Mike Thibault, Washington MysticsMm
Q: Even though you’re struggling from the outside, do you still stay with that hoping it will come around?
Thibault: Yeah. That’s our identity. We have a lot of good three-point shooters. Elena [Delle Donne] and Kristi [Toliver] and Ariel Atkins, Tianna Hawkins, they’re all top-level, top-10 three-point shooters. You can’t go away from their strengths. We tried to balance offense the other night. We got inside and outside, and we scored in the paint more than we had in a long time, but we just didn’t knock down shots that we normally make. You’ve got to stick with who you are at this point in the season.
Q: Do you think it was their defense giving you problems, or did you just miss shots?
Thibault: It’s probably a little bit of both. I don’t ever think it’s that’s simple, one way or the other. I thought their defense in the fourth quarter was good. They have Alysha Clark, who’s one of the better defenders in the league, guarding Kristi. We’ve worked on some things to try and maybe free her up a little bit more. The other thing is when we won the Atlanta series, for the most part, we averaged five players in double figures throughout that series. That’s one of the ways you take pressure off of everybody is getting more people involved in the offense. When teams don’t know to lock in on one particular person. Clearly, they’ve loaded up right now on Elena and Kristi. In the first game, Ariel Atkins made them pay, and the other night she struggled until the fourth quarter. We just need one or two more people to knock down some shots. The game gets easier. If it doesn’t, we’ll be done.
Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
Q: What positives do you take from Game 2?
EDD: We learned a lot in that game. We obviously made some changes from the first game that were effective, and today we’re still making changes. It’s a chess match in these series. You’ve got to make changes and then you’ve got to be able to adapt throughout the games. We’re excited. We’re glad to be home. What better place to take care of business than at home.
Q: How do you balance playing good team basketball and trying to take over the game as the star, especially facing elimination?
EDD: It’s just all a part of the game. I need to be able to stay involved, stay attacking, but I need to make sure my teammates are confident and comfortable when the time comes for them to hit too. It’s been something we’ve been doing all season. We’re a great team. Most of us are always in double digits, and when we do that, we’re far better. I know the importance of attacking, but I also know that if I don’t have everybody else clicking and going, we won’t be effective. If I have to show them the importance of the moment tomorrow, then they’re not the people I think they are. They all know the importance of tomorrow’s game. They’re all ready. Everybody’s still loose though. We can’t be tight and too worried. You’ve got to stick with your routine, do your thing. Everybody knows the importance of tomorrow. I’m not going to do anything different than what the Mystics do. I’m going to stick with what our offense has done all season long. We’ve been super effective. We’ve got tremendous players that can step up at any moment. It’s not about taking over and scoring 50. It’s about making sure everybody’s involved, everybody’s confident and we stick to what we’ve done all season long, because it’s worked.
Q: Have they done anything to surprise you in the series?
EDD: No. They’ve been a great team all season long. That’s why they had the No. 1 seed, that’s why they had homecourt (advantage). They took care of home court. Now we’ve got to do the same.
Kristi Toliver, Washington Mystics
Q: What’s the team’s mindset coming in down 0-2?
Toliver: Win. That’s it. It’s pretty simple. It’s win or we go home.
Q: What intangibles or X factors have helped the team survive three elimination games so far in these playoffs as it faces another?
Toliver: I think we’re just a resilient group. We want to continue to play, and obviously when you’re playing for a championship, there’s a lot on the line. It’s when you’ve got to be at your best. When our backs are up against the wall, we’re going to come out punching and hopefully do the right things, and take it one game at a time.
Q: Do you think the team is due for a good three-point shooting game?
Toliver: We were just joking that the Houston Rockets missed a lot of threes in Game 7, and we have another chance in Game 3. Our season’s not over ending on an 0-for-16 three-point shooting night. We’ll be back. We’ve got a lot of great shooters and a lot of confidence. Granted, it’s a new building, but shooters can shoot anywhere.
Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
Q: They’re going to be hyped up at the beginning of the game. Is it a matter of just holding them off early and then getting into the flow of the game?
