- Michelle Smith, Contributor, espnW.com
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(2) Seattle vs. (3) Phoenix
The Storm have the momentum heading into the series, which features one of the most competitive rivalries in the WNBA.
Seattle has won four straight and eight of nine since Lauren Jackson returned to the lineup after missing 20 games with a hip injury. But Jackson is still sore, Swin Cash has struggled, and the Storm are going to need more of what they got Friday night from veteran guard Katie Smith, who put up 26 points in the game that nailed down the No. 2 seed.
Phoenix, meanwhile, got 36 points from Diana Taurasi in that game. The Mercury need more from other people, especially with Penny Taylor battling back spasms. Taylor has missed five of Phoenix's last six games.
Seattle will have the home-court advantage, and it's a big one considering the Storm are 15-2 at KeyArena this season.
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Game 1 will be huge in this series. Seattle has the best home-court advantage in the WNBA and the Mercury haven't won in Seattle since September 2009. I think they could steal one at Key Arena in the first game of the series, but it'll be much more difficult to win a Game 3 in front of the Storm crazies.
Michelle Smith: Storm in 3. Home-court holds here and Seattle moves on after a competitive three-game series.
Mechelle Voepel: Storm in 3. The struggles the Mercury have had against Seattle these past two seasons don't seem likely to be reversed to the degree that it will allow Phoenix to win this series. That said, part of the outcome might depend on which team's ailing Aussie -- Seattle's Lauren Jackson (hip) or Phoenix's Penny Taylor (back) -- is in better shape for this matchup. The Storm's trump card is the home-court advantage, which could be the deciding factor.
Pat Borzi: Seattle: Storm in 3. Jackson's scoring, rebounding and shooting percentages are up after her return from left hip surgery. That makes her, and the Storm, a postseason force again. Phoenix's Taurasi and Taylor struggled with back problems late in the season. Even with those two at full strength, the Mercury will be hard-pressed to win a possible Game 3 at Key Arena, where the Storm are traditionally tough to beat.
Meri-Jo Borzilleri: Storm in 2. The Storm haven't lost to Phoenix at home since 2009. Now that Jackson is back, the Storm have started to click again and might be playing their best basketball of the season. Look for Phoenix to rely heavily on Taurasi, but the key might be the play of Taylor, who has been limited by back spasms lately.
One of the WNBA's most competitive rivalries resumes in the first round when Phoenix tries to take down Seattle, which topped the Mercury in three of their four meetings this year.