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7/07/04 at Washington

Final score: Storm 69 – Mystics 72 (L) (10-5)

Submitted by | Doublemint

Most “Huh?” ticket pricing | $30 for upper bowl (center court, but still! with rows and rows of empty seats in the lower bowl so I sneaked down)

Most welcome sight | The return of Simone’s braids.

Most Magic Johnson moment | Alana Beard’s mid-air, behind-the-back pass.

Most “… and this is why we love Tully” moment | Her steal a mere 11 seconds after entering the game.

Most “I want Adia to be my friend” moment | Her comforting pat to Betty’s shoulder after Betty left the game in the second half.

Most dejected trudge to the locker room | The Storm. (It was so sad!)

Most goofy call | Don’t even get me started.

I’m not usually one to jump all over the refs (and the refereeing certainly wasn’t the decisive factor in the outcome last night) but there were some WEIRD calls. It makes me wonder if the home office has handed down some edict about the type of play they want to see (more physical inside?) and the refs are still figuring out how to call the game to encourage that type of play. So, sometimes they’d let a monster WWF snarl develop in the key, bodies flying, crash bang boom, and other times, they’d call really marginal let-‘em-play contact fouls. I couldn’t figure out the guiding principle. Also, I must say, I couldn’t believe they called Bird for a breakaway foul in the second half when Coco Miller grabbed Tully by the arm after Tully picked her clean in the first half. Take a look at the photo in the Seattle Times. Here’s what happened the second after that shot was taken: Miller pulled her arm back and Tully went swinging in a huge circle (without the ball.)

I’ve read Bird’s comments and Jayda Evan’s analysis this morning about lack of hustle, and I respectfully disagree. From my perspective, the difference was the Mystics defense, particularly in the first half. They made LJ suffer for every shot she took. In fact, she was under so much pressure, I was amazed to look up and realize she’d managed to put up 20 points before the half. (20 the hard way.) The Mystics were playing a zone, but it wasn’t your granny’s high school zone. It was fluid and mean. If the ball came inside, they collapsed in. (I saw LJ muscle up more than one shot penned in by four white bodies.) But, somehow, the Mystics were quick enough to jump out, almost man-to-man, on players on the perimeter, so the outside never became an option. We couldn’t hit from outside in the first half, true, but we weren’t getting many looks either, and it didn’t look to me like lack of hustle. It looked like, “This defense is wearing us out.” (Note: After the game, we chatted with a Mystics fan on the Metro who said, “Lauren Jackson is like Shaquille O’Neal. She’s so good they have to foul her, but if they called all the fouls, the game would never go anywhere.” Um… and that makes it right?!)

The Mystics came out for the second half primed and ready to go. They had that “we can’t miss” confidence.

It was hard to watch the Storm lose, but you know, I have to say I was happy for the Mystics fans. Towards the very end, when the Mystics had an opportunity to shoot a free throw and make it a three point game, a fellow behind me said, “Come on, come on, baby, this is for the season!” For a team at the bottom of the standings, I think the game felt that important to them. (Kind of like when we used to be the underdogs who tried to beat LA!)

Also, I have to say: The Mystics fans were nice. I couldn’t begrudge them the win. They’d earned it, and, if it hadn’t been for the kindness of Mystics fans (and Washingtonians in general), we would’ve missed the tip-off. My dad and I proudly ventured forth from Virginia in our Stormfans t-shirts, and we think the t-shirts were sort of like our free pass to friendliness. I guess we must’ve looked looked like harmless out-of-town rubes. ; ) First of all, we asked a guy in a gas station if he could tell us the best way to get to the MCI Center to avoid rush hour. He said, “I don’t know, but I can find out for you.” And then he called his mom! And his Mom provided excellent directions to the metro station. (Bless you!) And then, as we stood in the Metro station, befuddled by the flood of rush hour people and the mysterious ticket dispenser machines (which kept spitting out our $20 dollar bills), a Mystics fan approached us and said, “Hey, here you go, let me give you a ten and some ones for that twenty.” Then, another group of fans helped us transfer trains and get to the box office. Thus, thanks to the kindness of strangers, we scooted into our seats within seconds of tip-off! And then, after the game, four different people said, “Hey, good game!”

It’s great to see Bird back at 100%. Sheri Sam is calm, steady, AWESOME. Burse grabbed some key rebounds. Barnes made another strong case for the “Utility Player of the Year” award. (Although I wished she’d made those free throws!)

One more observation: Before Lennox left the game, Bird chewed her out up and down the court. I couldn’t tell what went wrong exactly, but I’ve never seen Bird yell at another player quite like that. She was yelling and pointing in frustration on the offensive end, and then, back on the defensive end, after the next play, she yelled some more. Lennox didn’t respond, but at that point, she left the game. Nobody talked to her on the bench; they just left her alone and got into the huddle without her. (Then, later, after she’d covered her head with a towel, Adia patted her back.) Something went down, but I don’t know what. Betty looked active in the first half – grabbed a bunch of rebounds in traffic – but her shot was off. It could be that her desire to play got her out on the court before she was really ready. (I saw her fiddling with her mask while the ball was in play.) And then, it could be that Bird’s frustration just got the better of her. She usually keeps a cool head but she was so mad about the breakaway foul in the second half, she could hardly stand it. I thought she was going to get a technical. Donovan finally said from the bench, “LET IT GO.” Even then, Bird was still shaking her head and looking pissed off.

Well, it’s no fun to lose… especially when you’ve redeveloped a taste for winning.

Tonight… on to Charlotte!