Please join us again tonight in our game thread for Game Two of the Storm-Sparks series at Key Arena.
If you can suspend reality for a moment and pretend that the first quarter of Game One between the Los Angeles Sparks and Seattle Storm was just a warm-up, then you may find hope for the Storm in an otherwise bleak situation.
One could argue that the Storm outplayed the Sparks over the last three quarters, after a one field goal performance in the first quarter.
Although the Storm only made one field goal in the first quarter on 1-9 shooting, they shot a modest 40% over the following three quarters, which was enough to outscore the Sparks 57-48. They picked up the defense and were able to claw their way back into the game.
For a game in which Storm point guard Sue Bird only scored 4 points on 1-9 shooting, that’s not bad.
With improved production from their star player and sustained production over four quarters with the Key Arena crowd behind them, the Storm could at least keep themselves alive tonight.
A large part of that will be about getting a better performance from Bird, in addition to playing better defense and cutting down on turnovers.
After Game One, coach Brian Agler attributed Bird’s struggles to having sat out for two weeks due to a neck injury. However, entering this game, Agler is confident in Bird’s ability to step up.
"I have all the confidence in the world in Sue Bird," said Agler prior to Game Two. "I think we might be a little more creative on how we do some things and I think that a lot will depend on her comfort and how she’s doing."
Bird agreed saying, "I’m going to try to do whatever it is. I definitely think I need to be more aggressive – just in general. That’s something I’m going to try to do more tonight. But not to a point where I want to force it or try to score it. Really we have to do whatever the defense gives us – that’s something that we didn’t do. There were times when we could have used slip screens or done this or done that and we didn’t really see it. But that’s why we watched film and we saw some things and we’re going to try to incorporate it."
However, beyond the claim that they could conceivably win tonight simply by sustaining the production they had for the last three quarters of Game One for four quarters in Game Two, there also seems to be something much more basic necessary for a victory tonight as expressed by Patrick of the Chasing the Title blog.
With their backs against the wall, the Storm will need to play with that sense of urgency. I don't mean that they should change their style of play or take badly rushed shots. I mean they need to put every ounce of effort on what they do best. Every player on the floor, all eight of the available players, will need to play like every possession matters, because it will.
And although the Storm are banged up, retiring Sparks center Lisa Leslie told Jayda Evans of the Seattle Times that the Storm might actually be more dangerous without post player Lauren Jackson.
"This team is a little more dangerous without Lauren Jackson because when Lauren's playing, you know where the offense is going," Sparks center Lisa Leslie said. "You know who's getting the ball. You know they're going low and 50-70 percent of the time, you know exactly what their plays are — Lauren Jackson off the pick-and-roll. "Without her out there, you have no idea who's going to shoot or who's going to drive. That's what makes the team a lot more dangerous."
As for the visiting Sparks, focus and intensity is always the "x-factor", but against a banged up Storm team tonight, their ability to establish the post game early and control the boards will probably be key as well.
Considering that most people expected the Storm to be run out of the Staples Center in Game One, it seems as though the Storm’s finish combined with a predictably raucous Key Arena crowd should give them a legitimate chance to win one at home.