Lineups: After two dismal performances last weekend, Seattle made a change to their starting lineup with Alysha Clark replacing Noelle Quinn at small forward. Replacing one mediocre wing with one of their eighteen other mediocre wings was never going to make much difference, but why not? Connecticut stuck with the same group that had started their previous two games.
Story of the Game: On the bright side for Seattle, they didn’t get taken apart to quite the same extent as in their games last weekend. On the negative side, they lost by double-digits for the third straight game, and to a much weaker opponent than the ones that beat them in the first two. The Storm made a decent start, but that quickly dissipated and Connecticut pulled in front for good in the second quarter. It was only a six-point lead at halftime, and still only six early in the fourth quarter, but the Sun dominated the closing stages to ease home fairly comfortably.
Seattle’s lack of size was painfully evident in this game. They got Crystal Langhorne more involved in the offense than she had been in their previous outings, and Camille Little’s physical low-post defense affected Chiney Ogwumike’s post-up attack, but the flaw was still a significant problem. Most of Ogwumike’s production came via the offensive glass and second-chance looks, while Kelsey Bone looked like a giant in the paint when she came off the bench for the Sun. And it’s not just about the one-on-one issues, or the rebounding. Being so small means you have to send more help when defenders are overmatched, which opens up bigger holes elsewhere when the ball is reversed – and makes the rebounding issues starker because a second post is often dragged out of position.
Little and Langhorne are already a small starting pair – and Langhorne doesn’t ‘play big’ like Tina Thompson seemed capable of in the same role last year – but when either needs a rest or is in foul trouble, the likes of Jenna O’Hea, Nicole Powell and Clark are masquerading as post players. Brian Agler has no faith in his only actual backup post, Angel Robinson, and didn’t use her until garbage time. It’s going to hurt them all year, probably even more once teams have more video and gameplan to attack it repeatedly.
The same turnovers and sloppiness as in their first two games also affected the Storm, although they made some runs to keep themselves in the game when they managed to inject some pace. At the moment, they rarely look capable of scoring enough points to balance what they’ve got left to offer on the defensive end.
Key Players: Despite Little’s defense, Ogwumike still led the Sun with 18 points on 7-12 from the floor. She’s got enough athleticism and works hard enough that she can find points even when it’s difficult to produce on standard post touches. Kelsey Bone also had her first good game in a Sun jersey while exploiting her size advantage, and Kelsey Griffin picked up boards and made hustle plays all night.
Allison Hightower also showed off her continually improving offensive game, featuring strong drives (always to her left) and a decent jumper. She’s not really a point guard – she’s an initiator who can bring the ball up and start your offense, but she isn’t an instinctive creator for teammates – but she’s a productive player whatever you’re asking her to do.
Langhorne was Seattle’s only double-digit scorer, while everyone else hit a shot or two as the night went along, but without any consistency. Agler and his team have a lot of work to do.
Lineups: Indiana were unchanged, with Tamika Catchings still unavailable due to her sore back. They swapped injured backup guards, with Layshia Clarendon back from her concussion, but Sydney Carter wearing a boot to protect a sprained ankle. Washington made a surprise change to their backcourt, with Ivory Latta – one of the few productive offensive players in their opener – relegated to the bench in favour of rookie Bria Hartley. It was evidence of the truth behind Mike Thibault’s statements that he sees his roster as having three strong, interchangeable guards. And maybe of the need for more instant offense from his reserves.
Story of the Game: Indiana got off to an awful start in the first quarter, semi-recovered in the second, and then meekly surrendered in the second half. After two losses last weekend that were at least closely contested games they could’ve won, this was a depressingly lifeless performance where they were outplayed for most of the night by the Mystics.