For Seattle Storm players, Tuesday’s win at Detroit was an important one. Having started a three-game road trip with consecutive losses, players were motivated to make sure they did not return home winless.
“I think, just for our team morale, everyone wanted to go out and do well and win,” said Lauren Jackson. “Detroit’s always a hard place to go into, and especially the way we’ve been playing. We played really physical and were able to maintain the lead, which is something we haven’t been able to do the last few games.”
Of course, Jackson was a key reason why the Storm was able to get that win, scoring a season-high 36 points and coming up with timely shots in the fourth quarter. Sue Bird, who has seen every game Jackson has played since her rookie season, thought it was one of the two-time MVP’s most impressive performances.
“She played one of her best games in kind of a pivotal game for us,” Bird said. “We really wanted and needed to win. She definitely stepped up. I don’t think I’ve ever really seen her shoot the ball like that. I don’t know if anyone saw the game, but these weren’t wide-open threes. They were highly-contested shots, and she was nailing them.”
Now, the Storm hopes to parlay that effort into a strong homestand. Over the next eight days, the Storm will play four Eastern Conference foes at home. When the stretch comes to an end next Saturday, the team will have just five games left in the season, four of them on the road.
“You never know,” said Jackson of a possible carryover. “We’ll see how we go on Saturday. The way that I would hope it would affect us is that we know we can do that now and continue to play like that and work to get better.”
“Right now, everybody’s kind of playing for playoff position,” added Bird. “We feel good about where we are now [second place in the Western Conference], but we don’t want to lose it. We need wins. Every other team is fighting tooth and nail to get those wins, and we’re exactly in the same spot. We want to have home-court advantage in the first round and go from there.”
Head Coach Brian Agler downplayed the importance of beating the Shock as opposed to the bigger picture – the team’s continued improvement.
“I do think our road trip helped us get better,” Agler said.” We spent a lot of time around each other, we had a lot of conversation. It was totally focused on us. I think there’s no question we got better on this road trip, and hopefully that will continue.”
One important step on the road trip was the evolution of the Storm’s rotation off the bench without injured wing Katie Gearlds. Agler was able to work center Suzy Batkovic-Brown into the rotation, and the Aussie responded with her best basketball of the season. On Tuesday, the Storm used Camille Little at small forward at times to create more minutes up front.
“I think that was part of the process,” said Agler. “We got a chance to experiment with some different lineups. I was happy with how the depth of our post played in Detroit. We had Ashley (Robinson) on the floor down the stretch, we had Suzy in a couple of times, Janell (Burse) was playing real well until she got poked in the eye and obviously Lauren played well. Camille had the ability to play some three, which gives us the opportunity to get a bigger lineup on the floor. We liked all of that.”
- Jackson on her sore back: “It’s felt better. It’s had its better days, but it continues to get better. It’s fine. I just need to get it loosened up.”
- Burse is fine after being poked in the eye and went through a complete practice on Thursday.