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9/3/04 at Los Angeles Sparks

Final score: Storm 81 – Sparks 82 (L) (17-10)

Attendance | 9721 (riiiight - maybe if you counted all the ads flashing everywhere.)

Anthem Watch | It looked like she was smelling something bad, but she was clearly emoting when she was missing all those low notes.

Fan Psyche | We obey the voice from above.

Game Highlight | Meeting Mrs. Greco, Betty for a 3+1 to tie the game at 80, me yelling during the first Spark free throw and getting an echo along with a third of the crowd giving me a "What the hell was that?" look.

Halftime | Musical bean bags.

Flopometer | They were flopping like crazy - Teasley, Christi Thomas, Dixon - and the refs were not biting. The refs were also ignoring actual fouls, but what else is new.

Halftime | Hoarse (see above).

Game Photos

After Wednesday night's debacle against Sacramento - we're getting bumped in the first round. After tonight's game against the Sparks - we're back to contender form and will be doing some damage in the playoffs.
 
Just about everything about the team's performance tonight - demeanor, energy and yes, swagger - was in stark contrast to the tired, hestitant, deer-in-the-headlights team we saw on Wednesday. The Storm came into this game, went toe-to-toe with the best the Sparks could throw at them - literally in the case of Betty - and missed a win at Staples by one basket.
 
And they did it without LJ.
 
Our post players were the difference. It was the scrappy and never-give-an-inch play from Kamila, Janell (who I thought would have been out for the season after being carried off the court on Wednesday) and Simone that allowed the Storm to be competitive. Yes, Sue and Betty were huge contributors, but as we saw against Sacramento they need help too.
 
Kamila was a downright monster. She was playing with an aggressiveness that caught the Sparks off guard, I think. She was driving, hitting mid-range jumpers, ripping rebounds on both ends of the court.

Janell was a big-time gamer. I thought for sure that she was out for the season after watching her limp off the court on Wednesday night against the Monarchs. Not so. Even though was visibly in pain much of the time, Janell was also taking charge in the post and forcing the Sparks to guard her.

Simone stepped up as well and played better than she has of late. She wasn't as hesitant, was able to keep her hands on the ball, and eventually put up some decent shots.

All of this action inside allowed Sue and Betty to go to work from the perimeter. Sue was almost unstoppable and if she hadn't missed that last second shot for the win, this might have gone down in the books as one of her best games as a Storm player.

The game was tight pretty much all the way. Any time either team started to claw ahead (and believe me, the claws were out), the other would get a defensive stop or two and tie it again.

The things that killed the Storm were missed free throws and unconverted offensive rebounds. Betty missed 2 free throws and Simone missed 4, and even getting 3 of those 6 would have been the difference. The offensive rebounding was surprisingly good, but the Storm weren't able to easily convert and turned the ball over. Again, a couple more of those would have made the difference.

The last couple of minutes were heart-stopping to say the least. The Sparks had built a 4 point lead with 30 seconds left that, looking at how tight the Storm had gotten at the end of the game, seemed to be it. The basket was a bit in the way, so I didn't get a clean look at Betty's three-point shot to say whether it was rushed, in desperation or an open shot, but she took it and amazingly got fouled by The Diva. It must have been a clean foul, because even the Sparks crowd didn't get too upset about it.

A bit of referring oddity - Betty made the free throw, but the refs had her redo it because a Spark commited a lane violation. If the opposing team commits the violation, shouldn't it have counted and only been reshot if it had been missed? Also, The Diva was trying to get a jump ball called. Whaaaa? I think her ribbons were too tight.

On the Sparks' last play, The Diva had the ball in the post and was actually outside the paint. She had the ball held up high and Janell poked it out of her hands. Janell was behind The Diva and even from our vantage point across the arena it looked like it was all ball. Janell got the foul called on her anyway. Lisa made one of the two free throws. We couldn't really see if Janell pushed with her other hand or if she got body contact against The Diva, but the ball tip looked clean.

Sue got the inbounds and took off down the court. She was covered by two Sparks when she took the shot, and had a couple seconds left on the clock. She probably had time to pass it off to anyone under the basket, if anyone had been under the basket. I don't remember seeing any Storm players racing down the court to be there for a pass or rebound. They seemed to be letting Sue take the shot. Of course, you would want Sue taking the last shot and she did get close, but one green jersey under the basket might have tipped that shot back in. There would have been time for it.