Stewart: It’s going to be similar to Game 2. They were desperate to come out and be different than Game 1, because Game 1 did not go the way they wanted it to. Just being prepared for their punches and punch them back, playing consistent for 40 minutes.
Q: What will it take to close out the series on the road after struggling to do that in the previous round?
Stewart: I think that series, looking back on Phoenix, is something that we really learned from. Letting a team back into the game, end of game, how we’re handling things. Now it’s just another step in our growth and maturity is winning on someone else’s home court. When I look back at that series, Game 3 was kind of a wash. They came out guns blazing and we just couldn’t catch up. Game 4, honestly, was some self-inflicted stuff. We had the lead, (I) broke Sue’s nose, that made things a little different. The way we battled was better than Game 3. We know we don’t want to go back to Seattle to play. We want to bring the trophy back to Seattle.
Q: How’s your previous experience in big games going to help in tomorrow’s big game, or are you looking at it as just another game?
Stewart: It’s a mixture of both. Tomorrow is another day, another game, but it’s a big game and having the experience of doing it before on many different levels definitely helps. It’s coming in here having the confidence of knowing what we need to do and doing it.
Sue Bird, Seattle Storm
Q: What mentality do you have to bring to a road venue when that team is facing elimination?
Bird: I think we learned in the Phoenix series that whenever you go up 2-0, regardless of location, you understand that teams are going to be desperate. They’re going to play that way offensively. They’re going to play that way defensively. Them being home helps that cause even more so. Hopefully we can use our experiences from that Game 3 in Phoenix, and go from there. We understand that the difference here is that we have a chance to win a championship, and not just advance to the next round, so hopefully that can bring out a little more hunger in us. This is The Finals. Regardless of being up 2-0 or whatever, these games are hard, no matter what. We’ve got to come ready, and that’s going to be difficult.
Q: Do you feel fortunate that they went 0-for-16 from three-point range?
Bird: Yeah, and I feel unfortunate that we missed as many free throws as we missed. That’s basketball. They go in and sometimes they don’t. I think it was Diana Taurasi that said it best as we were playing them that when it comes down to these games, it’s about playing basketball, and making plays and making shots. Do I think we did something defensively to cause that? I’m sure a little bit. Did they maybe miss some shots that they could’ve made? I’m sure, a little bit. You can go back and forth on that for days. I do know that I’m happy we won and that we did enough to win.
Dan Hughes, Seattle Storm
Q: They say the clinching game is the toughest one to close out. How do you withstand their desperation, especially early on?
Hughes: We’ve got to have an appropriate sense of urgency. Sometimes that transfers pretty good defensively, but offensively you still play at the right speed. You’ve got to use those things to your advantage, but we’re going to have to have a sense of urgency, because obviously to them it’s a game for them that they’re going to bring everything they’ve got, every effort, every detail. We’ve got to bring ours too, and understand that every time we take the floor from here on in, that sense of urgency has to be there and has to be appropriate to play defense and offense. On offense we don’t want to go 10 on a 10-speed. We’d rather be at a 7 or an 8.
Q: What’s it like having Sue Bird on the team w/ her experience for a close-out game?
Hughes: It’s a heck of a lot better than coming here without her. We’ve relied on Sur for a lot of things. I’ve always thought player-to-player messaging is way more important than messaging from me, so having her as part of that helps me get a little more sleep at night.
Q: Is the Phoenix series something you can use to get the team ready for Game 3?
Hughes: I think when you’ve got a team like we have where a lot of our players are going through this experience (for the first time). We’re not like L.A. and Minnesota where they’ve been here and had those experiences. We have to learn from the experiences that we have. It’s been a common theme, whether it was the end of the year or it was the playoffs, win or lose, we’re about learning things. We’re about gathering something from that experience that can be useful. We went through that in our first series. You’re on the road and you have a team that’s ready to really accelerate, and you’ve got to deal with it. Doesn’t mean it’s going to be easier, but at least you have the knowledge of it, and it’s not a new experience that you’re just talking about. It’s one you’ve been in.
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