Both coaches talked about tweaking schemes before Game 2 of the best-of-five WNBA semifinal series between the Storm and the Phoenix Mercury on Tuesday at KeyArena. Seattle won the opener 91-87.
Storm coach Dan Hughes expects his former assistant, Sandy Brondello, to make changes in the wake of top-seeded Seattle’s 91-87 victory over No. 5 Phoenix in Sunday’s opener of their best-of-five WNBA semifinal playoff series.
Hughes lauded the Storm’s ability to rebound and score off turnovers while Brondello lamented her team’s sloppy ball handling and an inability to curtail league MVP Breanna Stewart, who finished with a game-high 28 points.
Both coaches talked about tweaking schemes for Game 2 at 7 p.m. Tuesday at KeyArena.
The Storm leaned heavily on its starters, including Jewell Loyd (23 points), Natasha Howard (20) and Sue Bird (10 points and 10 assists), who each played at least 32 minutes.
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Hughes talked about squeezing a little more production from a bench that wasn’t much of a factor as four reserves produced four points on 2-for-11 shooting in a combined 27 minutes.
Meanwhile, Brondello spent Monday contemplating how to combat Seattle’s defensive double teams that held 6-foot-9 All-Star-center Brittney Griner to 13 points – 9 fewer than her playoffs average – on 6-for-12 shooting.
“She has to play a little bit more poised, but we got to put her in better positions to negate the trap,” said Brondello, who spent five years (2005 to 2009) on Hughes’ staff in San Antonio. “It’s all of us. But Brittney is fine. She’s carried us all season long. She responds in the right way. We need our Big Three to do what they’ve been doing.”
The Mercury’s other All-Stars were as good as advertised.
Diana Taurasi, the league’s all-time scoring leader in the regular season and playoffs, finished with 25 points while DeWanna Bonner tallied a team-high 27.
Phoenix fell behind by 16 points in the third quarter before closing the gap to two in the final 1 minute, 40 seconds while holding Seattle to 26.3 percent shooting (5 of 19) in the fourth quarter.
Bonner took solace in the Mercury’s resolve while Taurasi downplayed the relevance of the four-point defeat.
“You can feel as good as you want or as bad as you want, but at the end of the day you got to come back on Tuesday and play a little bit better and play a little bit harder,” said Taurasi, a 14-year-veteran who has played in 55 playoff games and won three WNBA titles. “Experience or no experience, been here or not been here – if you don’t come in and do the work, you’re going to get beat.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all of these games and all of these series, it’s the team that wants it the most and is willing to be the most focused on all the details that you want to get done, eventually that’s the team that wins.”
Bird, who has logged 40 postseason games, echoed those sentiments while also stressing the importance of managing emotions in a five-game series.
“The main thing to remember about a series is you can’t get too high and you can’t get too low,” said the 17-year-veteran. “When you win, you tend to feel like you won the whole thing. And when you lose, you feel like it’s over.
“Within that, you can’t look ahead. Somehow get yourself to focus on the one game that’s ahead. What shifts in series is not always things that have to do with X’s and O’s. … There’s also emotion that goes up and down within a series and that’s where you really want to stay at an even keel and not get too caught up in that because those swings can get you beat.”
Howard, who won a title with Minnesota last year, and Bird are the only Storm players with extensive playoff experience while Phoenix has three players (Taurasi, Bonner and Griner) who have won a league championship.
“Experience helps because you’ve felt the highs and the lows and the ups and downs so when it does happen, you’re more comfortable being uncomfortable,” Bird said. “You’re more comfortable in the craziness of a series.
“But I’ve also said ignorance is bliss. What you don’t know doesn’t hurt and if you’re just out there playing and none the wiser to anything else.”