The other fireworks display happened a little earlier when Betty and Dixon got into it. Here is my take on the incident. Betty had gotten a pass and Dixon and one other Spark tried to trap her. Betty tried to reverse direction and go away from the baseline when her arm and Dixon's arm got "tied up" - Dixon got called for a foul very quickly. Even after the whistle blew, she wouldn't let go of Betty, so Betty flailed her arm around and pushed off of Dixon to get clear. Dixon immediately stepped upto Betty and started jawing. Betty of course responded and Dixon took a swing at Betty. The other players jumped in fairly quickly to stop the fight from getting too much farther than that. The refs ended up calling off-setting technical fouls and ejected Dixon. If Dixon got ejected, didn't the refs have to call a second technical on her, and if so why didn't the Storm get a free throw and possession? Instead, the Storm only got the ball on the side. Betty didn't even get any free throws from the foul because the Sparks weren't over the limit yet. Fishy at best, crappy officiating at worst. The officials were quick to step in and stop things from going any farther, but they muffed the call. Since this happened with a minute and a half on the clock, we could have used those free throws.

It's too bad that this game wasn't televised. It will be one of the great Seattle / LA games, even if we did lose.

Other notes:

Staples center - eh. Yeah, it's big. Yeah, it has 3 rows of luxury boxes (I hope binoculars come with the box). Yeah, it has fast food restaurants inside the concourse so there is an option to the arena food. It didn't live up to the hype. The ads on every flat surface (and even some curved ones, don't ask) were distracting. The angle of the bowl was too shallow and even in row 18 or where ever we were it felt like we were too far away. Every time we go to a new arena for a WNBA game, I appreciate the Key that much more. I need to go check out Madison Square Garden, but I have a feeling that the Key will always be the best.

The Sparks fans - for the most part, OK. We had a family sitting right in front of us who were all dressed up in Sparks' gear that was a little weary of us when we first sat down. I got their attention with my first "Brick!" bellow. After that, they were giving us some good natured smack talk and Mack (Dirty Socks), New Socks and I were giving it back to them. After the game, they all gave us a "Good game" and high fives on the way out. If we had won, who knows if they would have been that nice about it, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of doubt. There were a couple other LA fans who weren't so happy to see us, including one woman a few rows down who was cussing at us, flipping us off, etc.

One other thing about the LA fans - they were slaves to the arena announcer. They wouldn't cheer, stand up or anything unless the announcer told them to. In fact, the only times they actually got excited about the game (again because they were told to over and over) were at the end of the two halves. This was an exciting game all the way through, but you wouldn't have known it by watching the LA fans. Sad.

If anyone thinks that the Storm Dance Troupe is too suggestive with some of their moves given that they are all in elementary school, think again. I was downright shocked at some of the things those little Sparks Kids were doing. I'm on openminded kind of guy, but I was getting worried that I might get arrested for child porn because I had gone to a Sparks game. I'm not exaggerating. (I was similarly shocked once we got to Phoenix when their dance kids did their thing).

The Storm didn't really see us before or during the game. We were kind of back and to the left from the bench near the top of the player tunnel.

We had dinner at the Fox Sports Grill that is connected to the arena. Once we got in and settled, we went off to the restroom to change into our green "Go Storm" shirts. That got some attention. LAStormFan stopped by to say hello, which was nice. He was the only LA-based forum member to introduce themselves. We also saw Adia's mother as we left to go into the arena.

Stormfan7 and Sik-co went off during the game once they had spotted Mrs. Greco and had her come over to where the group was sitting to say hello. She was very nice and very appreciative that we were all there to cheer her daughter and the Storm. I told her that we all liked Michelle quite a bit and were impressed by her determination and tough play - when she got in the game.

Another odd Staples Center thing - they wouldn't allow you to keep the plastic caps from water bottles that you bought at the concessions stand. So we can't have a light plastic cap that wouldn't make it down to the floor if we threw it as hard as we could, but we can have a heavy bottle of water that would make it to the court and splash water everywhere on the way down. That's some smart thinking.

Another Staples complaint - horrible scoreboards. You'd think that with all that video screen space, they would have had decent scoreboards. Not so. They sucked. The Rose Garden still has the best by far.

After the game, we packed up the mini-van and drove to Phoenix (with a small detour to Chez Sic-ko). 5 hours and no deer. We switched off on driving since it was the middle of the night. After we got into Arizona, I stopped off on an exit to switch off to Leighway. The moon was bright and there were few lights to mess up the sky. It was beautiful and the desert was lit up enough that you could have easily hiked without too much worry. It must have either rained earlier or was about to, because there was that rain smell mixed in with the desert smell. Leighway asked what the stink was. I said, "Arizona."