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7/22/04 vs Indiana Fever

Final score: Storm 59 – Fever 54 (W) (14-7)

Attendance | 8579

Anthem Watch | Decent, but he's learning some bad American Idol habits.

Fan Psyche | Where's Spongebob?

Game Highlight | John Curley getting mobbed by the mascots.

Halftime | Mascot musical chairs

Flopometer | Minimal readings on the flopometer.

SF.O Keyword of the Game | There wasn't so much a single word as there was a high pitched "EEEEEEEE" sound.

Game Photos | Game Photos (Scott Larson)

I think it may be fair to say that this game belonged to the Camp Kids.

This game was so tight, the two teams were so evenly matched — at least in the way they were playing, I think the Storm have a better team of course — that this may be one of those games in which the home court actually produced an advantage in the form of two missed free throws by Stephanie White.

With the Storm up by one with fifteen seconds left on the clock, Betty fouled White as White drove to the basket. It was an extremely dangerous foul, although you might argue that it was necessary. Since we only had a one point lead and no timeouts left, if any of the Fever had an open jumper or an open lane to the basket the options were to allow the shot and perhaps be down by one with hardly any time left, or have someone foul that shooter in order to force free throws. Betty gambled and fouled what looked like an open layup.

The scary part was that White almost got the basket anyway.

Then White steps up to the line. She is .733 at the stripe — not automatic, but good enough to make the Storm pay.

Cue the thousands of Camp Kids.

The wave of sound that reverberated off the ceiling and broke across the court was surprising in its volume and pitch — I'm sure dogs in the Belltown and Lower Queen Anne neighborhoods around the Key all ran and hid under their respective beds for fear that the end had come. And when the ball bounced off the rim on White's first free throw attempt, it got even louder.

Like 3000 brightly dressed Mako sharks getting a whiff of blood in the water, the Camp Kids attacked again with even more force and went in for the kill as soon as White got into her shooting stance for the second attempt.

Miss number 2. LJ gets the rebound and the game is essentially over as the Storm shoot and make 4 more free throws to ice and then close out the last few seconds.

This game was won by a bunch of kids in matching shirts who probably couldn't name any of the Storm players by name. I say, so what — we'll take it and thanks for the assist.

Every time I start to try and write about how the game went, all I can come up with is that it was dead even from the get go. Neither team was able to dominate the other. Neither team was able to capitalize consistently on the other team's mistakes. Neither teams' superstars were able to get and keep their own flow on track. Yes, LJ had 25, but she had 0 baskets in the 2nd half and only 4 points off of free throws. She was the only Storm scoring at the end of the first half, but the Fever adjusted to her and through intense triple teams were able to shut her down. Catchings got a double double, but only because she got hot in the second half for a couple minutes and got 3 baskets in a row.

This was a hard fought defensive game that could have gone either way and the only reason the Storm won by five instead of losing by five was because they were at home. Their last few games going back to that 0-3 road trip have all been single point games (not counting the big win against San Antonio). It makes a body nervous that even home games are this close game after game after game.

Parity is the big word these days, but I think what we are seeing is more than just parity. When the Storm started the season, even though half the roster was new they gelled faster than just about every other team and were able to get off the blocks a lot faster. Now, we're seeing all the other teams getting to the same place we were a few weeks ago. All of them are gelling, and some are getting down right scary (Minnesota and Houston — I'm so glad we've got them for our next three games — not). We're seeing parity with an added dash of players finally getting comfortable with their teammates and coaches. Of course, all of that is about to get whacked by the Olympic break. My hope is that the Storm can duplicate their quick start from the beginning of the season once they reunite after the Olympics and put the hurt on some people before they all get back into their grooves. If the Storm can pull that off, we will be in excellent shape for the post-season.

A few actual tidbits about the game:

The Storm played a committee-based defense against Tamika Catchings. She had a different player on her just about every time she touched the ball, including LJ, Adia, Sheri, Tully, Sue and Betty. Maybe that constant change was one of the reasons the Storm were able to shut Catch down for most of the game. It was fun to see the MVP candidates playing one-on-one. I'll admit, Catchings is one of my favorite players and it is always a little surprising to see how big she is in person. On TV, she always seems to shrink down to guard size to me.

