October 5, 2020
How is Alysha Clark always so open?
Let's take some time to appreciate Clark's Game 2 performance
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Alysha Clark #32 of the Seattle Storm handles the ball during the game against the Las Vegas Aces on September 13, 2020, at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAEvia Getty Images)
We now have between 1 to three games remaining in the 2020 WNBA season. The Seattle Storm now hold a two-game lead after their Game 2 win on Sunday.
Tuesday’s Game 3 will provide the Storm with the chance to clinch their fourth championship.
Whether the Storm will sweep is an entirely different question. Las Vegas swept the regular-season series with Seattle, but it was difficult to see them doing the same in the Finals. The same is true for the Storm, now up 2-0 on the Aces.
There is just too much talent on both squads for either team to lose too many consecutive games.
While the Storm have the talent to put this series away on Tuesday, the Aces have the talent and coaching to adjust. A team like Las Vegas fighting to save its season is a dangerous one. In a five-game series, one game changes the entire outlook for a team. Winning three in a row against the Storm would be difficult, but not impossible against the Aces.
Forward Alysha Clark put it best after Sunday’s game saying, “Yeah, it’s just understanding that it’s not finished. Nothing’s done yet. No title. No trophy has been handed out after tonight’s game. Just knowing coming in Tuesday, being down 2-0 they are going to come in and leave it all out there.”
“Just coming in Tuesday with the mindset to be able to weather that and knowing that our job is going to be even tougher come Tuesday night.”
Seattle needs to be ready for anything and likely knows their opponent won’t go down easy. The Storm have to know that losing in Game 3 could give the Aces renewed confidence. That’s the last thing they’ll want to do, too.
Alysha Clark lights it up from outside
One thing the Storm would like to continue is their scoring attack. Three starters scored 20 or more points, including Alysha Clark. Clark has led the WNBA in 3-point shooting for back-to-back seasons.
She is not one to dominate the ball or needs to have the ball in her hands to be effective. Clark typically gets her offense within the flow of the offense doing what the team needs her to do. Her 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting and 3-for-6 from beyond the arc were a great example of this. Let’s take a look at some ways the Storm used Clark in Game 2.
The challenge in defending Seattle on a given night is figuring out who you’re comfortable with beating you. Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd, and Sue Bird are elite playmakers. Even Natasha Howard is a threat as a cutter and scoring off putbacks.
We see here Bird and Stewart rolling to the rim. Aces center Carolyn Swords picks up Stewart in the paint as the rest of the defense seems to think Bird is going to pull up from the elbow. Yet, Bird spots Clark so open in the corner that A’ja Wilson can only turn to see the shot go up.
Danielle Robinson’s tenacious defense on Bird, pressing her all the way up the floor, should be noted. Stewart sets a high screen at midcourt that frees Bird and set off the action.
You almost see the Aces fear of a Loyd-Stewart side pick-n-roll here. The entire defense gravitates to one side of the floor leaving Howard open at the rim and Clark open in the corner. Bird easily swings the pass from Loyd to Clark, who converts. You also see that as Swords closes out on Clark, Robinson picks up Howard, creating a mismatch down low.
The Storm created many great looks on this possession because the defense must respect anyone in yellow with the ball.
Few players draw attention like Sue Bird. Here, she is chased by Wilson and Sugar Rodgers on the drive. Wilson plays good defense by not going for the steal or risking the blocking foul while staying within arm’s reach.
Angel McCoughtry, defending Clark, brings help from the weakside thinking Bird is going for the layup. However, Bird sees Clark now all alone in the corner for another easy shot. McCoughtry likely saw Bird slip past Wilson and went to contest the shot even with teammate Emma Cannon being closer to the play.
This was not a bad gamble since Cannon was defending Stewart and the game plan was likely not to leave her open either. It’s easy to see why McCoughtry thought to rotate to Bird.
Each of these plays just goes to show how dangerous the Storm are because of the weapons they have on the floor at a given time. We also how, despite her apparent talent, Clark gets easy looks within the flow of the offense. She knows that if she goes to where she’s supposed to, the ball will likely find her eventually.
In the third play, Bird passed up a likely layup or trip to the free-throw line to kick it out to Clark for a 3-pointer. Most coaches would probably frown upon passing in that situation, which says volumes of the confidence the team has in Clark.