Seattle Storm guard Tanisha Wright's aggressive play from the outset of their rout of the Tulsa Shock was critical to setting the tone for the team. Photo via Kailas Images.
For a full(er) account of the game, please see the SBN Seattle game summary.
When I asked Storm forward Swin Cash about their 111-65 rout of the Tulsa Shock after the game last night, she made it sound simpler than the typically confident Storm usually characterize their dominance.
"We did what we were supposed to do," said Cash. "Obviously we came out very focused and knew what we wanted to do out on the floor and obviously I'm proud of collectively as a team of how we played. It was just really fun to be a part of."
Ok, we know they're confident, but there's absolutely nothing normal about a record breaking 46 point rout of the Shock, even if it was played in the cozy confines of KeyArena. There's plenty evidence of something extraordinary from the list of records that fell.
So for real though -- what you're supposed to do?
"No, I kinda mean what I said," said Cash when I suggested the game wasn't quite normal. "Like today we really did what we were supposed to do after a team beats you on their home floor. I told the team at the beginning of the game: put our foot on the gas and don't take it off for 40 minutes."
It was likely as refreshing to see for Storm coach Brian Agler as it was for Storm fans -- according to Agler in his pre-game chat with media, the team had relaxed a little prior to their consecutive road losses. So if nothing else, it can be said that the Storm came out highly motivated.
"I just think it was one of those games that sort of got away from them," said Agler. "They reminded me of maybe how we were at their place -- not highly motivated to play. And unfortunately -- and this isn't any disrespect -- they're just not quite as talented. So we were motivated and I think that's sort of why you saw the outcome of the game."
Regardless of how you want to explain it, the fact of the matter is that the Storm were absolutely dominant. So dominant that despite Cash's call to put the foot on the gas for 20 minutes, this game was pretty much over by halftime. So a look at how the Storm mounted that 60-27 halftime lead.
Storm statistical MVP: Tanisha Wright
If there was any one player that embodied that intensity that the Storm came out with in mounting their 33 point lead, it was undoubtedly the play of Wright.
Wright did a little bit of everything to start the game -- getting an offensive rebound, making plays on defense, scoring, setting up others, and going hard to the basket to get easy points at the three point line. She finished the first half with 10 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, a block and went 6-6 from the free throw line for a free throw rate of 1.5. Once again, she performed as a distributor with an assist rate of 28.19% and a turnover percentage of 9.3% which contributed to a pure point rating of 8.33.
Shock statistical MVP: Shanna Crossley
Let's be honest -- nobody from Tulsa player particularly well, but given the circumstances Crossley was by far the most productive by the numbers. That's partially because she didn't do much to harm her team -- she and Scholanda Robinson were the only players to make more than one shot in the first half and Robinson went 2-7 with three turnovers while Crossley went 2-3 with no turnovers.
Key player: Camille Little
Camille Little just seemed to always be in position to make a play, which is not exactly uncommon. She had a number of layups just from moving without the ball, going 4-5 with 8 points. More importantly, she had an offensive rebounding percentage of 20.62%.
Key Stat: Offensive rebounding
The Storm crushed the Shock on the boards in the first half 63% to 5%. The result was a 16-3 2nd chance points advantage in the first half which only worsened a 24-3 advantage in points in the paint.
"Rebounding was totally the difference, not only in the first quarter, but throughout the entire ball game," said Shock coach Nolan Richardson. "We couldn’t get a second shot and they could get two and three shots. They were quick to the ball and in the game we played before, we were quick to the ball. Tonight we had nothing left – no legs, balls were short, couldn’t make a shot. We just didn’t have anything tonight to play with."
Obviously, when you hold a team to one offensive rebound in a half, it speaks highly of your defensive effort as well.
"We were trying to bring out a great defensive presence and focus," said Agler. "And I thought we kept that for pretty much the whole game. We're getting to that point where we can't have letdowns. It doesn't matter who's playing -- everybody's gotta step up and play the way we want to play. It impacted the outcome of the game so we didn't give them many second chance shots."
An opportunity for rest and development
Although the Storm are still focused on refining their game as they move toward the playoffs, handling business last night and moving closer to locking up home court advantage throughout the playoffs means the Storm can finally start redistributing some of the minutes to rest their star players and avoid risking injury.
"This is going to be a good trip for the Janas and the Ashleys and the Abbys and the Allisons because they're going to get extended minutes in the second half," said Agler. "What I hope doesn't suffer is some of our starters that could be getting some awards at the end of the year that people look at this stretch of games and punish them for that. But we also want to get everybody to the starting gate of the playoffs and one way to keep them fresh is cut their minutes down. But we want them to stay sharp too so I don't know how much we'll just set people completely out."
Although his strategy isn't yet set in stone, he's thinking about playing the first half as a normal game and then adjust some minutes in the second half. With wins and losses having so little bearing on their post-season, they can also focus on the development of their younger players.
"The two goals are to stay sharp and to be fresh going into the playoffs," said Agler. "And I can't tell you we'll play exactly like that when we play at home -- I think there's a pride here in playing at home. So we may not do that once we get back here. But this is a good 8 or 9 days where we can hopefully help ourselves in those areas."