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Final score: Storm 66 – Mercury 57 (W) (2-3)

Attendance | 6549

Anthem Watch | The nervous Girl Scout version.

Fan Psyche | We're supposed to win this one, but they just wouldn't go away.

Game Highlight | Lauren Jackson in the second half - en fuego!

Halftime | Did we have a halftime? I was too busy ripping into a root beer float.

Game Photos | Game Photos (Scott Larson)

Looking at the Storm season schedule, there are very few games that I would consider the Storm as the heavy favorite. As the early going in the league has shown so far, the former doormats are coming alive, the former powers are on and off and the only sure bet is that the conference standings are going to be a merry-go-round. Without being too brash, I was personally counting Phoenix as one of the very few teams the Storm should beat, and do so handily.

Many others at the game agreed with me, with the qualification that hopefully the Storm aren't notching the Mercury up as an easy win. Confidence is a good thing, but over-confidence will bite you every time. Just because the Mercury got their heads handed to them in their last game doesn't mean that you can take them too lightly.

Luckily, the Storm were ready for the Mercury and while the Storm didn't play as dominating a game as I thought they would, they still found ways to keep the energetic Phoenix players at bay and overcome the big shots Harrison and DeForge kept hitting. Every time the Mercury would get the game down to 6 or 4, the Storm would adjust and push it back to 10 or 12. I think that you could say that the Storm laid back a little bit and weren't as forceful this game as they were against the Monarchs. But, they also worked through that and found a way to keep the lead and win the game.

You do have to give some credit to the Mercury coaching - they were prepared for Lauren and were successful in keeping the ball out of her hands during the first part of the game. They were fronting her, double teaming her and keeping her farther out of the block than she normally plays. But while they were having some success limiting LJ, they had no answer for our new scoring machine, Sandy Brondello. Sandy found ways to score and keep the Seattle offense producing while the Storm worked out how to get LJ involved. Later in the game, once LJ began to assert herself, Sandy backed off offensively and picked up her defense.

Lauren was simply a monster in the second half. It was great to watch her hitting from just about everywhere on the floor. Her outside shots forced the Mercury posts to get out of the key and gave Lauren more room to work. She was also the beneficiary of some great passes from Sue and Sandy. Shortly after the second half started, they announced that LJ had become the youngest player to reach 1000 career points the WNBA. She is amazing.

I can't remember anyone else having a stand-out game. There were some great individual plays: Sun forced a turnover on an inbounds pass that the Storm converted into a score. Adia was her normal self on defense and had a blocked shot and a couple tipped passes. She played Lisa Harrison much of the time and while Lisa did hit a couple big threes she didn't get anywhere near the paint thanks to Adia. Sue again didn't score much, but she was driving hard to the basket and, more importantly, didn't seem to be in much pain from the knee injury or even limping. Kamila got most of her points in the early part of the game while the Mercury were keying in on LJ. That's really about it - tonight it was definitely the LJ Show.

Other notes:

Tonight was Fire Appreciation night and a couple bus loads of Portland fans were in attendance. They were equal in their applause for the 4 former Fire players on the court (Alisa and Tully for us, Stacey Thomas and Tamicha Jackson for the Merc). Spot the Fire Dog, excuse me... The Portland Puppy made an appearance and was enthusiastically by the Portland fans. I understand that someone somewhere still owns the Fire name and copyrights even thought the team is defunct, but did they also copyright "Spot, the Fire Dog?" Let the dog have his name for crying out loud. And while we're at it, why not let him do some of his high-flying stunts and jams? He may be out of work, but the Dog can fly.

We noticed a big purple couch across the floor from the visiting bench before the game. Odd, but whatever. The big purple IKEA couch, as we soon learned, is where the seat upgrade people now get to sit. I want a seat upgrade to the couch. Can you imagine kicking back on a cushy couch with a cool beverage watching the game from courtside? Yeah, me too.

Yet again, the KeyArena scoreboard equipment was acting up. No, the game clocks were fine tonight, but the stat board and the score display were screwy again. Baskets kept getting attributed to the wrong team and quickly corrected on the main board. On the two end "boards" - really part of the arena video ring just above the luxury boxes - were mostly non-functional. They normally rotate between team stats (blocks, rebounds, assists and steals) and the player stats for the current 5 on the floor. Tonight, only the score was working. They other stats came in and out. This may not be the Sonics and apparently not as important an event, but it is still a professional sporting event and we all paid money to be in the building. We expect the equipment to work.

I've decided to not discuss the officiating any more. You should just assume that the WNBA refs at any given game are horrible. I'm not going to waste any pixels on them, unless they are extraordinarily bad. It's truly ridiculous (see above note about the equipment working, being at a professional sports event and getting one's money worth).

One particularly disturbing thing Angie and I are more aware of now that we have moved closer to the bench - the pregame EBay autograph mob. Tonight, a person who wanted to sit in her ticketed seat was told by the red shirt that she needed to find another open seat somewhere else because it was in the "autograph zone." Excuse me? Since when does the Key have an official "autograph zone" that pushes aside paying customers in favor of the jerks who muscle everyone aside for their precious Sue Bird signatures (complete with authentication photograph!)? The same group of autograph whores are there for each game and make sure that they are the ones who get the few signatures that the players give out instead of the kids and other fans who try to get in. Does anyone really think these guys (and it is all men who are doing this) are seriously collecting this stuff for themselves? And now they have precedence over season ticket holders for the seats at the bottom of section 113 before the game? Bull ****ing ****.

On a more positive note, Hoopgrle and Lilpost were talking to us before the game and I noticed the root beer float in Hoopgrle's hand. I was transfixed, mesmerized even. The subtle interplay between the soft vanilla swirls and the carmel brown eddys of root beer, the slowly rising cream-colored foam that continually threatened to spill over the cup's lip, the promise of cool satisfaction - I had to have one. I did. It was good. I have to go towel off now.

Two notable Sonics made an appearance at the game - Ray Allen (for the first half anyway) and former player and championship head coach Lenny Wilkins. Coach Wilkins received a big round of applause and a half-hearted standing O. Makes you wonder what he's up to in Seattle.

The window flag giveaway was pretty cool and were in great abundance on Mercer as we left the game. We stopped at a grocery store on our way home and saw a car sporting the new flags pull in near us. They apparently drove down 99 and hit about 40 MPH - the flags started to come off the plastic posts. Note to self - don't try them on I-5.

Final note for tonight - the Mercury away jerseys are U.G.L.Y. ugly. If ever there were three colors that should not be used together, it is the three on the Phoenix jersey. Yeeikes.


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