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9/27/04 vs Minnesota

Final score: Storm 64 – Lynx 54 (W) (2-0)

Attendance | 7261 (and that is not counting the invisible fans like all the other teams have been doing)

Anthem Watch | Not bad, a little on the slow side.

Fan Psyche | SUE! NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

Game Highlight | The benchies coming through yet again.

Halftime | Jugglers

Flopometer | The Lynx were working it pretty good and the doofus refs were right there to reward them every time.

SF.O Keyword of the Game | Sweep!

Game Photos | Game Photos (Scott Larson)

This was a good news / bad news game.

The good news is that the Storm took care of business and swept the Lynx out of the first round, something that no other team has been able to do to their opponents in the other playoff series. Furthermore, the good news is also that the bench yet again stepped up and produced on offense and defense. The good news is that the Storm is looking more and more like they did pre-Olympic break.

The bad news, speaking of breaks... Ok, I'm being a lot more glib about this than I should be since it is devastatingly serious — Sue Bird left the game just 3 minutes in with a broken nose. Yes, the epidemic of nose injuries has come back to Seattle again. I didn't see it happen, nor did I tape the game so I can't check it. A couple people said that it was Teresa Edwards and that it looked accidental. All I know is I saw Sue running off the court, crying, with blood running down her face and yelling "She broke it," as she passed by the bench.

The effect on the rest of the team was understandable — they were shocked and in disarray. The first half became a study in watching a team try to regain their composure, overcome the loss of a team leader and hold off a team who was trying to avoid elimination. It took the Storm well into the second half before they really got their steam back. All through the first half and into the second, they allowed the Lynx to hang around and kept trading the lead back and forth. Neither team was able to get more than a three or four point lead.

This was the most worrisome part of the game. The Lynx kept showing signs that they might build enough momentum to push their lead up to 6 or 8, or keep it even and steal the game with a last minute push. The Storm did a much better job keeping Ohlde and Williams at bay, but the two of them still were able to break away for easy layups - much easier than the shots LJ, Janell or Kamila were getting. And then Abrosimova found her game and started torching the Storm from all over the court.

The Storm didn't fold under the pressure. Instead, they found ways to match the Lynx's energy and slowly retake the momentum in the second half. With inspired play from Chelle Thompson, Janell Burse and Tully Bevilaqua off the bench and a renewed intensity on the defensive end from all the players, the Storm shut down the Lynx in the last minutes of the game and were finally able to pull away.

The Lynx started putting up wild shots. LJ and Janell started swarming the Lynx posts any time they got the ball. Tully, Betty, Sheri and Chelle pressured the Lynx guards and kept them from getting the ball to Ohlde or Williams, or forced turnovers. Most importantly, every time the Storm got a defensive stop they ran down the court and got a basket, or a basket and a foul. The Storm wore down the Lynx and then put them away.

Instead of the Lynx hanging around looking to steal the game at the last minute, it was really the Storm finding a way to keep the game close after losing a star player and then pulling away once they regained their composure.

It also helped that Sue came out of the locker room towards the end of the second half, sporting an ice pack and a nice blue/purple swelling across the bridge of her nose. She looked just fine at times — smiling and moving around fine — and then looking woozy at other times — not moving so well and looking like she had a headache that would wipe out a bottle of Tylenol. Her nose didn't look near as bad as Semeka Randall's did when she got hers broken. Sue's nose did have swelling and discoloration, but there didn't seem to be any obvious out of place parts.

Back to the game. The Storm are still missing opportunities to get the ball to the post players, especially LJ, when they are in good position or are facing single coverage. It seemed like the pass into the post was coming well after the defense was set and / or when the defensive help was alert and ready to come with the double team. It seemed like LJ went several minutes in the second half without getting the ball at all on offense. It's not surprising to me that Ohlde only had two fouls in the whole game. You can be sure that she committed more fouls that the refs ignored since she has apparently been deemed worthy of MVP-like consideration, but the Storm let the refs off the hook by not going at Ohlde with every opportunity. I think that if the Storm perimeter players could get the ball into the post even a couple seconds earlier than they are now, LJ, Kamila and Janell would have an easier time finding their offense.

While I'm being picky (the Storm are advancing to the second round for the first time in their 5-year history, so they are obviously doing things right, but indulge me), another thing that I don't think is completely working is the Storm's penetration and kick out scheme. The Storm have a couple plays that have the perimeter players in constant motion, driving into towards the paint but passing out to the perimeter before they run into the defense. Yes, this does lead to open jump shots, but it seems that the player who is driving into the paint is often passing up on layup or jump shot opportunities and looking for the pass instead. I know they are executing the called play, but it seems, and I could be wrong, that if they didn't have their mind made up to pass the ball before they started their drive and instead read the defense a bit better, they would see that they often have lanes available all the way into the paint.

