After the Storm’s 79-66 Game 1 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks at KeyArena, Sparks Head Coach Jennifer Gillom pointed to the hole her team dug in the first quarter, falling behind by 10 points and never entirely making up the deficit. From my perspective, however, an equally important turning point came much later.
Los Angeles was hanging around and making some noise early in the fourth quarter. In fact, the sequence of events was eerie in its similarity to what played out on Saturday night. The Storm started the final period well (a 6-0 run Saturday, back-to-back Swin Cash buckets tonight) and appeared to be close to blowing the game open before the Sparks rallied. In the regular-season finale, Los Angeles carried the run all the way to a lead inside the final minute before Tanisha Wright’s jumper gave the Storm a hard-fought one-point victory.
This time around, the Storm took care of business earlier in the period. Where some breaks had gone against the team on Saturday, this time the Storm got a fortuitous bounce when Camille Little’s desperation three-pointer banked in to extend the team’s lead back to 11 points. Wright followed with a more conventional three-pointer, the Storm got another score and the outcome was academic from there.
The Storm’s execution down the stretch was much improved from Saturday night, and the team also clamped down defensively, allowing just one score in a six-possession sequence. That gave the Storm the chance to pull away when buckets started falling. Also worth noting is that, after coming up with just one offensive rebound in the first three quarters, the Storm had three in the last period. Wright’s three came off of a second chance.
Storm Head Coach Brian Agler noted after last Saturday’s game that it would be painful to rewind and watch the fourth quarter again as part of the scouting process. He’ll probably get more enjoyment out of the final period of Game 1.