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5/20/04 vs Minnesota Lynx

Final score: Storm 88 – Lynx 85 (W) (1-0)

Attendance | 6624

Anthem Watch | 3 comments. First, the kid has some skills. Second, he's also developing some bad habits that only someone of Christine Aguilera's experience should have. Third, I'd like all that ham with some swiss on the side and a sourdough bun, to go.

Fan Psyche | We... just... might... WIN!

Game Highlight | LJ takes over and punishes the Lynx.

Halftime | Hit Explosion

Game Photos | Game Photos (Scott Larson)

Whew. And I do mean capital W H E W.

This is the type of game that the Storm tended to lose in seasons past. How many times have the Storm lost nail biters because the super star on the other team was somehow able to get that all-important steal, draw the foul on every drive to the basket and hit those dagger-like threes to seal the game and the Storm's fate. Actually, that is how the game ended only it was OUR superstar who came through.

It may be one of the more tired sports clichés, but LJ took over the game in the last few minutes, put the Storm on her back and carried them to this win. The Lynx had her stymied earlier in the game, but were not able to as effectively muscle LJ around late in the game. Once Nicole Ohlde got into foul trouble and eventually fouled out, the Lynx didn't have anyone who could guard Lauren so they had to keep fouling her.

Betty Lennox and Sue Bird ended up with similar numbers, but as I've been paying a lot more attention to efficiency lately (thanks to a little fantasy league I'm in that is scored based on player efficiency) I think it is interesting to take a look at their effectiveness overall. Yes, Betty had a double double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, but she also had 7 turnovers and shot 6 for 16. Sue shot 5-7 with 4 TOs and had 17 points. I'm not saying that Betty's performance wasn't one of the keys that helped the Storm win, but those 7 TOs were harsh. I'm hoping that once the team has more time together and they develop that chemistry Coach Donovan has been speaking about, Betty won't feel the need to drive into the defense when she doesn't really have an opening and can instead feel confident that her teammates will get her the ball when she is in good scoring position. I will give Betty credit where credit is due - she did get a steal during the last minute or so that stopped the Lynx from tying or taking the lead. I am looking for her to be under a little more control, but not much. She's got great skills and I think 2 or 3 less turnovers would have been huge in this game.

Let's be honest - the Storm looked a little out of sync for most of the game. The Lynx were consistently successful in disrupting the Storm's plays on defense and then getting open post players under the basket on offense. The Storm players were doing a lot of directing traffic - telling each other where they should be - and then chasing the Lynx instead of anticipating them.

The Lynx also seemed to have a consistent height advantage over the Storm and they used it as often as they could. Amanda Lassiter was defending Sue much of the first half and with her height, speed and long arms was able to force some bad passes. Teresa Edwards was putting on a show and arguably getting away with some veteran slight of hand (even though she's technically only a 2nd year player). And then there's Katie Smith.

Ah, Katie Smith. She's super tough and plays a style that one could argue is dirty. I tend to look at her as someone who takes full advantage of how far the refs are willing to go. She may also be the absolute best offensive player when it comes to using screens. She forces her defenders to fight and scrap through every screen, making them pause just long enough for her to jack up a money jumper. She also flails her arms, makes those "I've just been pummeled" faces for the refs, and takes every opportunity to act like she is getting mugged when the truth is that she is in complete control at all times. Katie Smith may not be the fastest sprinter or the highest jumper, but she will out-muscle everyone on the floor and make it look like she's the victim of a hard fouled every time. In other players, this kind of style only comes off dirty and underhanded. With Katie, at least for me, it speaks to her experience and determination. And, I'm happy to say I'm am now the proud owner of a signed Katie Smith jersey courtesy of yet another Storm auction (I swear they take a look at my financials before scheduling these things so they know when I have some cash on hand).

One last Lynx related note before I move on to our heroines - where were all the moves and skills when Stacey Lovelace-Tolbert was on the Storm? Anyone? She looked good out there tonight and neither Angie nor I could remember her playing that well when she wore the Green, Gold and Red. It's nice to see a former Storm player come back into the league and all, but come on now.

Adia put in some quality minutes and while she didn't score a lot she was definitely scrapping for rebounds. Every time Katie Smith burned which ever Storm player was guarding her, Coach Donovan would bring Adia in to bring a little Heavy D to the party. Knee brace or not, Adia held her own and even though she might still be a little slower than last year, she looked comfortable and undaunted at putting the clamps on Smith.