I think these two areas — getting the ball into the post earlier when the post player has single coverage or has strong positioning and looking for the shot instead of the pass on motion drives — could be key in helping the Storm not only be more competitive but really put a lot of pressure on their opponents. I know I'm an armchair coach, but I think these observations have some merit.

The next couple of games are really going to test what this team is all about. Even if Sue comes back, she'll not be at 100% since she'll more likely than not be wearing Greco's face mask. If the Storm go up against Sacramento, not having Sue at 100% is less of an issue since the Monarchs' guards are not their strongest players. If the Storm play LA, it will be more of an issue since the Sparks' guards are dangerous and, I can guarantee it, will find a way to give Sue a love tap or two on the mask just to let her know they can. I'll be honest, playing and beating LA would be the sweetest, but playing and beating Sacramento might have a higher probability of success with a weakened Sue Bird.

How the Storm reacts is the test. The reward is a trip to the Finals. Honestly, I still like our chances.

Other notes:

One person who did not look too happy during the second half was Storm owner Howard Schultz. He was standing at the entrance to the Storm tunnel during the end of the game and seemed ready to start brewing a new Starbucks mix out of the shattered remains of the referees. That man has a withering stare, one that I'm sure has been honed through many years of big time business meetings. He did crack a smile once the team won, but it was a mean smile.

Most of the Sonics were at the game. A bunch of them were up in a luxury suite while Ray Allen was sitting courtside.

I was very happy to see the Key eventually fill up to a normal sized crowd of 7000+. Unlike all the other playoff games so far this season, our crowd was as reported and they were working the signs and giving the refs as much lip as possible. I'm proud to say we put the Lynx fans to shame.

With about 5 minutes left in the game, Angie leaned over to me and said, "I smell bacon."

Doppler did the Bungie Bowling thing again. This time, the "pins" were wearing Lynx jerseys. Nice touch.

The Storm handed out new rally cards with the "Bring It Home" slogan on the front. The cool part was that since the card was white, it provided a perfect opportunity for improvisational sign making. There were at least two "Win it for Sue" signs that appeared on the back of rally cards. We also saw a whole line of "New Refs" signs across from the Storm bench. Seattle fans once again taking the initiative. Way to go.

I'm glad that the fans didn't take the initiative on one thing at the end of the game — starting a "Beat LA" chant. I thought for sure that someone would get it going and I hoped that it wouldn't happen. If Sac does win, you know they'd hear about any premature "Beat LA" chants and it would have just pissed them off as a sign of disrespect (not that we really have much respect for them — DeMya!).

The ESPN2 sideline reporter — I didn't recognize here — was very nice as she made her way up and down the sideline through the maze of chairs, security and training staff. She also knelt down when she would make a report about the Storm huddle. I don't know if she was trying to get low so she could block out the crowd noise or if she was being courteous and trying to not block the view of the fans behind her. Interesting.

There is a little girl who sits a couple rows behind us that always says "You can do it!" in the Rob Schneider cajun voice, so it sounds more like "Yu kan du eeet!" It cracks me up every time.

I came out of the player tunnel at the end of halftime with some food and couldn't figure out why people were looking at me and waving. Kamila was right behind me on her way back out onto the court. I was going "Whaaaat? What are you looking at?"

I got a discarded Sheri Sam headband! She took it off mid-game and handed it to one of the training staff, who in turn handed her a new one. They left it on the bench, so I snapped it up after the game. Well, I touched it, went "EWWWW" since it was cold and soggy with Sheri sweat, and then scooped it up in a cup. Truly, one for the shrine.

Before the game, many of the Lynx players saw me sitting behind the bench and gave me either an eye roll (as if they were thinking, "Oh great, THAT guy") or a little head shake. It's nice to know I made an impression.

I tried to do the "Brick!" thing during Lynx free throws, but there was too much noise for it to really be effective. If all of us were do to it at once, now that would have an impact. I think though that "Brick!" is going to be a road game tool. If anyone comes with us for the next rounds' road games, you will be required to take part in the "Brick!" experience.

Being that I am sitting right behind the bench, I tried during the game to get the scoop on Sue's prognosis. It wasn't clear for awhile as there were conflicting reports. The verdict came in when the head trainer came out to give a report to Coach Boucek during a time out — broken. Jenny had the best comment about Sue's break of the night. After the half, she was overhead saying, "That looked messed up."

LJ received the award for her second consecutive scoring title before the game. $12,500 with a portion of it going to the charity of her choice.

Sandy Brondello was in the stands tonight and got a warm welcome once they put her up on the big screen.

SiCko is once again up from So.Cal to cheer on the Storm. She had the best sign of the night — "Simone, Got Jersey?" She held it over the edge of the tunnel as the team came out for shoot around before the game. The team laughed while Simone said, "That's not funny." Oh, but it was.