We’re just hours away from a deciding Game 3 between the Storm and the Phoenix Mercury. Do you have your tickets yet? Let’s take a look at the coverage.
Percy Allen notes in the Seattle Times that this is the first winner-take-all game the Storm has played in a while.
During an impressive 2010 WNBA championship run, the Storm never faced the prospect of being bounced from the playoffs.
They won every game while displaying a dominance that hadn’t been seen in quite some time.
If the Storm is going to repeat, it will need to survive at least one elimination game starting at 7 p.m. Monday at KeyArena against Phoenix.
In the Everett Herald, Aaron Lommers quotes Sue Bird on what will decide tonight’s outcome.
“I think you saw two different games,” Bird said. “We know what we need to do to win games. They know what they need to do to win games. I think Game 3 will be who can impose their will on the other. That is the best way to describe a series like this, especially with two teams who are so contrasting in style.”
At ESPNW.com, Meri-Jo Borzilleri looks at keys to tonight’s game.
Jackson, who was able to sit for precious minutes of rest Thursday, is not playing at full strength or without pain, and Phoenix knows it. Is she, and her hip, being targeted?
“For sure,” Little said before Game 2. “This is a professional game. Mentally and physically, people try to do whatever they can to get an edge. It’s unfortunate it has to do with her health. … Whenever they can hit her, they try to get a hit [on] her.”
On the other side, Odeen Domingo writes in the Arizona Republic that the Mercury has to maintain Saturday’s sense of urgency.
The Mercury came out Saturday with a sense of urgency and full of energy, something they will need to sustain until Monday. The Storm took notice.
“Overall, you could really name every player on their roster, they really just had a little bit more of an aggressive mind-set,” Storm guard Sue Bird said. “They really set the tone early on. . . . We kind of were reacting to them as opposed to dictating things. With a team like Phoenix, you can’t do that, you really can’t. They were able to get off to a good start and once a team like this is in that groove, it’s difficult to get them out.”
On Swish Appeal, Nate Parham analyzes what happened in Game 2.
In contrast to Game 1 in which the Storm essentially did whatever they wanted inside – doubling them up in points in the paint (40-20) and beating them on the boards 49-35 – the Mercury brought it on defense last night, swarming to contest shots and simply outworking the Storm on the boards. The most immediately significant indicator of the strength of their defensive performance was holding the Storm without an offensive board for the first three quarters and then only allowing four for the game, two of which were the result of guards Sue Bird and Tanisha Wright chasing down loose balls. But winning the points in the paint battle 58-12 is significant as well for the Mercury against the Storm.
You can’t really attribute that to any one player, but what we’ve seen from the Mercury repeatedly against the Storm is a team that wears down after strong first quarter efforts. Even as well as aggressively as they played, it’s hard to imagine them getting that done without Sanford in the rotation; her most impressive contribution might have been simply playing quality minutes so that the Mercury could sustain that effort for 40 minutes, something they have struggled to do against the Storm in their previous 12 meetings.
On SBN Arizona, Seth Pollack credited that performance in part to the return of Nakia Sanford.
The Storm shot 13-22 from three but only had four offensive rebounds on the night. The Mercury ended up shooting 55 percent from the field. Phoenix benefited from the return of center Nakia Sanford who played 19 minutes and provided a physical inside presence that was missing when she was forced to miss Game 1 with a knee injury.
Mercury coach Corey Gaines called Sanford a “soldier” in his postgame press conference. “If you would have seen her up in Seattle, how much it hurt her. She just couldn’t, she couldn’t move. At shootaround (this morning) she still couldn’t move so it was kind of questionable if she was going to be able to play but she’s a veteran. Somehow, she figured it out.”
DeWanna Bonner was also a key factor, Parham wrote on SBN Seattle.
2011 Sixth Woman of the Year DeWanna Bonner had a game-high 13 rebounds to match her 13 points and forward Candice Dupree added seven rebounds and a game-high 29 points. For Bonner, it was a demonstration of why she has been the Sixth Woman of the Year for three years running: her long 6-foot-4 frame and guard-like quickness make her among the most versatile threats in the league. Starting her second playoff game in place of Sanford just gave her the opportunity to showcase her talent.
“DB, she’s been playing like that for a while,” said Mercury coach Corey Gaines of Bonner, who also had three steals. “She’s very active. She finds that ball and she really attacks the basket. She’s just doing everything. Everything. Anything you can do on the court she’s doing.”