Sheri Sam had a better game than she did during the preseason games and showed signs of coming out of her shooting slump. She was also playing Katie often and was expending a lot of energy on defense. She didn't seem to be looking for her own shot that often and was maybe too cautious in picking times to drive to the hoop. There were a couple of occasions when she had one defender on her that I think she could have taken it in, but instead elected to pass out. Take it Sheri, take it.

Sue played an almost quiet game. She played all but 7 minutes, shot the ball really well with 3 three pointers, and had a few assists, but seemed to step back a bit and allow LJ and Betty to be the offensive focus. When you think about it, for a point guard that is really the job description - get the play started, make sure your offensive big guns are able to do their thing, and look for your own shot within the flow of the game. Sue did all of that tonight - she found little ways to help the team win the game. LJ and Janell may get the big time blocks, Betty make get the steals and Adia and Tully may get the slashing rebounds, but Sue is the quiet one who will rack up which ever stat is needed for the team to win - points, assists, whatever.

Tully made it an official game by getting knocked to the floor at least a couple times. She was also a little overmatched by the taller Lynx guards. Of course, in pure Tully style, she scrapped and flung herself into the fray and was able to get a couple key steals. I also noticed one time when she came off the floor a scar that looked like it ran the full length of her right arm on the inside. One day, the Storm need to do a mapping of all the scars and scrapes that Tully carries around on her arms and legs - badges of courage all.

Maybe that's the key to tonight's game - scrap and heart. The Storm stood their ground and even though they weren't playing as well as they could or should, they still found a way to win the game. I hope this boosts their confidence and helps them address some of their weaknesses. We've got LA next and the Storm need to get that chemistry thing working fast.

Other notes:

The Storm and Adia's Dreams in Action held a silent auction at the game and Angie and I walked away with 3 items - the aforementioned Katie Smith jersey, a Sue Bird Team USA jersey and a Storm t-shirt autographed by the whole team - and we don't have to sell the house to pay for it all. It's all for a good cause - although we're going to need a new room for all this stuff...

Speaking of Adia's Dreams in Action, tonight was the first night for Barnes' Buddies. At Storm home games, Adia's foundation will be bringing in groups of kids who might normally not be able to come to a game - hence the name Barnes' Buddies. They were sitting behind the north basket near the top of the bowl. I have it on good authority that Adia will have 80 kids at Saturday's game! If you have thought about contributing to Adia's foundation, here is the tangible proof that your donations are being used to help kids. Way to go Adia.

StormFan7 (or SF20) was able to let Michelle Greco know that we are celebrating Michelle Greco Week on the forum. From what SF20 said, Greco was touched and appreciated the support - which is exactly what we intended.

Sonic Vladimir Radmanovic was at the game looking all tan and Euro fashion plate-like. Doppler had the "choo-choo" train going during a time out in the second half and tried to drag Vladimir out but was unsuccessful. They must not do the "choo-choo" in Serbia-Montenegro.

Right before the game started, the Storm recognized LJ for her 2003 MVP award. In addition to a crystal award, she got a big hug from Coach Donovan - everyone together now... awwwwww.

It's been fun to watch Coach Donovan interacting with her coaching staff. On a couple of fouls called against the Storm, Coach D would give one of the refs a stare or some select comments, and then look back to Missy Bequette or Talvin Skinner (former Sonic) and get a "yes, she did actually commit the foul" signal. That didn't seem to stop Coach from getting after the refs.

Speaking of which, Coach D just about came unglued when the refs missed an out of bounds call on Amanda Lassiter right in front of the Storm bench. Anne stomped her foot down so hard I think she may have dented the floor. Man was she pissed off, and rightfully so - the refs completely blew the call.

Chelle Thompson is wearing one of those plastic boots. No word on what her injury is (there may have been in the papers but I missed it), but she looks like she may be in street clothes awhile.

Finally, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit that Katie Smith is one of my fantasy league players - my 2nd pick as a matter of fact. As Karen Bryant said to me during the half, it's okay to root for them to be efficient (since that's what we're counting for that league) as long as they don't win or shoot 2 for 3 or something. So go Katie, just quit shooting so often - you're blowing your efficiency rating, especially with those threes... but go ahead and make a couple if you have to.

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