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July 29, 2005 vs. Charlotte Sting

Final score: Storm 79 – Sting 68 (W) (13-10)

Attendance | 8213

Anthem Watch | A bell choir with a vocalist — fairly standard delivery.

Fan Psyche | Why aren't we blowing these guys out?

Game Highlight | Janell Burse vs. The Sting

Halftime | Combo dance team / gymnastic tumblers.

SF.O Keyword of the Game | Big Hair.

Game Photos

I'm sure that at several points during practice this last week, all of the coaches reminded the team that even though Charlotte is 0 for everything on the road this season and have only won 3 games, flirting with the WNBA record for suckitude, they can't be taken lightly, the game can't be taken for granted, and that they have to focus on this game before moving on to thinking about Sunday and the Sparks. I would bet that the coaches drummed those kinds of statements into the Storm.

They needed to have drummed a little harder.

The Storm were almost lackadaisical with their execution and ball handling in the first half. The Sting, by far the worst rebounding team in the league, were greedily chasing down every rebound and were forcing the Storm into turnovers. On defense, Izzy and Betty were getting burned by Sheri and Jia Perkins while Sue was getting tightly pressured by Dawn Staley.

I remember clearly thinking on one of the early Storm offensive sets that it was going to be great to see Sue and Dawn playing against one another. Two seconds later, Dawn pulled a jab move on Sue, stole the ball and was off and running. A couple of plays later, Dawn again tapped a pass and forced a turnover. You could almost hear Dawn telling Sue that the old girl still knows some things the youngster needs to learn. Sue ended the game with a better overall stat line than Dawn and she turned the tables somewhat in the second half by being more aggressive with the ball and scoring over Dawn, but I think Sue will be remembering those first couple of turnovers more than the later baskets.

LJ got off to a really rough start. She was playing hard and got the Sting posts into early foul trouble, but they kept smothering her and denying her any open shots. Tangela Smith is one of those players who seems to be able to guard, or at least slow down, LJ better than most. The Sting were really keying into LJ hard, which took some of the pressure off of...

Janell "Scoring Machine" Burse. For awhile out there, it seemed like it was Janell vs. the Sting. I didn't keep count, but I could swear that she scored 8 or 10 points in a row for the Storm in the first half. She nearly had half the team's points at the half. Every time the Sting would collapse on LJ and force a tough shot, JB was there for the offensive rebound and layup. Every time the Sting doubled on LJ, the Storm guards were able to swing the ball around and find JB open or with a smaller player guarding her. Once she got hot, the Storm started dumping the ball in to her and let her go to work on the Sting posts. It wasn't pretty — there were steps, more than three seconds and several ball fakes and up and under moves, and that was usually on the same possession — but she kept getting the ball in the basket and that's what counts.

Betty had an off game offensively, but she is visibly suffering from an injury to her right forearm/hand. She had it taped pretty heavily and came out during one timeout in a lot of pain because someone had whacked her on that wrist. Add that to the back/neck pain she's had and Betty is a bit of a wreck right now. She didn't let that slow her down with her rebounding, but she looks like she could use a couple of weeks for some repair work.

I think the scouting report on Izzy is finally making its way through the league. The Sting really put the brakes on her and kept her from getting those breakaway layups that she gets each game. I think there were at least three instances when she went tearing down the court but got cut off and had to pull the ball back out and wait for the rest of the team. She usually gets a couple of those under her belt before she starts hitting jumpers. Without those speed plays, she backed off a bit and didn't seem to be looking for her shot in other instances.

Even though two of our starters were near no-shows offensively along with the sad fact that our bench only brought 10 points and 9 rebounds, on top of the overall lack of energy, the Storm were still able to maintain a 10-point lead through most of the second half and held off the Sting for the win.

There isn't much, other than Janell busting out big, to get excited about with this game. I also don't think there is much we should be looking at too critically. The Storm played flat and didn't seem to have their heads in the game as much as they should have, but they still won. If this had been any other team and game with more on the line, say the Sparks on Sunday, I'm confident that the team would have played a much different game. As it was, they slacked off against the worst team in the league and were okay anyway. 6 games ago, I would have been worried and we might have lost. Now, I'm not so worried.

