Performances like the one Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird had on Tuesday night do a lot to strengthen her argument for WNBA MVP, even in a tough 78-61 loss to the Indiana Fever on the day that long-time teammate Swin Cash was deservedly named Western Conference Player of the Week for last week.
Obviously, Bird’s third quarter performance in which she kept the Storm in the game with two timely threes and scored eight of the team’s 20 points certainly stands out. But she also made a series of crisp pinpoint passes through Fever defenders on fast breaks that few point guards would have the skill, let alone awareness, to execute. She finished with 21 points including 5-for-6 three point shooting, which was refreshing for a team shooting poorly from beyond the arc.
But despite an outstanding individual performance, it still wasn’t enough to help the Storm get a coveted road win. And what the Storm have shown more than anything in their last four games since center Lauren Jackson’s injury – which they’ve split – is that superlative individual performances are not necessarily going to be a recipe for success.
Although it’s great to see Bird and Cash turn in such strong performances, what’s noteworthy about their two wins (albeit against the 1-9 Tulsa Shock and 2-6 Washington Mystics) is balance. And for those that have watched the Storm closely this season, that has little to nothing to do with Jackson’s absence – it’s something that has been plaguing them from the beginning of the season.
Storm statistical MVP: Sue Bird accounts for 50% of the Storm’s statistical production
Statistics aren’t everything, but they certainly help to layout the landscape of a team’s season and pinpoint patterns more easily than re-watching game film. Just to put things in perspective, the top individual players on a team account for somewhere around 20% of a team’s overall statistical production with center Sylvia Fowles currently leading the league with responsibility for 27.64% of the Chicago Sky’s production. But as the Sky are probably well aware, WNBA teams with one player responsible for nearly 30% of their production typically don’t fare so well (e.g. 2008 Phoenix Mercury vs. 2007 & 2009).
Against the Los Angeles Sparks – still the Storm’s worst loss of the season – Bird accounted for 72% of the Storm’s statistical production. In their loss to the Sun last Friday, it was Cash accounting for 36.40% of the team’s production in a much closer game, but still one in which Bird, Katie Smith, and Tanisha Wright shot 8-for-24 from the field. The final box was much more balanced in their first game against the Minnesota Lynx, which was a first half disaster, but the fourth quarter was still defined by dominant play by Bird.
In last night’s game, Bird accounted for 50% of the Storm’s production. Although the Storm’s shooting efficiency was above league average for the second consecutive game – they had an effective field goal percentage of 50.86% last night –