As I pointed out above, the Fever played their own committable defense on LJ. During the second half, the perimeter players might fake a pass to LJ and she'd be wearing three Fever players instantly. It was like they had unconscious "LJ's about to get the ball" detectors and would be automatically drawn to her magnetically. It worked.

Coach Donovan was going out of her mind every time Kelly Miller (or was it Coco, or Coelly, or Kello — I can never remember) would pop open for an uncontested jump shot or three. Kelco actually is the one who kept the Fever in the game much of the way in the first half. I don't know if the Storm just didn't consider her a threat at the start of the game. They certainly did later after some of Coach D's gentle reminders.

Betty took a pop to the nose right at the end of the game, but because the Storm didn't have any timeouts left they were unable to sub her out. As soon as the game ended and the team broke their celebratory huddle at mid court, Betty trucked off to the locker room and looked like she was in a lot of pain. I'll give her a ton of credit though — she still gave a couple fans high fives on her way past.

Janell Burse is on the IR with a reported bad back. She definitely looked like she was in some pain and was very stiff when walking around. Catrina Frierson was suited up, but didn't get any playing time.

The rest of the bench that did play — Adia, Tully and Simone — did not produce much, although they also didn't get a lot of playing time. 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and zero points on 0-6 shooting in 30 combined minutes. I wish I knew something to say to them to get them all back on track because we are going to need them playing at the top of their game going into the playoff stretch. LJ getting totally shut down for a full half of play puts a lot of pressure on them. Scoring from the bench is one sure-fire tool to force the opponents to abandon triple teaming LJ. The Fever were able to do it for so much of the game today because they weren't worried about the other Storm players as much as they should have been.

The refs were Evil™, but not as bad as in the past couple of games. Yes, bad calls happened, but they went both ways. If anything, these refs seemed physically unable to recognize a travel violation. In terms of the level of ref-inspired bloodlust I felt after the end of this game, I only wanted to stamp on some bugs or perhaps taunt a ferret. After the Washington game I was ready to take down an African Elephant with my bare hands and teeth and then fight off the lions and hyenas for the bloody carcass. Sorry, I just watched some Discovery Channel.

The next 3 games are the real deal. We will be playing two of the hottest teams in the league right now and if the Storm can win these games against Houston and Minnesota, they will take 3 giant steps forward in dictating their own playoff destiny.

Now if we can just find a way to fly 3000 elementary school kids to Houston and Minnesota...

Other notes:

It was Doppler's birthday, so a few of his mascot buddies were at the Key to help us celebrate. There was some gratifying mascot violence (my #3 all time favorite thing) as the Shock's Zap and the SASS Fox took to pummeling the Sting's mascot — I missed his name — after the Bee tried to get back into the halftime mascot musical chairs game. Also, there was some gratifying TV host violence as the mascots later teamed up against John Curley from KING5 and pummeled him thoroughly and then caked him with silly string.

Lin Dunn and Kate Starbird both got big cheers during the Fever introductions. Kate did not play unfortunately.

Someone on the Storm staff had the excellent sense to not have Doppler and his felt buddies try and do the Choo-choo thing during a timeout. There were so many kids in the Key that if they had tried it, it would have been a complete disaster. Good non-call.

Shed tried a pre-game shot for a Storm Team Shop gift certificate and missed horribly.

The Team Shop item of the game was a $10 backpack — unsurprisingly, they sold out fast.

I may inadvertently end up in a promo for KING5's Evening Magazine. John Curley, still caked with silly string, did a quick promo with a KING5 camera man behind the Storm bench and the camera was aimed right at me much of the time. I had the urge to do the dumb fan behind the commentator thing, but I'm the quiet unassuming type so I refrained.

Our coaching staff has to be the best dressed in the league.

Bungie ball made its first appearance this season. I'd almost forgotten about bungie ball — the best timeout activity ever devised. They could do that for every timeout and I would be a happy fan.