After the Seattle Storm clinched their eighth straight playoff berth with a 78-72 win against the Tulsa Shock last night, coach Brian Agler understandably attributed the franchise's success to its two star players.
And it was a fitting tribute as point guard Sue Bird and center Lauren Jackson combined for 41 of 78 points.
"I've only been there for four so I can't take any credit for the eight, but I can tell you that there's two people in there that can take credit for a lot of them and they're two of the best, if not the best at their positions," Agler told Jessica Lantz of SB Nation's Swish Appeal after last night's game. "Lauren's not 100% right now, but she's working herself back into condition."
With Jackson not yet back to full health, there's a good chance that we haven't yet seen the best from her - or the team - in her return from injury. Although they haven't been rebounding well at all - and Jackson strangely has gone without an offensive rebound in five of her six games - they've been turning the ball over less in general, which helps an offense that has struggled at times this year.
So the team that we've seen thus far this season might not be the one that shows up when the 2011 WNBA playoffs begin on September 15.
"I think people look at our team and say we're down from last year and that might be true, but we lost her for 20 games and we played without her for 14 of our 17 road games," said Agler. "You need to have good players to go on the road and beat some of these teams and we didn't have her and that really set us back a little bit."
With the matter of getting into the playoffs settled, the Storm are now shifting their focus to playoff positioning. Their likely first round opponent will be the Phoenix Mercury, who they've won 9 of their last 10 games against. But they're still looking to put themselves in the best position possible, which is second place with the Minnesota Lynx having clinched first already.
"We want to get home court advantage," said Agler. "We want to put ourselves in the best position possible. I really think our team is getting better right now. Since Lauren's back we've won five out of six."
The Lynx were the only other Western Conference team in action last night and clinched home court advantage throughout the playoffs despite a 78-62 loss to the New York Liberty. The Lynx didn't needed either a win or an Indiana Fever loss to clinch home court advantage and the East-leading Fever gave them the help they needed and then some with an 83-55 road loss to the Connecticut Sun.