While players had the day off on Sunday, Storm coach Brian Agler started pulling out all of the tape of his team against Los Angeles, learning that afternoon Seattle would be facing LA in the opening round of the postseason. San Antonio defeated Phoenix to secure the No. 3 seed on Sunday.
“Sunday (was) more of an organizational day,” said Agler, whose team defeated LA by one on Saturday for a WNBA record 17-0 showing at home. “Let’s get back and get the games out and re-study them. See what they’ve done here of late and start planning our strategy.”
It’s the fifth time in Seattle’s 11-year history to meet LA in the opening round, posting a 3-8 all-time record in the best-of-three series. Since winning the championship in 2004, Seattle has not advanced past the opening round, the past two seasons due to the Sparks, with Olympic duo Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker.
Parker (shoulder) and Leslie (retirement) may be gone, but plenty of experience remains in tinsel town with F Tina Thompson (four titles), F DeLisha Milton-Jones (two titles), and PG Ticha Penicheiro (one title). And while four of the Sparks’ nine active players and coach Jennifer Gillom aren’t embedded in the history between the franchises, the rivalry was felt despite Seattle going 5-0 against LA is season.
“I don’t know what it is, but there’s just some tension between these two teams. It’s unbelievable,” said coach Jennifer Gillom, who’s first head position in the league was in Minnesota last summer. “I thought it would be LA and Phoenix-type of rivalry. But it’s a lot thicker air with Seattle and I just don’t understand what the deal is.”
Hmm. Maybe hair-pulling, elbows flying, and name-calling ignited a little fire. Not that All-Stars Lauren Jackson or Milton-Jones are saying much about it headed into the playoffs.
When Game 1 tips-off Wednesday at KeyArena, the Storm is expected to be completely healthy for the playoffs for the first time since Agler was hired in 2008. The biggest loss was leading scorer Jackson the past two seasons. During each campaign she was in the midst of the MVP race. This summer she’s the heavy favorite for the award, a would-be third in her career, averaging 20.5 points and 8.3 rebounds.