score: Storm 78 Mercury 71 (W) (1-0)
Score | Jayda's
Game Blog | Norwester's
E | Rick
| Scott L
to the 2011 season my friends. The Storm are better. They're
stronger and the are ready to not only defend their 2010 WNBA
Championship, but are current odds-on favorites to repeat.
first, a little ceremony.
Championship Ring presentation and Banner reveal was very
cool. I remember the ceremony in 2004 being a little more
rough around the edges. This came off as fun and while emotional,
not overly dramatic. I'm probably not explaining what I mean
very well. Having the Coach and then the players introduce
each other as they came out to get their rings was a great
touch and really allowed us a glimpse into how tight this
group really is. They were having fun with each other and
it all felt very good natured and heart-felt.
new WNBA President Laurel Michel said a few words, Karen Bryant
and the Storm coaching staff received their rings. After recognizing
the players who were no longer with the team — Abby
Bishop, Jana Vesela, Alison Lacey and Svetlana Abrosimova
— Coach Agler introduced Ashley, predicting that she
would end up being the Most Improved Player of the league
this year. She brought out Le'coe, pointing out that Le'coe
won back-to-back Championships (one with the Mercury and then
last year with the Storm). Le'coe brought out Tanisha, who
then brought out Camille, then Swin, LJ and finally Sue. Sue
talked to the crowd a bit, admitting that she wasn't all that
excited about coming to Seattle to begin with but being happy
with how things turned out. The ceremony ended with the Championship
Banners being revealed. They were already hung next to the
2004 banners, just covered with black fabric. After a countdown,
the covers were dropped.
it's time to work on a third set of banners.
Storm didn't start the game out with nearly as much efficiency
as we saw in the preseason game against Tulsa. It wasn't that
Phoenix was playing that good on defense, the Storm were just
missing their shots. They were attacking the paint, going
in to LJ or finding cutters for layups – the shots just
weren't going in. They finally scored on a Tanisha three.
the other end, Phoenix wasn't doing much better, although
it was due to the Storm's defense and not just poor shooting
by the Mercury. The first three Phoenix possessions ended
up as Storm steals or bad outside shots. The Mercury's first
scores came when they were able to get the Storm off guard
on an inbounds pass under the basket.
Smith came in at about the 5:00 mark with Le'coe. They both
made an immediate impact, on both ends of the court. After
a Phoenix miss, Sue was pushing the ball up the floor and
veered to her left to get an LJ screen. Katie was trailing
the play and slid out to the right. As the defense closed
on Sue and LJ, Sue kicked the ball out to a completely wide
open Katie Smith who calmly sank a three-pointer.
many times over the last 10 years have we seen that happen
and died a little inside as we could see Katie finding an
open spot and being ignored by the Storm defense. We all knew
what the outcome would be since she doesn't miss when given
that kind of chance. It's what she does — crush the
hopes and dreams of opposing fans.
she is ours and she'll go on crushing hopes and dreams...
of any other Western Conference team having a chance against
the Storm this season.
second substitutions brought Arob in for LJ, still in the
first quarter. Coach Agler is sold on Ashley and seems to
be willing to give her playing time and let her prove him
right. During the subsequent Storm offensive sets, Ashley
got the ball on three occasions. She had a wild shot on one
that sailed over the rim, had a decent shot that missed and
hit one that looked good from when she caught the ball and
through her release (meaning she didn't hesitate or double
pump — she went up for the shot with some confidence).
The misses did, however, give the Mercury rebound opportunities
that they turned into their own offense, as they tend to do.
They were as successful as the Storm, lucky for us, and were
missing everything. The frustrating thing was that even though
4 out of the 5 Mercury players would release down the court
as soon as the shot went up, leaving one player to rebound
against 3 or 4 Storm players, the Storm players were being
very lackadaisical and kept allowing that sole Mercury player
to scoop up the offensive rebound.
the end of the first quarter, the Storm only led by 2. It
could have easily been by 8-10 if they had hit some of those
point-blank lay ups and hadn't fallen asleep on defense so
many times. The good news was that even though the Storm missed
some easy ones, they were actively attacking the paint and
going inside. The Mercury were settling for outside shots
and only getting layups on fastbreaks. You had to think that
if the Storm calmed down a bit, they'd be able to build and
keep a good lead.
