The Storm returned to the practice court at Seattle Pacific University on Monday for the first time after Saturday’s Opening Day win over the Phoenix Mercury. Despite beating the Western Conference rivals in a game that was not close until a late Mercury run, the Storm saw plenty of area for improvement. That will largely come in practice as the Storm plays just once in the next 11 days, hosting the Minnesota Lynx on Thursday (7:00 p.m., KPTK 1090 AM, TIX).
“We have a reference point to go to now,” said Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. “I think some things occurred there that we need to clean up and it didn’t really matter who we were playing. There were some things against a specific opponent that we’ll have to prepare for next time we play.
“Once we hit the season, which we’re in, it becomes a rat race – even though we have some space between our games the first couple of weeks. Everybody has to go through that grind of game, analyze, prepare, play. Sometimes you have three or four days to do it; sometimes you have 24 hours to do it. It’s a combination of trying to get better today and looking down the road and seeing where our next game is and preparing for it.”
As is typical early in the season, turnovers were an issue for the Storm, which committed 18 of them. Perimeter shooting was also inconsistent, though for much of the game the Storm made up for it with strong defense against a potent Phoenix team. The Mercury shot just 40.3 percent from the field, and only really got going on offense when Diana Taurasi took over late in regulation, drawing Phoenix as close as five points. Closing strong is definitely a primary concern.
“I think we saw spurts of how good we can be, but we’re definitely not there yet,” said forward Camille Little. “We didn’t play a full 40 minutes of good basketball. We definitely let up at the end of the game, so that’s something we need to work on – making sure we close games out, especially against a good team like Phoenix.”
The good news is the Storm has time to make those adjustments and still came away with an important conference win. Also, that Little is healthy. She went down holding her right knee with just under four minutes left to play and went to the locker room, where she was found to have sprained the knee but sustained no structural damage. Little sat out Monday’s practice, but plans to return to the court Tuesday and is on track to play against the Lynx.
Reserve wing Belinda Snell, who sat out the opener with a sprained left ankle, participated in shooting drills but not the rest of practice. Snell’s availability for Thursday remains uncertain.