Does this look physical to you?
Aaron Last/Storm Photos
With the Storm practicing at The Furtado Center and the Sparks at the nearby KeyArena, the media had a chance to get the perspective from both sides going into tomorrow's Game 2 (6:00 p.m., ESPN2, 1150 AM KKNW, TIX).
One of the major topics of the day was what is acknowledged to be the physical nature of this series, though we haven't seen anything like Ebony Hoffman's takedown of Plenette Pierson in Detroit that earned a Flagrant Foul. In fact, no Flagrants have been called in this series, and I don't think any have been warranted. The media might be making a bit too much of the physicality angle, but both sides have been happy to play along and maybe try to work the officials a little bit.
"It's just about welcoming it," said Sparks forward Candace Parker, who compared the way the game was called yesterday to the more physical international style. "That's the way they feel they can stop the Sparks is to be physical. I guess it's our job to show them that it doesn't matter. They were just as physical in Game 1 as they were here."
"It's been a physical series," offered Sue Bird. "I think they're a very physical team. For them to say we're more physical is not really accurate. If anything, it's equal. I think it's two physical teams going against each other. I don't know that one is more physical than the other."
Most of the rest of the players and coaches were of the opinion that both teams are in fact physical.
"I think both teams are physical in two different ways," said Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. "I'm not going to say how I think they're physical, but I will say that I think we just try to stay in plays with people. We're undersized at times and we have to stay in plays, we have to stay in position. At times we have to hold our ground. At times we have to really be mentally tough in how our ballhandlers are being guarded. I think that we have to keep our composure in regard to things that happen after the whistle blows."
"Both teams are physical," Tanisha Wright said. "Luckily, yesterday, the refs let us play too."
Agler emphasized the importance of dealing with the style of the game and adjusting to the way it is refereed as a key to the outcome of Game 3. His counterpart, Michael Cooper, bristled at the suggestion that his team might need to be more physical Tuesday, suggesting that could backfire.
"We just have to be the smarter team," he said. "Sometimes, physicalness can work against you, because if you're too physical the officials are going to call it. You can play physical and play smart at the same time and be successful."
Cooper and Parker also downplayed the importance of adjustments by the Storm in terms of explaining Los Angeles' 15-point first half during Game 2. As is probably approriate in terms of preparing for the next game, the Sparks looked within to find an explanation to their struggle to score.
"I don't think they forced anything on us," said Cooper. "It was our inability to do anything. Their defense was what it was - the same defense they had in Los Angeles. We were just apprehensive about what we wanted to do with the basketball. But we'll be ready to play tomorrow.
"We had some wide-open shots, the same we were getting in Los Angeles. We didn't knock them down - we did in Los Angeles. That was the difference. When a team is not shooting well from the perimeter, it makes the defense get bigger and bigger than what it was. They've done nothing more than just play harder this last game."
"If you look at the overall game, it was just us - it really was," Parker added. "It was that we weren't able to knock down open shots, we were turning the ball over. It wasn't anything different that they did."
Agler didn't entirely disagree, saying, "I think a lot of it had to do with they missed some shots. I don't know if you can count on that all the time. I think we saw how they're capable of shooting down in L.A. Tomorrow's just hard to say."
I do think both sides glossed over the role of transition defense in the low-scoring first half. Part of the reason the Sparks guards were able to get going in the first half of Game 1 and have a big game was that the team got out and ran in the first quarter thanks to turnovers and missed shots by the Storm. In Game 2, L.A. had just three fast-break points in the first half and constantly had to play against a set defense. In addition to better ballhandling, the Storm's decision to eschew the offensive glass in favor of getting back to defensively had a lot to do with that.
- After attempting to practice Saturday, as reported by the Seattle Times, Lauren Jackson was not dressed for Monday's very light workout and film session.
"She was in here earlier than I got here," reported Agler. "I think she just had a typical workout in the weight room."
Bird was impressed by the fact that her teammate and friend would even attempt to come back early, saying, "It's great. It just shows how competitive she is. It's one thing to be sitting at home in Australia rehabbing, but I think when she's here seeing this, it's hard for her not to want to be on the court. I think after seeing Game 1, I'm sure she's thinking to herself how much she could help, how much she wants to be out there. I think it's great that she's trying. I would never ever want to push her. I wouldn't expect her to be able to play. It's just way too soon. She hasn't tested herself out enough."
"I guess Willis Reed is the guy that's been named a lot lately," Bird later joked. "One shot - that's all we're asking. Make one and you can sit the rest of the game."
- While the Storm's rotation players were finished after doing some brief shooting, reserves Kimberly Beck, Shyra Ely, Katie Gearlds, Kristen O'Neill and Kelly Santos played 4-on-4 against the team's practice squad to get some extra work and stay sharp. Agler used all 11 of his active players in Game 2 and said he expects to use a large rotation again in Game 3.
- Storm forward Swin Cash celebrated her 29th birthday at practice, saying a win tomorrow would make an ideal present.