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Final score: Storm 92 – Sparks 56 (W) (15-11)

Attendance | 8305

Anthem Watch | Goosebump time.

Fan Psyche | "...and we were here to see it."

Game Highlight | LJ, LJ, LJ!

Halftime | Dogs!

Game Photos | Game Photos (Scott Larson)

I feel like I should just copy and past the first two paragraphs from the Gameday for the Sting game, except that Lauren didn't score another 20/20. She only scored a new personal WNBA best with 34 points, set a team record for scoring 22 points in a half (and she did it in about 12 minutes of play), hit yet another double double with 13 rebounds and set a new WNBA record for most field goals in a game with 17 (she shot just under 74% for the game). I usually try not to throw out a lot of stats since I'm not a sports reporter and focus more on writing from a fan's perspective, but LJ's performance was simply incredible and I just have to marvel a bit at what she is capable of. As someone in our area said, "That was amazing and we were here to see it."

The first half was definitely the Lauren Jackson show, but it also seemed headed for one of those endings that end up on the news highlights with the opening line, "Her career high wasn't enough..." (a nod to Seattlegaucho for that one). While LJ was destroying the nonexistent Sparks bigs, the rest of the Storm were doing the same thing we were - sitting back and watching the show. We were all celebrating and the Sparks were busy keeping themselves in the game. As out of control as the second half got, the Sparks were right where they wanted to be at the end of the first half - down by only 3.

They were able to do that by playing disruptive ball and getting the Storm, except for Lauren, out of their flow. Coach Cooper was digging deep into his bag of tricks tonight. He chose the opposite basket to start the game - meaning they started on offense with the basket in front of their own bench instead of the more normal option of ending the game in front of your own bench. I'm sure this was a ploy to play a little head game with the Storm and to make them uncomfortable. Look at it this way, by reversing the floor he had the Storm playing the direction they would as if they were on the road. A minor thing and I don't think it worked, but it was an interesting move nonetheless. (FYI - The visiting team has the option to pick their starting basket - normally everyone does it the same way).

He also, perhaps out of necessity but it was again an interesting move, played "small" a lot and had Mwadi Mabika playing against our big players instead of at the 2 or 3 position. She was going up against Kamila, Lauren and Simone much of the game on both ends of the court. During the first half, I think this did catch the Storm off guard a bit and Mabika was able to disrupt the Storm offense. In the second half, the Storm adjusted and took advantage of her smaller size more effectively.

On the Storm end of the court, Coach Donovan went to the bench early and often. Both Kamila and Sue looked uncomfortable in the first half. Kamila looked dead tired and winded after just a couple of minutes. Sue was also in and out more often than normal. She didn't look to be limping much, but she did get her left hand bent back or something and airballed a three right after it happened. The good news is that Simone, Rita and Tully all came in and played very solidly. Simone, who cut her hair rather short, may be the one player who has benefited the most from Coach Donovan's teachings. She has more speed, more control of her body and the ball and seems more determined. Rita has been really coming on lately. I think winning at Connecticut did something good for her because she is playing a lot better and their is less of a "drop off" at the point when Sue goes out (at least for home games...). Tully is Tully, and it wouldn't be a game if she wasn't on the floor or getting body slammed over the scorers' table (called a flagrant foul by the way).

Another great sign that the team is feeling good - they were passing the ball around very well and were finding the open person with a lot more ease than in some past (road) games. True, this was LJ's game, but in the second half the Storm matched the Sparks' score for the game - we scored 56 points in the second half alone. This happened because the Storm were relaxed, turned up their defensive pressure and played together as a cohesive unit. It was truly fun to watch.

The good news is that the Storm won and did so with authority. It looked like the Sparks might make a game of it for a while. If they had lost by only a few points, it would have almost been as good as a win for them. With no Milton or Leslie, for them to stay with and "barely" lose would have given them some hope. By being crushed, the message is that without their star they are just as good, or bad, as every other WNBA team. One of the funnier things that I see Storm critics say on other sites and forums is that the Storm have 2 good players and a bunch of mediocre players at best. If that is true, then what can you say about the Sparks? They lose one or two players and straight to .500 ville. Every team in the league has 2 or 3 great players and a supporting cast - even the *cough* former *cough* WNBA champs.

Other notes:

Tonight was the night for the out-of-town Stormfans Forum members to descend on KeyArena. NewSocks, Trinity and husband, GoShorty, and Storm Fan in Comets Land all got to experience the Storm goodness tonight (joining the other 113 Stormfans regulars Sass, Jezzie, Leighway, BirdJack Vodka, Me, Angie, Seattlegaucho, Brrring It, Storm 2004, Vodichkova_Rules, Hamster, Numero_10 (I think, haven't met yet), and probably others I'm forgetting - 113 is the place to be). New Socks made up a big batch of her special Diva weaves and handed them out. It was too bad that She Who Must Not Be Named didn't make an appearance. The Storm bench did see and seemed to appreciate the weaves though, so mission mostly accomplished.

One note about our absent nemesis - one person (Awase, I think) said that she had just read that more fluid was drained from the Diva's bruised knee, and the fluid had blood in it. This sounds more serious an injury than the Sparks are letting on. At least one news report listed her as perhaps missing the rest of the season. I honestly hope not. I don't want to give Michael Cooper or any other chuckleheads any excuse for losing when it eventually happens. When the Sparks get knocked out of the playoffs, if it happens without the Diva playing I can guarantee Cooper will come out with an "asterisk" statement for whoever wins the championship.

We thought we might be in for another long scoreboard/time clock night. Right before the opening tip, the main scoreboard read "19:12" on the clock. I'm sure Cooper would have liked the game to be shorter, but come on now.

Loonier's seat mate was sporting a new Storm jersey tonight - #1 Mrs. Doppler. The big red guy was suitably taken aback when she showed it to him. I'm thinking restraining order..

The team poster is super cool. We tried to grab some extra for the unlucky who couldn't make the game, but someone stole the ones Trinity and hubby had, so we gave them our extras.

The MVP chant made several appearances, including during LJ's postgame Q&A with David Locke. She was embarrassed and rolled her eyes. She's so cute!

The "we're not worthy" bow got going as well (mainly in 113 - Stormfans central).

A couple (yes, that's an understatement) bad calls I need to point out - isn't it a new rule that once the ball has left the shooter's hand, touching the shooter's hand/wrist/arm is no longer supposed to be called as a foul? I thought for sure that this was a new rule change for this season. I could be wrong, but if not there were at least 3 of those called tonight against the Storm and the Sparks. As I and many others have stated in the past, we just want consistency and for the actual fouls to be called.

Adia is looking pretty mobile for just having surgery to repair her ACL. She was sans crutches and was walking around about as well as one could with a Robocop-style leg brace on. She also got the best segment in the "Inside the Storm" video. The question tonight was who would win in a game of horse - you (the players) or Coach Donovan? Adia answered fairly strongly that she would kick Anne's butt, then busted up and qualified her answer with something about post moves and losing if they played under the basket.

Speaking of Coach D, the Free Anne Donovan Fund got off to a good start. If you are interested in contributing to help pay for Coach Donovan's recent $1000 fine (earned after the last Sacramento game), you can add to the fund by visiting us at the game on Friday in section 113, row 9, seats 1 and 2. You can also mail in your contribution (the address is in the Forum thread under News Items at the top of the list).

Lastly, isn't it fun to win?


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