Storm players glad they got early wake-up call in Chicago
The Storm, which lost May 27 in Chicago, plays the Sky again at KeyArena on Friday. But the Seattle players learned some valuable lessons in the first meeting that has served them well as they built a 21-2 record.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Chicago Sky @ Storm, 7 p.m., KONG
Forgive the Storm if it hands out thank-you cards to Chicago before Friday's game.
"They did wake us up," Storm coach Brian Agler said of the season's first loss, to the Sky. "I think it was a combination of things. They played really well against us, and I don't think we played the way we wanted to play. It got our attention, but they're tough for us. They match up well with us."
True, the Storm has trailed teams before and even lost to the Sky twice in 2009. But the 84-75 WNBA road defeat May 27 was unique.
And the players witnessed it again via video to prepare for the rematch.
More than any other opponent, Chicago had Seattle scrambling. The game appeared to whiz past the Storm and before the starters knew it, Agler put all five on the bench, letting the reserves use a 21-7 run in the fourth quarter to whittle the deficit to five with 26.6 seconds remaining.
"We weren't getting the offensive boards, they were beating us to every loose ball, they were knocking down shots and they were driving to the lane," Storm forward Camille Little said. "We weren't doing anything that we were supposed to do. You can't win games like that."
The Storm trailed the Sky 42-29 in the opening half, its largest deficit at halftime in May. Seattle held a team meeting after the game and has since been able to adjust to opening-half breakdowns.
Yet there's still something peculiar about Chicago.
In 2009, the losses to the Sky could be attributed to a tough matchup with All-Star forward Candice Dupree. This season it's a healthy All-Star Sylvia Fowles.
At 6 feet 6, she's the team's go-to player. Fowles, one of the league's few true centers, averages 18 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. Storm forward Lauren Jackson, who teamed with Little to corral Fowles inside in May, had trouble deciding who was tougher to play between Fowles and Phoenix center Kara Braxton.
"Those two would be amazing to watch against each other," said Jackson, whose shooting range extends to the three-point line, unlike Fowles and Braxton. "Syl's the strongest woman I know and best post player in terms of being able to bang and score."
And like Braxton and Jackson, Fowles also has a solid supporting cast in Kirkland native Cathrine Kraayeveld off the bench, center Mistie Bass and the backcourt of Jia Perkins and Dominique Canty.
Fowles remains the focal point, however.
"Sylvia is a beast when she wants to be," said Storm guard Sue Bird, who played with Fowles in Russia and on the national team. "I don't know how you stop her. (Lauren's is) just a completely different way. It's not pounding."
Because of Fowles' ability to dominate inside, Agler is altering his matchups and defensive schemes. The Sky is 4-3 since the July 10 All-Star break, two games back for the fourth and final playoff berth in the East.
Chicago (12-13) hasn't advanced to the postseason since its inception in 2006.
"They play in such a way where they were switching a lot of screens and doing some things where, at the time, we hadn't really experienced a lot of," said Bird, whose team is on a 12-game win streak. "But now I think we've seen every kind of defense, offense that there is to see. Sometimes losses can be more beneficial than wins, and in that case, it was."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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