Seattle entered the second round of the WNBA playoffs with the worst record of any of the remaining semifinalists and the worst net rating, but ended Game 1 with arguably the most impressive performance. A team that often felt a step behind the other title contenders during the regular season now appears to be at the head of the pack, and perhaps that was by design.
Head coach Noelle Quinn and the Storm deliberately used the regular season as a testing ground for various styles of play on both ends of the floor, but particularly on defense. They went with a 1-2-2 zone as their base defense for a couple weeks when Tina Charles joined the starting lineup, then abandoned that as they experimented with drop coverages again and occasional switching. They used Gabby Williams as a wing for the first part of the season, then let her be the primary ball-handler before moving her off-ball again at the end of the year.
Much of that didn’t look harmonious during the regular season, not while Chicago honed in on its hard-hedging principles or Las Vegas leaned into its spread offense, but it may have been in service of the greater good so that Seattle could have a deeper bag of tricks at its disposal for the postseason.
The Storm were the more disciplined team against Washington in the first round and had counters for everything the Mystics threw their way, and they started off the second round against the Aces with a similar poise. Although three wins do not invalidate the results of a 36-game regular season, Seattle is putting the rest of the league on notice.
I invited Em Adler of The Next, who reports on the Storm, to join this week’s episode of The Whiparound to break down Game 1 of the WNBA semifinals and also Quinn’s larger philosophy of how to pace her team during the regular season. Em is one of the very best basketball analysts around and was able to dive into the x’s and o’s of what worked for Seattle and what could change going forward.
As an aside, if you’re interested in keeping tabs on Duke Women’s Basketball in Year 3 of the Kara Lawson Era, check out Em’s work at The Chronicle, Duke’s independent student newspaper.
You can listen to all that and more in the full episode embedded below, and to make sure you never miss a single show moving forward, subscribe to the Swish Appeal podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Podcasts.