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6/26/04 vs New York Liberty

Final score: Storm 62 – Liberty 67 (L) (8-4)

Attendance | 4527 (uhh... I'm not buying it)

Anthem Watch | Clocked at almost 3:00. I blame her for sucking the energy out of the Storm and the crowd.

Fan Psyche | This doesn't feel much like a home game.

Game Highlight | Trying to convince the Liberty fans behind me that Betty's travel was really a step-through move.

Halftime | $10,000 half-court shot — missed.

Flopometer | Tari and the Belgian Waffle were like reeds in the wind — luckily the refs weren't buying it.

SF.O Keyword of the Game | (Unprintable)

Missed Opportunity of the Game | Ref #36's last name was "Fullilove." That's right — Full i love. You do the word swap.

Game Photos | Game Photos (Scott Larson)

The good news, if you need some right about now, is that we are actually here to do a site update and Gameday report.

That game wasn't that bad you might be saying — painful yes, but not lethal.

True, but thanks to Leighway's quick reflexes at about 1:30 am doing 80 MPH just past Snoqualmie Pass, we missed the deer. I think you can imagine what would have happened if the Deer vs. VW Beetle grudge match has actually happened. That's right — there would have been no winners.

So, as bad as this game was — the drive back could have been a lot worse. Once again, and I may never say this enough, thank you Leighway, thank you.

On to the (unprintable) game.

In general terms, I'm seeing a disturbing pattern taking shape that, if true, may mean some rocky times ahead. Here it is: teams the Storm have beaten have used what they've learned from that loss to completely take the Storm out of their game. Not such a big idea really. One of the more tired cliches in sports is the "We'll learn from this game and move on" or something to that effect. With Houston and now New York, we have seen it in highly effective action.

The lesson that both teams apparently learned is that Seattle cannot handle a zone defense, or at least they can't handle it well. The Liberty were able to stymie the Storm during the first 15 minutes of the first half by using their bigs to completely clog up the lane with a 2-3 zone. The Liberty posts racked up the fouls (and Tari eventually fouled out — much later than she should have been tossed), but they held LJ to single digits in the first half and took full advantage of a very tentative Betty Lennox to contain her and the guards.

The Storm did force the Liberty out of the zone with about 5 minutes left in the half with our now patented zone-killer Kamila hitting free-throw line jumper after jumper, but it took 15 minutes to do it and then because the last few minutes of the half were dominated by fouls and timeouts, the Storm were unable to get into a good flow and do anything more than even up the game.

Betty was pretty much nonexistent during the first half. She was so out of sorts and out of character that she was actually cringing to get out of the way during screens and rebounding opportunities. I think the Liberty reminded her what might happen when one of them gave her a little smack on the face guard. I felt for her — I can't imagine how uncomfortable that face guard had to be. I'm sure it affected her vision and it looked like it was sliding around a lot. For players who have to wear them long term, the masks are usually made to fit their face. I imagine that since this was the first game, Betty was wearing an off-the-shelf model and the fit was not the best. As understandable as her discomfort was, she was a complete non-factor during the first half and that really hurt the Storm on defense and offense.

The second half started out really well. I got the sense in the first few minutes that the Storm might uncork another 50 point half and blow out the Liberty. Unfortunately, the Liberty also felt that coming and turned up their defense and went back to the zone. Once again, the Liberty's zone slowed the game down and made the Storm work harder than they wanted to on each possession.

Betty and LJ both were much more aggressive during the second half and were able to keep the Liberty at bay most of the way. But the Storm kept missing on golden opportunities and were unable to capitalize when they got defensive stops. The Liberty kept the game close, then tight, then went ahead in the last couple minutes. Even so, with about 3 minutes left and the Liberty up by two, the game felt to us like the Storm would still pull out a win. It felt like the Storm's game to lose.

And then Becky Hammon hit an open three with just under a minute left that put the Liberty up by 5.

Just like the last couple of minutes against the Comets, the Storm unraveled a bit and went into a bit of panic mode. They couldn't hit anything, but were luckily getting offensive rebounds until Sue was able to drive to the free throw line and hit a jumper. Unfortunately, all of that took a lot of time and the Liberty were able to keep hitting free throws the rest of the way.

