SEATTLE -- Swin Cash can bring a tremendous amount of energy to the Seattle Storm … but not so much when she's on the bench. Which is where Cash had to spend a considerable part of Sunday's WNBA Finals opener, due to foul trouble.
Thus, it was all the more important for Seattle to get a lift from another player who is a plug-in energy source for the team: Camille Little. She had 18 points and 11 rebounds -- only her second double-double of the season -- and was altogether indispensable in the Storm's 79-77 victory over Atlanta.
"She was the key to the game," Seattle guard Sue Bird said. "Every time they made a run, every time we relaxed, Camille was the one to step up. Whether it be a defensive stop or a 3-point play. And she had the energy; she was encouraging the rest of the team.
"That's something Camille has done for us the entire season. If I had to pick an unsung hero for our team, it would most certainly be her."
A pretty big compliment, especially coming from the person who made the game-winning shot.
"I'm flattered she said that," Little said. "I'm just trying to do whatever I can for the team. Whatever it could be, I don't care, as long as we're winning at the end of the game."
Little, a 6-foot-2 forward in her fourth WNBA season out of North Carolina, averaged 10.1 points and 5.2 rebounds during the regular season. Only once this summer did she score more points than she did Sunday; that was a 22-point output on Aug. 21 against Los Angeles.
Still, she didn't see Sunday's effort as anything all that special.
"I think we all tried to turn it up a notch to make sure the game didn't change because [Cash] wasn't in there," Little said. "We have to do a better job of taking control of the game. We let up a couple of times and they took advantage of it. They're a team that does that; that's why they're here. We have to do better than that."
Seattle center Lauren Jackson had an excellent afternoon, hitting 4 of 8 3-pointers and one particularly sweet turnaround jumper -- skills that seem all the more impressive when mixed with her low-block prowess. When things get a little shaky for Seattle, Jackson can restabilize the Storm with her sheer talent in a way that few players can do so well for their teams.
Yet she was also nodding at Bird's assessment of Little's impact on Sunday's game. The Dream's size and physical play inside, combined with the smaller lineup Atlanta can go with, put a premium on the versatility of Seattle's post defenders.
Little's defense is very respected by foes and teammates, in part because she moves laterally with such quickness. To add the offensive punch she did Sunday to the defense that she's always known for was a big plus for Little.
"There are going to be times in the game where I'll get opportunities, and I just try to take advantage of them," Little said. "It was really key to get the fast break going.
"We knew [the game] was going to be tough and really physical. It's been exciting. Our fans make it so fun to play in this arena."
Little expects that if both Cash and McCoughtry aren't plagued by foul trouble in Game 2, the dynamics of that contest will be a little different from Sunday. But it really won't change how Little approaches her time on the court. She'll still be going all out every minute.
Mechelle Voepel, a regular contributor to ESPN.com, can be reached at email@example.com. Read her blog at voepel.wordpress.com.