Aaron Last/Storm Photos
Foul trouble took Swin Cash out of Game 1 of the WNBA Finals. She wasn’t about to let that story be repeated in Game 2. Instead, Cash supplied energy at both ends throughout the game, helping power the Storm to an 87-84 victory and a 2-0 series lead.
“Swin’s a gamer,” said Sue Bird. “In big games, Swin likes to step up and play well. I think last game, with the foul trouble, she never really got into her rhythm. Swin is also a big rhythm player. I was not surprised by her play tonight. I’m sure you’ll talk to her and she’ll talk about her free throws at the end and I’m sure she’ll mention other (mistakes), but she had some big plays when we needed them offensively and defensively.”
For Cash, the first hurdle to get over was just staying on the floor. She picked up three fouls in the first quarter of Game 1, then sat during the fourth quarter when she drew number five. As a result, Cash played just 19 minutes. She was itching to have a bigger impact this time around. As it turned out, Cash was the only starter on either team not to commit at least two fouls in the first half.
“I was jumping for joy,” she said, “thinking, ‘I’m still out here on the floor.’ For me, it was great to be out there and playing and enjoying the game.”
Instead of being called for fouls, this time around Cash was drawing them. She was responsible for one of the four charges the Storm drew in the first half, and also made it to the free throw line five seven times.
Cash’s biggest offensive contributions came during the second quarter. With Bird and Lauren Jackson on the bench, the Storm went on a 7-0 run to erase an early deficit. Cash scored eight of her 19 points in a two-minute stretch of the period, showing off her varied offensive skill set. She made a three-pointer, hit a turnaround out of the post and also completed a traditional three-point play.
“That was huge,” said Bird. “When you have your point guard, your leader, and you have your best player on the bench and the team is just flowing and playing and really did better than when we were in the game, that’s huge.”
As her long-time teammate expected, Cash deferred any credit.
“When I was open, I took the shots and was able to make them,” she said. “I just tried to stay aggressive.”
With the Storm trying to salt the game away, Cash came up with another big bucket late in the game. Her three-pointer from the corner with 2:10 left to play pushed the Storm’s lead to eight points, the team’s largest of the night.
Cash was disappointed she came up empty at the free throw line with 2.2 seconds left. Her pair of misses left the door open for Atlanta, but without a timeout the Dream never even got up a tying shot attempt.
“For me, it’s a 40-minute game,” said Cash. That’s just a lack of focus.
What was a 40-minute performance – or at least a 33-minute performance, the amount of time she spent on the floor – was Cash’s defense against Atlanta star Angel McCoughtry. Cash got plenty of help from teammate Tanisha Wright and other players who defended McCoughtry following switches, but she was the biggest reason the Dream’s leading scorer finished with 21 points but was was limited to 7-of-23 shooting.
“My goal coming in was to try to hold her under a certain number,” explained Cash, who declined to name the number. “She’s a high-volume shooter. She’s going to take a lot of shots regardless of who’s guarding her. But every shot that I’m in her space, T’s in her space and we have a hand up, she’s taking tough shots. If she’s making ridiculous, turnaround 360s, we can live with that.”
Until getting a pair of buckets in the final minute, nearly every look McCoughtry got was difficult. She missed nine of her first 10 shot attempts and was 2-of-8 from the field in the second half, scoring seven points.
“She’s so athletic she can literally jump over you, so you just have to make it hard,” said Bird. “Swin knows that. She knows you’re not necessarily going to block the shot or get the steal. You just have to make it hard. I think Swin did a great job of staying in plays and not fouling. She did well.”