Here's why — the team's whole mentality and attitude is very different than it was a month ago. Then, they were dejected, had no confidence and weren't playing together. Now, they have their swagger back, are playing with aggression and confidence (even when things aren't going their way) and are playing much more as a team. It would be interesting to see a comparison of how many passes the Storm were making on each offensive set now compared to a few weeks ago. I bet there are more now than before. Players are moving without the ball. When the ball goes in to the post or when a guard makes a drive and there isn't anything there, out comes the ball for a reset. A month ago, the drive or post move would have continued regardless of whether there was a chance for success. It's a cliche, but the Storm are playing much more within their offense. Individual players are forcing shots less and less. The ball is getting to the open player more and more.

So, yes the Storm played a mostly blah game (except for Janell - big props o' plenty to JB) and were able to win anyway. Come Sunday, you'll see energy and determination. I'm not one to guarantee anything, but I have a feeling that we won't be seeing a stagnant, maintain the 10-point lead type of game on Sunday. The Storm are finally coming together and I think they want to hit that 6-game win streak again and do it against the Sparks. I'm all atwitter with anticipation.

Other Notes:

This was Sheri's first public appearance at the Key and she received her 2004 Championship ring before the game. Is it just me, or was that whole ceremony kind of lacking on "ceremony." Tully's ring presentation had a whole different vibe to it. There have been a lot of rumors and talk about Sheri's exit last season begin more of a "don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you" than a "hey, don't go" situation. It showed. No one snubbed her, but the "ceremony" was over before it began and most of the hugs Sheri got were of the courtesy type. I'm thinking that the big Czech's reception will be more along the lines of Tully's.

Washington Governor Christine Gregoire was at the game in the first half. It would have been nice if she had stayed the whole game, but she is the gov., so she's allowed to be busy.

LJ's parents were sitting courtside in the middle section. LJ's dad was taking pictures most of the game. It was kind of cute.

Speaking of cute, since it was 80s night, they showed some big hair examples on the big screen and had the crowd guess who the person was. They were all easy, even for those people who weren't alive in the 80s, but the kicker was a shot of Coach Donovan with MASSIVE hair. The team was cracking up. Coach Donovan was smiling and shaking her head — one of those "You're going to pay for this" head shakes.

She did the same thing during the intros. Each game, when she gets introduced the announcer adds something new to the "...and head coach of the Storm, Anne Donovan," line, before her name. For awhile it was "first woman to win a WNBA championship." Then they started mentioning her coaching win at the All-Star game. Tonight they threw in that she was a Naismith Player of the Year. She gave the people at the scorer's the smile and head shake like, "Where did they drag that one out from?"

Another coaching staff note. Apparently there was a pinstripe memo today. All three coaches plus Talvin Skinner and trainer Annmarie Henkle were wearing pinstripes. Annmarie said that this "sometimes happens." They had their team photos today and she said that she had asked if they should wear anything in particular. Coach said no, and then they all showed up in pinstripes.

Betty's brother won the fan vote (via applause) for the best 80s costume, beating out two women who were in full-on 80s garb. He was mostly wearing what he normally wears and was in silver from head to toe. I don't think he was necessarily "dressed up" for 80s night...

Foam Finger Guy was missing again. I'm going to be highly irritated if he never shows up again. We definitely missed him. The couple attempts at crowd initiated cheers fell flat. Yes, we should be able to do this with or without him, but he makes such a great focal point. The Storm and the fans HAVE to find a way to get FFG back in action.

There are 2 little girls who sit behind us that are very vocal during the games. I like to think I've had a positive influence on them. They do "You can dooo eet," before Storm free throws and make comments about the reffing more than I do. There was a family sitting in front of the girls (and directly behind us) that weren't "getting" it very well. The daughter mentioned a couple of times something like "How can they be yelling at the refs, they're only 6 years old?" to her parents. They're die-hard Storm fans, that's how. Keep up the good work, girls.

Steven Kilbreathe's (the announcer) mother was at the game and she took a free throw before the game for a Team Shop gift certificate. We saw them after the game by the Key parking garage. I made sure to tell him, in front of his mom, that he was great and we definitely missed him when he's been gone this season. I think his mom liked to hear that.