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10/12/04 vs Connecticut

Final score: Storm 74 – Sun 60 (W) (2-1)

WNBA CHAMPIONS!

WNBA Finals Game 3

Attendance | 17,072! 2nd straight sell-out. First ever sold out Finals series.

Anthem Watch | The director from the Total Experience Gospel Choir doing her thing.

Fan Psyche | Betty! Betty! Betty! — at 116 decibels!

Game Highlight | Nothing can top Val Ackerman handing the trophy over to Coach Donovan and the team. That's just about as high a highlight as you can get.

Halftime | The tumbler guys returned.

Flopometer | Eh, who cares? The Storm are the 2004 Champions!

SF.O Keyword of the Game | Defense.

Game Photos | Game Photos (Scott Larson)

What can be said but the Storm are the 2004 WNBA Champions? Or that Betty Lennox was awarded the Finals MVP? Nothing else seems to matter once you get past those two facts.

Of course, I can't just leave it at that, so here goes:

I didn't really ever follow the Sun when they moved to Connecticut and left Orlando. I didn't really pay much attention to the eastern conference this season because it seemed such a mess. Coming from a state of basic ignorance about what kind a team the Sun was I have to say that they certainly earned a lot of respect and admiration from Seattle fans through this series. If the Storm had lost, I'm sure you would have heard some sour grapes (and I haven't yet read any other forums to know how the Sun fans are responding), but you would have also heard a grudging respect towards the Sun because they simply would not quit. Hats off to the Connecticut Sun — they played tough and between them and the Storm made this one of the best Finals series in a long time.

The cliche that has been tossed around the last few days is that basketball is a game of runs. That may be true, but a series is won and lost on the adjustments each coach makes game to game. In many areas, the Sun "figured out" the Storm and were able to stymie LJ and keep her well below her scoring average. Well, the Storm made some adjustments too. From Game 1 to Game 2, they figured out how to shut down the Sun posts. From Game 2 to Game 3, they figured out how to shut down the Sun guards. The only Sun player the Storm never really contained was Nykesha Sales. Sales almost won the Finals on her own in Game 2. Tonight, she wasn't enough and the rest of the Sun fell under the Storm's defensive onslaught.

Defense was the key tonight. When the Storm were aggressive on defense, they were aggressive on offense. When the defense sagged, their shots stopped going in. The Storm stalled in the first half and allowed the Sun to catch up. The Storm denied everything in the second half and pulled away to the eventual win.

Not to talk too much smack about the Sun because I was serious about what I said above, but I think it's accurate to say that a couple of their key players choked tonight. Katie Douglas with an 0-11. Lindsay Whalen who had a 1-7 or so going until she got some garbage baskets in the waning minutes. Wendy Palmer 0-2. The Sun had something like 4 or 5 airballs. Airballs in the deciding game of the WNBA Finals (just to be fair, the Storm did have one of their own). Compare some of their other stats to previous games - steals, assists, blocked shots — everything much much lower. To be honest, they played in Game 3 like the Storm did in Game 1 — tired, unfocused and a step slow.

The Storm, except for their major skid at the end of the first half, had all the energy, all the determination and all the momentum. Like the Sun in Game 1, the Storm were the ones tipping passes and somehow coming up with the loose ball. The Storm took this game with confidence and no one can say it was given to them. To use another cliche, they wanted it much, much more.

Just as the Storm had no real answer to stopping Sales, the Sun had no answer to stopping Betty and Betty once again punished Whalen and Douglas. All the chatters after Game 2 kept going on about how Sheri got torched by Sales, ignoring the job Betty did on the Sun. Well, Betty one-uped Nykesha tonight and took it right at the Sun guards. I think it was pretty obvious towards the last 10 minutes of the second half that the Storm players wanted Betty to get the MVP — they kept feeding her the ball and letting her score. Betty has her detractors, but not in this town.

One of the best things about this game was how Kamila and Simone came out and contributed. They both played huge games and not only picked up the slack from LJ being bothered, but they scored and got their rebounds in big time fashion. They are one of the main reasons Seattle went on the run they did in the second half — key baskets and even more key rebounds. Simone played better in the last 3 games than she has in maybe the last couple years. You could see how much she wanted this win and she played with great energy. In addition to her 14 points, Kamila played excellent interior defense play after play. How many times did she stop one of the Sun posts from making a move into scoring position or stop a drive from getting too close to the basket? Kamila was a brick wall tonight. It was so great to see these two players, our only two original Storm players left, to contribute to this win in such a meaningful way. This has to be the sweetest for them, to have been here for the 6-16 and 10-22 seasons only to now be WNBA Champions.

