Storm gears up for elimination game
If the Storm is going to repeat it will need to survive at least one elimination game starting at 7 p.m. Monday at KeyArena against Phoenix.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Game 3, Phoenix @ Storm, 7 p.m., ESPN2
During an impressive 2010 WNBA championship run, the Storm never faced the prospect of being bounced from the playoffs.
They won every game while displaying a dominance that hadn't been seen in quite some time.
If the Storm is going to repeat, it will need to survive at least one elimination game starting at 7 p.m. Monday at KeyArena against Phoenix.
The Mercury rebounded from Thursday's trouncing and captured a 92-83 win Saturday to force a winner-take-all scenario in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals.
Now it's time for the Storm to bounce back.
If not, its season ends in the first round for the sixth time in seven years.
There were few positives stemming from the nine-point defeat at US Airways Center, but second-seeded Seattle has one decisive advantage heading into the series clincher: home-court advantage.
The Storm is 16-2 this season at KeyArena, including an 80-61 win in Game 1. Meanwhile, the Mercury is 5-17 all-time in Seattle.
"We have a history of playing well at home," coach Brian Agler said. "We have a great crowd obviously. It's almost like they are alive in unison there and it's a unique situation.
"But we don't take anything for granted. Just because we are at home, we don't take it for granted."
Storm players have said this year's adversity — including the 20-game absence of injured star Lauren Jackson — has hardened them and prepared them for a repeat run at the title.
Jackson is averaging 13.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in the series, but she's been unable to exert her influence offensively the way she did last year when she won the Finals MVP award.
"Bringing Lauren back into the picture has obviously made us a lot better, but we're still working on how to play with her," Agler said. "Sometimes when she gets on the floor, we try to force the ball to her which is not a bad thing.
"But then it gets everybody else standing as well. So we've got to try to utilize her and let her play to her strengths, but we've also got to keep everybody playing to their strengths as well."
The Storm can survive with Jackson being marginalized offensively, but the league's stingiest defense needs their 6-foot-5 center to slow down Phoenix forward Candice Dupree, who scored a career-high 29 points in Game 2.
Behind Dupree and high-scoring guard Diana Taurasi, Phoenix — the highest-scoring team during the regular season — established a frenetic tempo early and controlled nearly every facet of the game.
"We need to learn from this as we head back to Seattle," Sue Bird said after the Storm surrendered 58 points in the paint.
Seattle is 6-6 all-time in elimination games.
• Bird and San Antonio Silver Stars forward Ruth Riley were named the recipients of the WNBA's Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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