Storm could find themselves with ample opportunity to score in transition.
- Offensive rebounds: The Sky are only an average rebounding team despite having 6-foot-6 center Sylvia Fowles in the paint. Where that hurts them most is keeping teams from getting offensive rebounds and scoring second chance points. However, the Storm have ironically had similar problems with rebounding since Lauren Jackson's return, as they struggled just to stay even with the Phoenix Mercury on Friday.
- Limit Epiphanny Prince's penetration: Fowles is going to get her points inside. She scored a game-high 24 points in the Sky's win over the Storm on July 19 and even with Jackson back in the lineup now she's capable of a similar performance at any time. But perhaps something the Storm can contain is guard Epiphanny Prince's penetration. Prince scored 23 points and five assists in her first game against the Storm, but her production has slowly declined over the course of the season to the point where she is no longer starting now. Nevertheless, she's still dangerous off the dribble both as a scorer and creating shots for others. With her field goal percentage dropping to 31 percent in August, the Storm would be best served by turning her into a jump shooter and living with the results.