score: Storm 78 Fever 70 (W) (8-6)
don't know that I'm very inspired to write about this disheatening
game. Sometimes losses are cathartic to write about, but I
don't think this one will be. It's like we're coming back
down to earth after a heady start to the season. And that's
almost more painful, because we've seen the potential of this
team, and now we get to watch that potential go unfulfilled,
and it's rather maddening. And too reminiscent of seasons
past. No more so to me than the players, I expect. As they
lined up for the final Sun free throws before our first home
loss Sue was biting her lip and shaking her head; Lauren was
standing with her head down, hands on her knees. Others had
stoic or blank expressions. I don't know if that's the energy
we want, but we seemed drained. This is a three-game skid,
all games we could have won if we'd been the team that executed
down the stretch. Instead it was Connecticut with the beautiful
offensive possession to put them up at the end, and our offense
that hesitated, ran the clock down, and took a poor shot.
And we haven't been shooting the ball well lately. At least
we're executing early and not digging a huge hole, but we
also aren't finding that extra gear, that increase in intensity
that used to dig us out of the hole, and would allow us to
put the clamps on now. I know we've had a lot of games, but
it's kind of early in the season to be this flat and tired.
Right now we're playing ourselves into a fourth-place play-off
berth, if we're lucky, particularly with the 5 Lauren-less
games coming up at the end of July. Time to find that next
gear again and dig ourselves out of this hole we're in, staring
With Yo out I've been worried about our post depth. I saw
Santos all suited up, Brazil having successfully qualified
for the Olympics despite the Izi-drama, but she did not play.
I feel really badly for Ashley and the timing of her Achilles
injury, because this would be the ideal time for her to step
up her game, but instead her minutes are limited. Anyway,
Coach Agler went with a small starting line-up, shifting LJ
to the 5, Swin to the 4, Swoopes to the 3, and bringing in
Tanisha at the 2. Of course Sue started at 1. Oh, and Connecticut
made us flip the baskets to start the game. "4 minutes
to save the world" played as the team emerged for shoot-around.
It was AARP night, so pre-game we were entertained by the
Senior Center Sliders, who did a rfun routine. They also joined
the Dance Troupe later in the game for a performance. Some
AARP members were presented a plaque at mid-court, honoring
their efforts defending the rights of senior citizens.
The anthem was performed by the Sandra Brown Trio (though
the PA Guy pronounced it "Bowen" so I don't know
if he or the AV--Arenavision--was right). It was a touch uneven
at times, but at others the harmonization was brilliant, particularly
as they entered the final stanzas with "o say can you
see...?" I got some chills. Yo was looking snazzy in
her street clothes, but it's a shame to see her on the Pacific
Medical Center Injury Report (left knee). She's reportedly
day-to-day. That left a big question in my mind: who would
the refs pick on without Yo in there to draw their ire (the
answer, surprisingly, was Sue ).
Intros started with the visiting team, per usual. Swanier
got some applause more than the rest, but Barbara Turner really
cleaned up. We kept clapping and cheering until she waved
in acknowledgement. But then there was a huge pause. Nothing
else was going on, and everyone (including the refs, huddled
at the scorer's table) looked confused. There were some scattered
cheers from the below-average-in-size crowd. Then "Let's
Go Storm" started spontaneously and reverberated for
a couple minutes. That was fun. Finally, after several minutes
of this, they flashed "technical difficulties please
stand by" up on the AV. The Sun starters ran down their
line, slapping hands with no intro. And the Storm poked their
heads out of the locker room, and then emerged to much cheering
from the crowd, in the absence of any accompanying music or
light effects. It was weird. Big cheers from the crowd as
the starters took center court.
The refs were #39, 52, and 49. Not great. Often clueless.
A lot of very late whistles. But it was really equal-opportunity.
Well, apart from their picking on Sue for fouls. They did
call a couple of truly awful fouls from out of position, where
on the replay our player didn't even touch by several inches
the Sun she was supposed to have fouled. Frustrating, but
not abnormally so.
We started with a quick turnover, but the crowd was pretty
good with starting up a home-grown de-fense chant. It would
have been interesting (and kind of fun) to see how this might
have played out, but part way through the next CT possession
the prompts were up and running again. It took a bit of time
for us to score, but Sue made a beautiful lay-in from T as
she streaked through the lane on the break to make it 2-2.
We went on quite the little run, buckling down on defense
and out-hustling the Sun. Swin got involved early, and though
Sue's shot was still a little off, things were going really
well. Frustrated with his starters Thibault made a mass-substitution
with about 5 minutes to go, down 11-2. And the Sun benchies
showed a lot of energy. I was worried that we'd see a let-up
on energy because we were up. I haven't seen much killer instinct
yet this season from this team.