Storm picked up their defense in the second quarter. There
was one sequence that had them in a scrum on the floor for
a loose ball, the Merc getting it and Dupree going up for
a shot, getting stuffed, and then even though Taurasi got
the ball back, she turned it over after Tanisha's defense
forced her into a travel.
star of the game started to assert herself through this stretch.
You might think that with all the Olympians and past MVPs
on the floor the one player who was dominating things might
have been one of those marquee names. Nope. Miss Camille Little
came to play and was imposing her will on the game. She was
fighting for rebounds, forcing steals and turnovers, running
the floor during fastbreaks, hitting big shots and generally
doing whatever she wanted against the Mercury posts.
is fast becoming one of my favorite players. She just doesn't
give up or play timidly. She takes advantage of double teams
on LJ and gives the Storm a consistent option for scoring
and defense. Unfortunately, she went down late in the game
with what looked like a knee injury. She left the floor with
a little help, having scored 18 on 8-13 shooting, with 9 rebounds,
3 steals and a blocked shot. She led the Storm, for this game,
in all of those stats. Fantastic. Katie was named Player of
the Game and got the post-game interview, but I think that
was because Camille was in the locker room getting that knee
tended to. On a team of stars, Camille shined the brightest
in this game.
Storm built a decent lead and had it up to 15 at one point.
You can never rest on a lead with the Mercury, and sure enough
in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter, Taurasi went
nuts and started hitting from all over the floor while the
Storm had seemed to relax and coast a bit. If the game had
been 5 minutes longer, we would have had a tough one, but
the clock was on the Storm's side and Taurasi ran out of time.
The Storm eased into their first win of the season, their
8th in a row over the Mercury and 22nd in a row at home.
were a few other noteworthy sequences during the game:
one point, Coach Agler went with a small lineup of Swin, Katie,
Camille, Sue and Le'coe. It looked like he was testing this
kind of lineup to see how they fared against a similarly small
and quick Mercury team. Of course, Camille rocked it and the
others tended to dominate in their one-on-one match ups. I
wouldn't be surprised to see this kind of lineup more often,
especially when Snell hits the floor.
came in for a short time for Swin. Taurasi and Swin had been
playing each other (and damn if that match up isn't entertaining
— next time these two get together, you owe it to yourself
to really pay attention to them as they work off the ball.
It can be brutal) and I was concerned that Ife would get eaten
alive trying to keep up with D. Phoenix didn't take advantage
however as Diana switched to cover Katie and left Ife alone.
Storm had a great highlight reel play on a fastbreak. Sue
was racing down the court with Tanisha on one side and Le'coe
trailing a bit on the other side. Tanisha cut to the basket
as the defender edged over to stop Sue. Tanisha got the ball,
the defender started to rotate right as T shot it over to
Le'coe for the layup. It was great team basketball.
was a girl band playing up on the concourse before the game,
and by girl band I mean teen age girls. They were playing
Nirvana, Soundgarden and other similar rock music. It was
a little odd to hear a girl who couldn't have been more than
about 12 singing Nirvana's Teen Spirit. I guess it was appropriate,
if not very, very loud.
had a new timeout contest, Sue Bird Racing. It was introduced
with a video showing three of the players taking part. Each
was wearing a bird costume and had to run down the court,
get a ball out of a giant nest and then run back to a basket
and make a layup. It was hilarious. Later in the game, some
fans got to do the same thing for some prizes. It looks like
the Storm will be introducing several new games throughout
the season. I hope the rest can live up to the pure comedy
of Sue Bird Racing.
County Executive Dow Constantine and Governor Christine Gregoire
were at the game.
Championship Banner rally towels are awesome — a great
way to get the banner into the hands of the fans. Whoever
thought up that one deserves a raise.
fan in the front row under the north basket made a gigantic
Championship ring. Shelly Hart got it and put it on Doppler's
arm (like I said, it was big). He went over to the owners
to show it off. This got me wondering — does Doppler
get a real ring? If not, I think he should. He is part of
the game experience and obviously works his rather large,
red butt off.
Doppler note — he's missing his anemometer (the whirly
cup thingy that used to me on top of his head). I seem to
remember if breaking off during the playoffs. Maybe it was
too much of a nuisance to fix it?