Before the previous Indiana Fever game, the Seattle Storm were certainly not overconfident -- it would be folly to describe the team as such -- but they were definitely in full on "one game at a time" mode.
However, after their 72-65 loss last Thursday in Indiana, there's a hint that tonight's rematch in Seattle at 7 pm PST might actually take on more significance than others, even if it sounds more like a motivational ploy.
"There's definitely something we want to prove, not just to ourselves but to them and everyone else in the league," said Sue Bird after practice on Wednesday. "They have a really good defense and it frustrated us. So we have a chance to redeem ourselves."
Last Thursday, frustration translated into an uncharacteristically high number of turnovers. The Storm only finished with 14 turnovers, but as a team that only averaged 13 turnovers per game entering the game their 10 first half turnovers had to be troubling.
"Their defense is good and we started off the game great," said Bird. "Then they kind of turned the ball over and it frustrated us, kinda put us back on our heels and from that, whenever you're playing tentatively you're going to have turnovers because you're not aggressive. And that's what happened."
By the numbers, Bird was particularly frustrated with Indiana's defense with a team-high 3 turnovers to only one assist, again uncharacteristic for the type of season she's having. However, Agler also noted that the two teams are generally similar in that both teams are defensive minded, despite having different defensive systems. As it turns out, while the turnovers were probably most notable to Storm fans, the Storm's shooting percentages might have been more troubling. After starting out hot, shooting 41.9% in the first half, the Storm didn't shoot above 40$ in the 3rd or 4th quarter. So last Thursday when these two physical, defensive-minded teams faced off, Indiana ended up getting the best of the Storm in more ways than one.
"I think Indiana is an exceptional defensive team but we sort of have high standards of how we would like to play and we just don't feel like we met those standards there," said Storm coach Brian Agler when . "And did they have something to do with that? Yeah. Should we have had a response to that? Yes. And I don't think we quite responded to the extent we should have."
Preparing the Fever this week, Agler said on Wednesday that they haven't exactly changed anything in response to watching the film of the Fever game. But that this game will be a test -- the Storm and Fever are arguably the top two teams in the league right now and if the Fever were to overcome the Key Arena home advantage and win it might tip the scales in their favor. So at a time when some teams might be looking for motivation, the Storm's motivation should be quite clear.
"We're trying to sort of keep the same routine," said Agler. "It's getting to the halfway point of the season where we find to fight the monotony of the game and the season. And you gotta try to find a way to stay motivated to practice and stay motivated to play. The really good teams do that. I hope we're one of those."
- More on turnovers: Forward Swin Cash's 3.23 turnovers per game are the highest since 2003, her second year in the league playing for Detroit. But what's interesting is that while Bird noted that turnovers come from passivity, Cash's come from aggression.
"Just pressing sometimes," said Cash when asked about the turnovers last week. "I think a lot of times when you have a big target inside like Lauren, sometimes you want to force the issue a little bit. So some of those turnovers I can control, I've been watching a lot of film. But I'm not bothered by it all because I think that you have to stay aggressive - you're gonna make a couple of turnovers, I've know that in my career, being aggressive that's just going to happen. But I can cut em down some."
While it's obvious that she can cut them down, Agler is similarly unworried.
"Everybody has statistics like that - they're good in some and not as good in others. Just subtle conversations we'll have - our players are very intelligent individuals, they're gonna be able to make changes on their own."