With 3 minutes to go there was an altercation under our basket
involving Barbara Turner and LJ. I didn't see precisely what
happened. LJ was fouled hard putting the ball back up on a
rebound. All seemed normal until she suddenly laid into BT,
who wasn't backing down. Sue jumped in the middle, and the
whole team moved LJ back, though she was still screaming at
BT over their heads. Some Sun players gathered around BT.
The refs seemed confused and clueless as usual, and that was
that. LJ hit both of her free throws, but while she had a
solid game, I don't know that she went crazy like she sometimes
does when all riled up, so she must have let it go, though
there was no real eye-contact between LJ and BT the rest of
Gruda looked really smooth for the Sun off the bench. She's
got a really nice touch on her shot. Fortunately for us Sue's
shot really started to fall towards the end of the quarter
too. At the end we got the defensive stop as LJ blocked BT
and tossed the ball ahead to Sue (we were really getting after
the ball); Sue had taken off running ahead of the pack hoping
for a lay-up without realizing that the buzzer was about to
sound. She just smiled and shook her head as the quarter sounded
before she could make it to the hoop. 1Q: 24-15
We looked confident all quarter, but half of it was our starters
against their benchies, so we ought to have been. But there
were too many instances where we'd play really good defense,
then allow them to get the offensive rebound, requiring us
to play even more defense. We maintained pretty well, but
we have got to crash the boards better than that. Fundamentals!
The Sun starters were back in to start the 2nd. LJ went to
the line almost immediately and put us up by double figures
for the first time. But we started to rotate really poorly
on defense. I particularly noticed it when Lauren would switch
on someone else's player, no one would rotate in behind her,
and she was left more than once having to scramble back and
try to cover two players at once. Naturally, Coach called
a time out. Katie was looking a bit lost, and I really wondered
at the decision not to put Beck in without Sue on the floor.
Particularly as she's shown a knack for getting after it on
D as much as Tanisha. Sue subbed back in, and put on a master
class about how you switch on a player by smothering Whitmore,
but the rest of the defense broke down after that. Our defense
in the paint would collapse, and more than once we let CT
get a wide open shot from the perimeter (which would often
be BT from 3 ). This quickly got CT back into the game, and
also kept the smallish crowd relatively quiet. 4 minutes gone
and they'd narrowed the gap to 28-25, as LJ limped to the
bench and went down to see the trainer, who worked on some
part of one of her legs (clearly I didn't have an angle).
Not much later Whalen totally flopped on Sue and drew a foul
that got the first real concerted boos from the crowd. Later
in the game Whalen would go flying across the court...except
she was hit by her own player! Get a clue, refs. You've scouted
Yo, but she's not the only culprit out there. It was a slick
move, though. But I was probably more impressed with how little
Sue complained to the refs during the game. And she had cause.
I'd heard that she got a little bit whiny in Houston. And
if Sue loses focus, the team really seems to suffer, so good
adjustment, Sue. After a long dry spell we finally got another
field goal from Swoopes with just under 4 minutes to go. Beck
came in with Sue at the 2, and I thought that our offense
showed some exciting possibilities, with quick movements and
unpredictability. If only it would all come together (I thought
this as Sue picked up her 3rd foul courtesy of #39 who seems
to have some sort of vendetta). Then BT was bailed out with
a ridiculous call on Shyra as the shot clock ran out. 3 free
throws, 2 of which she missed, but we let them get the offensive
rebound! Shyra turned the ball over. And with 00.5 seconds
to go a totally BS call on Sue (her fourth ) on Whalen when
she didn't even touch her (something the replay confirmed)!
We were no more frustrated than the team, though, as Sheryl
chucked the ball at our basket on the inbounds, giving the
shot clock a pretty good hit. HT: 36-37, Sun
There wasn't much applause as the team entered the locker
room. The fans were rather dissatisfied with the team effort.
And I don't know where the break-down is coming from. I thought
that Shyra and Katie both provided some good energy from the
bench, though Katie was still hesitating too much on her shot.
It was frustrating to have the refs calling what they were.
LJ seemed a bit frustrated by the amount of contact they were
letting go on her. But meanwhile Sue and T had 4 and 3 fouls,
respectively. And I thought we were shallow in the paint!
