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June 17, 2011 at 1:32 PM

Checking in on Indiana

KatieDouglas.jpgOnce again the Storm hits the court to play a team well into its season. Seattle has played two game since it tipped-off defense of its 2010 title on June 4, defeating Phoenix and losing to Minnesota.
Seattle (1-1) hosts Indiana (3-1) at 7 p.m. at KeyArena on Friday.
“It’s been forever,” Storm forward Le’coe Willingham said. “It’s almost like I’m still overseas, playing one game a week. The plus side of the teams that have played more games is that you get the kinks out, you get to play more teams and not just yourselves and the practice players. And you see more film of yourself in game-situations. At the same, we get to work on ourselves a little more, but we’re watching the same film. So, we’re just all ready to play.”
The Storm has seen enough footage of the 22-0 drubbing Minnesota put on it to start the first quarter last Thursday. The Lynx won 81-74, snapping the Storm’s record 18-game win streak in regular season games.
Seattle is happy to get on the court, again, but Indiana is a tough opponent to face.
The sister franchise, both entering the WNBA in 2000, has notables in Katie Douglas (21.3 points) and Tamika Catchings. Then the Fever added to its potency with Tangela Smith, who likes to shoot the three, and retained a solid post in Tammy Sutton-Brown, who’s second in the WNBA in blocks (2.2). Spokane’s Briann January runs the offense with a solid backup in Erin Phillips off the bench.
Phillips was acquired via trade with Seattle and Washington so the Storm could sign veteran Katie Smith. Storm coach Brian Agler spoke highly of how Phillips is fitting in with Indiana. It was regarded as a win-win-win trade since Phillips could fill-in for the departed Tully Bevilaqua, who signed with San Antonio as a free agent, and Washington nabbed PG prodigy Jasmine Thomas, Seattle’s first-round pick.
“Katie Douglas (pictured right) has obviously gotten off to a great start and Tamika is one of the best players in the league, as well,” Agler said. “Everything they do is going to revolve around them, but they’ve got other pieces that have helped them and Erin is somebody that’s giving them a lift.”
On the bench are even more familiar faces whether it’s Seattle’s original coach in Lin Dunn or F Shyra Ely, who’s returning to the WNBA after a knee injury. Lastly, there’s former Storm assistant Gary Kloppenburg, who designed Indiana’s fierce defense that could give Seattle another fit Friday at KeyArena.
The Fever is 1-9 all-time in the facility, winning in 2006. But Seattle’s 85-81 win last summer had onlookers wishing for a WNBA Finals matchup between the teams because of the even matchups. Instead, Seattle went on to win its second league title while the Fever haven’t won any in six consecutive trips to the postseason.
“It’ll be a defensive battle,” Storm PG Sue Bird said. “For us, when we can get stops and get focused on that end, it translates to the (offense). We get out and it helps when you set up your offense, you relax a little bit.”
The game is the start of a three-game road trip for the Fever and four games in eight days for the Storm, including its first road trip to Los Angeles and Tulsa this weekend. The Storm will have another long break before another road swing, officially jumping into the WNBA grind by July.
So, maybe the past eight-days off will be looked at as a positive.
“Hopefully having an opportunity to have some good practices early will help us,” Bird said. “It would have been nice right after that loss to play another game to get rid of that loss. But the case was we had to come practice and have a couple tough days, but we needed it. Not just the practices, but the loss.”
Storm PF Lauren Jackson said the loss popped the euphoric championship bubble.
“We need to come out with a different mentality,” she said. “We need to get ourselves back, that swagger that we didn’t have last week. It’ll be a different game than what we were. I actually feel a lot better going into this game, a lot more confident.”



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