Storm takes WNBA title search to Atlanta
MIKE ALLENDE; Contributing writer
• WNBA FINALS: Game 3, Seattle at Atlanta, 5 p.m. today, ESPN, 1150-AM (Storm leads best-of-5 series, 2-0)
It was an odd comment given the circumstances.
Lauren Jackson sat on the podium following the Seattle Storm’s 87-84 victory over the Atlanta Dream in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Tuesday. The Storm had just taken a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series and seemed well on its way to its second WNBA title. Jackson had scored 26 points.
But instead of gleeful excitement over being so close to her second league championship, the three-time league MVP sounded like, well, someone who played for Atlanta.
“At this point, I don’t feel completely confident going to Atlanta,” Jackson said. “It’s going to be very difficult for us trying to get the win there.”
OK, Jackson does have a point. The Storm wasn’t exactly dominant against the Dream. Seattle committed 36 turnovers as Atlanta worked to keep the ball out of Sue Bird’s hands. The Storm was badly outrebounded in Game 2, held to four offensive boards.
Still, we’re talking about a team that is 34-6 this season – playoffs included – and hasn’t lost a road game since Aug. 15.
The Storm is 13-6 away from KeyArena (where it is 21-0), with two of the losses coming on last-second plays and two others coming when Storm starters were resting.
So, while Jackson may not be overflowing with confidence, she has reason to be optimistic when Seattle and Atlanta tip off Game 3 at 5 p.m. today at Philips Arena.
One group feeling pretty good, despite trailing, is Atlanta. The Dream thinks it still has a shot with the series heading back to its home.
“We are confident going home that we can win,” Atlanta forward Iziane Marques Castro said. “It was a 2-point game and a 3-point game. We think we can win at home with our fans cheering for us.”
Both teams thought playing in front of the raucous crowd at KeyArena gave the Storm an advantage. In a tight, hard-fought game, any bit of extra motivation a team can get helps. That’s why Atlanta believes the series could turn away from Seattle.
“We have great fans and our building is loud, too,” Atlanta forward Angel McCoughtry said. “The same advantage they had here, we’ll get there.”
“That crowd they had here, we’re going to have at home too because we sell out and our arena is bigger,” Marques Castro said. “If we have our running game going and that crowd is fired up, nobody is going to stop us.”
Maybe, but the fact is that Atlanta hasn’t been nearly as dominant at home as the Storm. The Dream is 12-7 at home this year and lost its last five games of the regular season at Philips Arena before winning twice in the playoffs.
If Atlanta is to win, it will need to continue to force turnovers and get production from McCoughtry and Marques Castro while getting support from others.
McCoughtry (25.3 points a game) and Castro Marques (16.2) lead the team in scoring in the postseason just as they did in the regular season. They have taken 46.6 percent of their team’s shots, about the same percentage as during the regular season.
By contrast, Storm scoring leaders Jackson and Swin Cash take 41 percent of Seattle’s shots in the playoffs after taking 38 percent in the regular season.
That means the pressure will continue to be on Cash and Tanisha Wright to provide the same harassing defense they’ve done in Games 1 and 2 against McCoughtry and Castro Marques. McCoughtry is shooting 32.5 percent against Seattle and Marques Castro is shooting 43.9 percent after sinking an array of tough shots in Game 2.
“Atlanta plays through Izzie and Angel and they’ve been successful doing that,” Seattle coach Brian Agler said. “Those two are going to take a high volume amount of shots. And if they don’t make them, their next offensive plan is to go get the rebound and stick it back in. They’ve had a lot of success doing that and they’re going to keep doing it.”
SEATTLE STORM AT ATLANTA DREAM
What: Game 3 of the best-of-five WNBA Finals. Storm leads, 2-0.
When: 5 p.m. today, Philips Arena, Atlanta.
TV: ESPN2. Radio: 1150-AM.
Scouting report: Seattle is 4-0 against Atlanta this season but the games have gotten progressively tougher, with the two playoff wins coming by margins of 2 and 3 points. … Should Atlanta win, Game 4 will be played at noon Sunday at Philips Arena. A decisive Game 5 would be at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Seattle. … Seattle may be without forward Abby Bishop, who was taken to the hospital after Monday’s practice with a concussion and was out for Game 2. Bishop is not a member of the regular Storm rotation. … The technical foul Lauren Jackson’s received in Game 1 for making “contact” after a call with Atlanta’s Sancho Lyttle has been rescinded, though the free throw resulting from the technical will stand. The decision is an important one, as it would have been Jackson’s third technical of the postseason. Players are suspended one game after accumulating four technicals. … The Storm is hosting several viewing parties throughout Seattle for today’s game, including one on a large screen at the Center House at Seattle Center. A viewing party at KeyArena is also being planned should Game 4 be necessary. Check the team’s website at www.wnba.com/storm
for a complete list of viewing party sites.
Mike Allende, contributing writer