Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Phoenix Duo Challenges Storm Defense

The Seattle Storm practiced Tuesday at The Furtado Center knowing that a challenge awaits them tomorrow night at KeyArena (7:00 p.m., 1150 AM KKNW, TIX). The Storm will host the Phoenix Mercury and the WNBA's highest-scoring duo, guard Cappie Pondexter and forward Diana Taurasi. Pondexter and Taurasi rank first and second in the league, respectively, in scoring, combining to average an even 50 points per game. No other team in the league has three players combining to average 50 a night.

"I don't know who's got a better duo than Phoenix," said Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. "Knowing both of those individuals personally, I know what kind of competitors they are. Coaching against them for a period of time, I understand how difficult it is to guard them. You can't ask one person or two people to guard them one-on-one. It's got to be more of a team activity."

Between them, Pondexter and Taurasi scored 44 points when the Storm won in Phoenix last month, but the Storm controlled them in the second half. In particular, reserve Tanisha Wright blanketed Pondexter, who struggled down the stretch. Pondexter and Taurasi shot 17-of-40 from the field and showed signs of fatigue, having both recently returned from overseas.

"(Tanisha) played a big role in us coming back there," Agler said. "She did a good job defensively. She was fresh at the end of the game - I think they were a little tired at the end. They're going to be better conditioned now."

One unusual factor: Tomorrow is Taurasi's 26th birthday. After the game, she'll celebrate with good friends and overseas teammates Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson. During it, the Storm hopes she doesn't have a big game like Katie Smith did on her birthday last Wednesday in Detroit, when she scored 33 points and blew out 34 candles.

"Dee's only 26," joked Bird, "so that might be her average."

- In Saturday's impressive Storm win over Detroit, center Yolanda Griffith continued to have problems with foul trouble, picking up two fouls in the first quarter and finishing with five personals for the fourth straight game.

"I'm not even thinking about it because we're winning and if I sit here and complain about the fouls, then I'm playing into their hands and I'm not," Griffith said. "When my team needs me, I step it up and play the defense I need to play. We keep moving.

"I'm looking at videotape and we sent them a lot of tapes on the fouls that they have called and I'm not going to worry about it. I see a lot of the things that they're calling on me are happening with other players and they're not calling it. It's not consistent, so I can't worry about it. The only thing I can do is, when I get my minutes to play, do what I've got to do to help this team."

While the fouls have cut into Griffith's early playing time, she's played 51 minutes the last two games against Detroit, near the upper limit of what she would play even if fouls were not an issue. Fouls also haven't cut into Griffith's production on the glass. She's averaging 6.6 rebounds per game and 12.2 per 40 minutes, good for sixth in the WNBA.

- Sue Bird was in street clothes and did not practice Tuesday, having undergone the last of a series of three shots of Synvisc, designed to help her knees. Bird was unable to do any strenuous activity today, but will be fine for tomorrow's game. Synvisc has helped Bird in the past.

"The way the doctor explained it in layman's terms it's like putting oil on a rusty doorhinge," she said. " It's for arthritic or pre-arthritic knees, so that's what I've got and I've got to deal with it. It's nothing harmful. It's not permanent. It lasts anywhere from 3-6 months. I've done it before - I did it when the WNBA season ended last year. I had really good results. You move freer and it's really helpful, so it's something that coming into this season I wanted to do again."

Forward Swin Cash also missed part of Tuesday's practice.

"Swin's gone through a series of medical things for her back," Agler said, "but she'll be back full go tomorrow."

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