Of course, just about all the other Storm players had some key contributions tonight. Sue showed no fear once again and attacked the Sun defense time and time again, especially at the beginning of the second half. It was almost like she and LJ personally wanted to rip the momentum back away from the Sun the second the clock started in the second half. With the way both of them came out, I'm sure Coach Donovan had to have challenged them during the break to set the tone and not let the Sun get any more of a toe-hold on the score. Tully was as tenacious as ever, diving to the floor after loose balls and hitting an absolutely monster three-pointer in the second half. It was one of the shots that help start the Seattle run. Sheri again did not have a big scoring night, but she did have another all-around stat line and hit the two shots she made at key times and was able to take some of the defensive pressure off of LJ and Betty, if even for a few minutes. Adia, Chelle and Janell did not have a lot of playing time and did not contribute a lot to the offense. They were vital to that second half push though and helped shut down the Sun during the last 12 minutes or so.

This was a team defensive effort at all levels that allowed the Storm stars to shine on offense. Everyone had a part to play and they brought it all together and gutted out an impressive Game 3 win. The Storm won the Championship the way they got through the regular season — by believing in each other, by playing swarming defense and by moving the ball with confidence and finding the hot player.

The Storm are the 2004 WNBA Champions.

Other notes:

Upon seeing the ref list taped to the side of the scorer's table, I and several other Stormfans let out a groan. But, I turned to them and said that the Storm will just have to win the game in such a way as to make the Refs of Doom a non-factor — not letting the refs impact the end of the game. That is exactly what the Storm did.

Kudos to the crowd tonight. I can be happy with 116 decibels (as reported by the PI). It was loud enough a few times that my ears did indeed hurt. THAT is what home court advantage is all about.

I heard after the game that Doppler's wife was having a baby tonight. Talk about a dedicated mascot. The significant other is giving birth to a Dopplet and you're at the Key doing your booty shaking thing. Congratulations. I just hope Dopplet gets its looks from Mom, if you know what I mean...

I had the great honor to be asked to help out with a pregame crowd frenzy activity along with Big Lo and my main man with the foam finger on his head. We joined Doppler on the court right before the player intros to lead the "Not. In. Our. House" cheer with signs. I had the "our" and was facing the team benches. It was one of the coolest things I've done as a fan. Even cooler yet was when I came off the court to go back to my seat and got high fived by the Storm coaches and half the team. Damn if that wasn't beyond cool.

Tonight was Angie and my 9th wedding anniversary. Eclair told us before the game she was getting us a WNBA Championship as a gift, but that we could return it if it didn't fit or something. Nah, I think we'll keep it.

Howard Schultz went absolutely ape over a foul call in the second half (I think). I was shocked that the refs didn't give him a technical. He was going crazy over there.

Doppler did the bungie bowling thing again and there were Sun jerseys on the pins (just like there were Monarchs jerseys and Sparks jerseys previously). Apparently a couple Sun fans and their GM took major offense and will be "calling" the Storm GM to complain. Whatever.

More Seahawks showed up to throw t-shirts to the crowd during a timeout. Also, there were more taped messages of support from Seahawks, Mariners and Sonics players (and Coach McMillan).

The WNBA Trophy is smaller than I thought it would be.

I didn't get nearly as emotional this game as I did with the Game 3 win over the Monarchs. Maybe it will hit me later.

There was complete mayhem on the court after the game, of course. Sue's mom was pretty much continually dancing. Adia's mom was pretty much continually crying. The massed throng of fans were asking for hats, shoes and t-shirts to be thrown to them. We could only hear about half of what was said on the podium because people cheered for everything.

When the Storm started cutting down the net and Simone passed the scissors to Kamila, she had a "why would you want to do that" look on her face. They pushed her up there anyway and she got her snippet of twine.

Coach Donovan triumphantly cut the last cord and tore the net away from the hoop.

Greco came back out after most of the festivities went into the locker room and sprayed champaign all over David Locke (and a little on us).

Betty, LJ and Sue were leading around packs of media.

LJ went into the locker room and then came back out barefooted. She tried to pour champaign on Coach Donovan, but Anne wouldn't let her so Anne instead took a big swig off the bottle.

The biggest hugs came from Kamila as she left the floor at the end of the game. She gave up the Olympics for this and it had to feel spectacular to have actually achieved the Championship.

During the first half, I turned to the ball girl that works behind the Storm bench and asked her if they had a defibulator. She pointed to it sitting right next to me. I told her to get it warmed up because we might be needing it (we didn't).

And finally, for now, because Owl told me to crow my crow, here goes:

Who predicted before the Storm even played their first game that they would win their first Championship in year 5?

That would be me. That's right — I called it and I called it first.

Now we just need to repeat!