It took forever for the team to come out for warm-ups. Venting
or getting vented at in the locker room. Not probably a good
We had some good looks early, but the refs were ignoring blatant
holding on the rebounds. The refs, typically unable to make
a decision, called a double foul on Whitmore and Cash a couple
of minutes in, leading to a jump ball which LJ won handily
over Jones, but we promptly turned it over. Our shots weren't
falling, and it seemed like the Sun would beat us on the scramble
to each ball. Tanisha finally went to the line with nearly
4 minutes gone, and the fans still all standing, to score
our first points of the half. Then an LJ 3 put us ahead and
suddenly the crowd got LOUD! The Sun were called for a weak
foul, but Swoopes was going to the line...was going to the
line...we're waiting. I don't know who put these Keystone
Cops together, but finally the refs signaled that we'd apparently
reached the time of a mandatory full time out. Whatever. Swoopes
made both free throws to put us back up. But the refs crapped
on A-rob next with a late whistle, that seemed to me to be
on contact made after the ball had gone through the hoop.
Ashley gave us some good minutes and got applause as she checked
out, limping, with a minute to go in the 3rd. 3Q: 50-55, Sun
Weak applause for our team heading out of the 3rd. It was
sad, because it doesn't take much to set the Key Arena crowd
off, as Diana Taurasi alluded to in an earlier game, but it
usually takes something. We didn't seem to be getting rebounds,
and our offense was stagnant, leading to our repeated jacking
up of outside shots and again, no rebounds. Swoopes was visibly
hesitating to shoot the ball (the fans behind me were actually
wearing on my nerves a touch as they screamed "shoot
the ball" any time any player got it, but particularly
with Swoopes and Gearlds). Sue and LJ were the only players
who seemed willing to shoot when open, and they'd been missing,
then the refs would bail the Sun out with questionable calls.
All in all, a bad combination leading to a lack of Key Arena
energy. It seems like our last pretty game was 10 days ago,
and almost sits like a fluke amid a bunch of flat and/or ugly.
Coach Agler took a page from Thibault's book and started our
benchies in the fourth (well, technically T isn't a bench
player for this game, but she generally is) . Katie, Flo,
Shyra, Beck and Tanisha. The crowd got to their feet, cheering
on the bench, and they showed good energy all around. If only
they didn't keep missing the chippies! The crowd went crazy
when Katie finally hit a 3 a couple minutes in, but mostly
we just maintained. Some starters came back in 3 minutes in.
I could hear multiple fans screaming, "Get a rebound!"
Swoppes tied it at 59 with some free throws. LJ tied it at
63 with some free throws, amid some weird calls; everyone,
including the refs, seemed jittery out there. Swoopes got
one of her steal/lay-in combos to put us up 65-63 and everyone
got to their feet! But we couldn't get a stop, and BT hit
a 3 at the shot clock buzzer with a minute left to put them
up 66-65. Hey, Barbara, Anne Donovan no longer coaches here.
Could you take your vendetta somewhere else?
Our last possession really went no where. Swoopes had been
really active, and Sue kept passing her the ball, but she
passed up the shot repeatedly. Finally Cash was left scrambling
for the hot potato with the shot clock expiring. Not quite
what we were looking for. The crowd was LOUD most of the final
minute until it got away from us. To no avail. We still had
life as LJ went to the line (at least we were hitting our
free throws; one fundamental at a time, I guess) to put us
up 67-66. But CT really executed beautifully on their ensuing
possession to give them the lead. Cash was called for a questionable
foul on a scramble for a loose ball. And we purposely fouled
the rest of the way, but Swoopes missed a running 3 pointer
off a screen that could have tied it up (miraculous if it
went in, but not surprising that it didn't), and it all slipped
away. About half the crowd stuck around to applaud as the
dejected players entered the locker room. No t-shirts were
I keep saying we'll prove our mettle with how we bounce back
from losses, but so far we haven't stepped up to the challenge.
It's not all doom and gloom, particularly when we really don't
execute well and still have a chance to win against one of
the best teams in the WNBA (currently the Sun). And clearly,
there is still a lot of basketball to be played. But letting
these close ones slip away is very disheartening.
Talking to people before the game I heard that upon calling
the WNBA front office about the debacle that was the officiating
at the end of the Houston game, Coach Agler received acknowledgement
that the calls (the 3-pointer after the shot-clock expired
and the botched jump ball toss) were terrible mistakes. Well,
that's cold comfort. Perhaps they can forgive the fine for
his technical at least (since it was clearly warranted)?
Parker and Becca, the Jr. Captains, met Sue, LJ, Whalen and
Jones at center court. The High-5 Fans were Patsy and Julie.
Trivia seat upgrade: which current Storm players were #1 and
#2 in the 2002 draft? (C) Bird & Cash (a pretty obvious
answer, particularly since I think Jackson was listed under
A and B).
One-on-One with Swin interviewing Katie: any other sport but
basketball = LPGA; Swin had Katie demonstrate her swing, and
they showed a hilarous graphic of Katie's head superimposed
on some golfing body. Favorite car = (currently) 2009 yellow
Ford Mustang convertible hard top. Favorite basketball player
of all time = Reggie MIller; "he has my heart and took
it with him when he retired." Aww.