The Liberty out rebounded, out hustled and forced the Storm out of their comfort zone enough to eke out a win. They used the zone defense effectively and by keeping the game close gave themselves the opportunity to put on a last minute spurt that decided the game and end an embarrassing losing streak.

The question for the Storm faithful is this: what will the Storm learn from these two losses and how will they apply that lesson?

Other notes:

All together now — Hoopfest was a bust. True, there were thousands and thousands of people filling the streets, parking lots and parks surrounding downtown Spokane. If two or three percent of that mass had come to the game, it would have been acceptable. If five percent had come, the arena would have been packed. When high school age girls who play basketball don't know that Sue Bird plays for Seattle, there is a problem. The place was a bit of madhouse and I can understand that without major sponsorhip-level advertising, getting a consistent message to all participants that there was a WNBA game on Saturday night featuring last year's MVP and several Olympians would be difficult. The one piece of Storm advertising I heard was piped over the loudspeakers around the various courts - except the audio quality was horrible and the only word I caught was "Storm" — and that was because I was listening for it. I'm sorry, but while this had the appearance of a golden opportunity to reach a huge audience of basketball-minded fans, I think it failed.

Doppler came and sat on my knee and I gave him a little back scratch. I also inadvertently got my fingers under the fur a bit. It was warm and damp. Besides EWWWWW, all I could think was that my heart goes out to the brave soul who brings Doppler to life. Being the mascot during 85-ish plus weather in a poorly ventilated building has to be one of the top-ten worst jobs around. I took a turn one year as Smokey the Bear at our local summer fair one year (I was worked for the Forest Service during high school), so I have a little experience wearing the big furry shoes. Doppler, you're a trooper.

Dirk, you're a snarky bastard. We're glad we were you're second to last option (although after the deer near miss, I'm sure you were having second thoughts).

We didn't take the fan bus this trip and instead caravanned with another car driven by the forum members formerly known as Hoopgrrle and Lilpost, with Jezzie and Pwe as passengers. We had Leighway with us along with the aforementioned snarky bastard. It was actually not a bad drive (minus the deer). We got started with an appropriate song - "Convoy" by C.W. McCall on the iPod (with an FM transmitter that has a 150-foot transmission radius so the other car could hear too). We also had some 2-way radios (walkie-talkies for the less hip set) and were able to do a little faux CBing. The only time this got us into a little trouble was on the way back. A cop passed the other car and they warned us that he was coming up on us. Of course we slowed down, and of course he heard their warning and was on our butts for a couple miles while he ran our plates. Being ironic smartasses and having plates that spell out "antisocial" may be fun and all, but I doubt he was laughing. He apparently got nothing (traffic record clean as a whistle - at least these days it is) and took the next exit.

One highlight of the trip was getting to meet Norwester - a prolific contributor of excellent game reports on the forum. Thanks and keep up the good work.

The Spokane arena, while hot, was a nice building. It was nicer than Arco Arena, but then so are the stands at the Puyallup fair grounds during the annual pig races. The ushers, except for a couple very helpful people, were cut from the same fascist cloth as our KeyArena redshirts.

Jokes about Spokane being a pimple on the ass of BFE aside, the park in the middle of town that surrounds the Spokane falls is a great city park. Now if they could build a great city around it... (the email address is — flame away Spokanites).

The EBay whores were there, naturally. "Becky. Becky. Becky. Turnaround. Becky. Becky. Turnaround." Click. "Thank You." Another "proof of signature" photo that is only proof of how annoying these people really are.

At least one downtown Spokane business owner had his head up his ass. We stopped for a bite just before 5:00 to eat at a little cafe a block from the Hoopfest activities. They were closing the cafe and we were the last people they let in before locking the door. You have thousands of people right outside your door who are thirsty, hungry and looking for a place — any place — to sit down and you close right when they all might want to get something to eat. Hmmm. And you were surly on top of being stupid.

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