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Storm-Stars Preview: A Battle of Supporting Casts

In the Seattle Storm’s 74-71 loss to the San Antonio Silver Stars on Tuesday night, the Silver Stars came back from down 10 points at the beginning of the fourth to win the game on a last second three pointer.

All-Star guard Becky Hammon had an all-star caliber game with 24 points and all-star forward Sophia Young made an all-star caliber three point shot to win the game at the buzzer.

However, what really made the difference in that game was the supporting cast for the Silver Stars and in particular, the play of Megan Frazee.

Although Young made headlines for her buzzer beating three point shot, she had a difficult game going 5-17 from the field and 2-11 inside the three-point line. The Storm’s taller defenders in Lauren Jackson and Camille Little made it extremely difficult for Young to score inside, at times not even drawing rim on shots around the basket.

For a team whose success last season was predicated on strong post play in addition to Hammon’s perimeter play, supported in particular by center Ann Wauters who has yet to return this season, Young’s struggles necessitated someone to step up and bring a post presence.

San Antonio coach Dan Hughes called upon Frazee and she did not disappoint.

Frazee was extremely efficient from the field, going 7-10, including a three pointer in the second quarter. She fought for a number of difficult rebounds with Storm post players finishing with 7 overall, including two offensive rebounds. She didn’t even miss a shot until late in the fourth quarter.

On both offense and defense, Frazee was often in the right position, even if she didn’t make the spectacular play. And it seemed like just when the Storm started to get momentum, Frazee was there to make a play that swung the momentum in the opposite direction.

For a rookie – who wasn’t even mentioned in my last rookie rankings, but will have my attention in the future – Frazee was impressive.

The Storm’s dynamic All-Star duo of Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson had solid games but got considerably less production from their bench.

So heading into tonight’s game, what are some of the key things to watch for?

Frazee is obvious after her previous performance, but their previous match up also illuminated some other things to watch for.

San Antonio: Sophia Young’s jump shot

Young was 2-11 from two point range in the previous game and although a lot of those shots were contested, she also missed a few jumpers that she could easily have made.

In the past, Young has been most successful when she’s been able to put pressure on her defender by scoring off drives and from the perimeter. If she had gotten that game going against the Storm, the game might have had a much different outcome.

San Antonio: Ball movement

When San Antonio keeps the ball moving they are extremely successful. And a lot of that is due to the passing of their post players.

And it just so happens that those defensive rotations are something Seattle has struggled with throughout the season.

What makes the Silver Stars so difficult to defend is that if you go zone to stop stymie their post play, they pass the ball so well to their shooters that they’re able to punish you from the perimeter. If you go woman-to-woman defense, they move the ball and force the defense to rotate until something opens up.

The answer is to have great on ball defenders and unfortunately the Storm struggled to guard the Silver Stars’ shooters and gave up 14 offensive rebounds, which led to 13 second chance points.

Seattle: Tanisha Wright driving

A major reason for the Storm’s 10 point lead at the beginning of the 4th quarter was Tanisha Wright’s ability to put pressure on the defense by driving to the basket and either scoring or passing was essential.

Wright did not end with a bad game – she just didn’t have a very consistent game. Outside of the third quarter, she was not a big factor.

The Silver Stars came out in the 4th quarter in a zone which stopped the penetration and led to the Storm looking a lot more stagnant. Meanwhile, the Silver Stars got hot on offense and erased the big lead, with the support of their crowd of course.

Unfortunately for the Storm, Wright was essentially a non-factor for much of the game and that really hurts the Storm because Wright’s aggressive penetration has been a key factor in the Storm’s victories this season. Whether it means drawing up more plays for Wright to make things happen consistently to put the pressure on or moving her around to get more favorable matchups is hard to say. But when she is on consistently, the Storm are a very difficult team to beat.

Seattle: Bench play

While the Silver Stars’ bench, led by Frazee, had a very productive game contributing 22 points, the Storm only got 5 points from their bench.

When Young struggled for the Stars, someone from their bench stepped up. When Sue Bird, Tanisha Wright, Camille Little, or Swin Cash were absent for stretches, the Storm simply didn’t get support from their bench.

While it’s great that the Storm got double digits from each of their starters, they also need production from their bench in order to keep their opponent on their heels.

Who will step up tonight?