It’ll be Pride Night at KeyArena on Friday – an unofficial kick-off to the weekend’s festivities for lesbians and gays in the Seattle community. For the Storm, the “pride” signifies retaining their undefeated streak at home.
Seattle is 7-0 at KeyArena, the only remaining WNBA team that hasn’t sustained a loss at home. Indiana could change that on Friday, rolling into town on a three-game win streak, including a solid seven-point win against Seattle at home last week.
Yet, that wasn’t the Storm’s best game. The team started strong, but when the Fever responded with their league-leading defense, the Storm wilted in getting outscored 50-38 in the final three quarters.
“This is a big game,” Storm guard Sue Bird said. “It’s against a team that beat us. It’s against a team that’s been to the championship last year, so in some ways it’s a measuring stick for us. And they’re very tough.
“What do we always talk about? Defense. We want to be the best defensive team and they’re the one team ahead of us in a few of those categories, so it’s a challenge. For us, it’s good to see how we handle that.”
Indiana is holding teams to 71.2 points, which is second only to Washington (71.1). The Storm holds opponents to a league-low 28.1 rebounds, but the Fever lead in forced turnovers (19.5), steals (11.8), and blocks (5.5).
Part of the reason is three-time Defensive Player of the Year Tamika Catchings and PG Tully Bevilaqua, a member of the WNBA’s All-Defensive team in 2009. But C Tammy Sutton-Brown also plays a role in the shadow of the stars.
“The biggest thing she did (last week) was rebound,” said Storm F Camille Little of Sutton-Brown’s seven boards, five offensive. “She got a lot of offensive rebounds and that hurt us. That’s more possessions for them and extra points. If we can keep them off the boards, that’s a big difference.”
Indiana’s arrival is a homecoming for several members of the Fever. Coach Lin Dunn was the Storm’s original coach and assistant Gary Kloppenburg served on her staff. G Briann January (pictured far right by AP) starred at Spokane’s Lewis and Clark High while Bevilaqua helped Seattle win the 2004 championship.
The Fever, who entered the league at the same time as the Storm in 2000, have only won at KeyArena once in nine seasons and are 2-3 on the road this season. Seattle is 11-7 overall against their expansion sister.
“They’re so well balanced,” Sutton-Brown said of Seattle. “And Seattle has always been a tough place to play. They have great fans and the whole atmosphere is really good. It’s going to be a tough matchup because Seattle is going to have that game in mind where they played us and want revenge. We’re going in wanting to win because we know we have to play better on the road in order to be a championship team.”
—Bird was cleared to play Friday after injuring her left knee in Sunday’s win against San Antonio. She said it’s still stiff, but wasn’t limited at all once rejoining practice on Wednesday. “You’ve got to play through it,” she said.
–The first 4,000 fans will receive a Bird bobblehead doll, the second the organization has produced of the six-time All-Star. The Storm will giveaway Swin Cash (July 25) and Lauren Jackson (Aug. 7) dolls later this season.
–Jackson was nominated for an ESPY in the “Best WNBA Player” category. You can vote for her here.