Anyone who has spent any time around the Seattle Storm and head coach Brian Agler knows that Friday’s 68-54 victory over the Indiana Fever is the kind of victory that pleases them.
It was a win almost entirely built on defense.
After falling to the Minnesota Lynx 81-74 a week ago
Thursday at KeyArena, ending the Storm’s 23-game home winning streak — Seattle did what it does best, get back to the basics.
One of the most basic fundamentals of basketball is defense. You don’t have to be that talented, you really don’t even have to be that athletic, you just have to work hard and good things will happen
On Friday night, the Storm followed that pattern to a T
That “T” could stand for Tanisha, as in Tanisha Wright.
Wright, along with a little help from her teammates, held the WNBA’s leading scorer Katie Douglas (21.3 points per game) to just 11 points. Indiana’s other major scoring threat offensively, Tamika Catchings, scored just eight points.
“Brian has said this many times – T is really the captain of our defense, along with Camille (Little). They set the tone for us,” point guard Sue Bird said.
Agler said stopping Douglas and Catchings was a big part of the Storm’s victory.
“That’s a big part of what they (the Fever) do. They really try to run a lot of stuff for those two people. They’re great players and great competitors. We tried to do our best. I thought that Swin (Cash), Tanisha, Katie (Smith) – and Camille seemed to be switched off on them a great deal – they did a good job.”
Any opponent of the Storm has to fear a number of offensive options that Seattle has, but the Storm are really at their best when the defense leads the way.
They got back to that on Friday.
“I think we started to look like ourselves defensively. I was really pleased with our focus, the way we came out and the way we played,” Agler said.
The Storm were balanced offensively, Cash led the way with 14 points and Bird chipped in 12. Off the bench, Le’coe Willingham scored 10 points to provide a boost for Seattle in the second quarter. The Storm outscored the Fever 22-9 in the second quarter.
“Le’coe’s had a good week of practice. She can do that,” Agler said.
In the loss to Minnesota, the crowd was taken out of the game. Seattle’ performance against Indiana ensured that the crowd of 8,178 would play a role the entire time. They perhaps cheered loudest when Bird banked in an off-balance three-pointer as time expired in the second quarter to give the Storm a 37-19 advantage a halftime.
But the Storm didn’t shoot the ball well, just 22-for-66 for the game. And reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player Lauren Jackson struggled yet again, scoring just nine points.
It all seemed to come back to defense.
The Fever shot an ice-cold 4-for-21 (19%) in the first half, including just 1-for-7 in the first quarter. For the game, the Fever shot 16-for-55 (29.1%). The Fever missed their first 12 three-point attempts, and finished the game just 1-for-15.
The Storm never trailed in the game, and led by as many as 27 points. Indiana’s 54 points were the fewest Seattle has allowed since July 7, 2009, and also a league low this season.
“Tonight was a game that, I think, is really the epitome of our team. We want everything to start with defense,”
It certainly did on Friday.