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August 25, 2005 vs. Suckramento Monarchs

Final score: Storm 76 – Monarchs 63 (W) (19-14)

Attendance | 9686

Anthem Watch | An acapella group. I normally like the acapella stuff when it comes to the anthem, and I'm not saying I didn't like this group, but their rendition was a little odd. And scary.

Fan Psyche | Nervous, then elated, then nervous, then elated.

Game Highlight | Betty back on the floor. Izzy going crazy in the first half.

Halftime | Soccer.

SF.O Keyword of the Game | LJ for MVP! (too bad she isn't going to actually get it)

Game Photos

This was a much bigger game for the Storm than it was for the Monarchs and I'm sure Monarchs fans and apologists out there are writing this one off as "it didn't matter."

Tell that to your team, because it mattered to them.

For the Storm, this was about as big a game as they've had this season and they came out in the first half like their season depended on it. But even with the aggressive attack mentality that the Storm were playing with, they still seemed at times as atonal as the anthem group. There were a lot of odd sounding notes that made me want to cringe, but they brought it all together and ended strongly.

First, the off key stuff.

More times in this game than any I've seen since the beginning of the season, the Storm were openly confused as to where they were supposed to go on offense and who they were supposed to guard on defense. I can remember at least 3 instances where one or more of the Storm players were actually standing and doing the "I don't know" gesture during offensive sets. Izzy, Tanisha and Suzy all did it. Suzy and LJ both were out of position several times and forced the point guards into tough passes to try and get the ball into the post. There was one turnover right in front of the Storm bench when Sue got trapped at the three-point line when LJ didn't come out and go where she was supposed to go. Sue tried a difficult pass that got tapped and then went off of Sue out of bounds. Coach D didn't say anything to Sue, she went right after LJ for that one. Likewise, Sue tried to get the ball into Suzy and because Suzy was out of position the ball got loose and there was a turnover. Sue was in Suzy's face all the way down the court telling her about it. Suzy was right back at her. I'm sure other people can come up with additional examples of the Storm players yapping at each other on the court. It was unfortunately going on the whole game.

The good thing about most of those instances was that usually immediately afterwards, the two players involved would do something that to me said that things were all good and all of this wasn't necessarily a sign that the team isn't getting along. The best one was after the Sue/Suzy court-long discussion. On the next play back, Sue went right to Suzy for an open jump shot. Suzy wasn't the only person open and it looked like the play was one in which Janell was the first option. For Sue to go right to Suzy with the ball after upbraiding her for so long seemed to me to be a clear, "It's all good and I still have complete confidence in you" veteran point guard move.

The other major off key element to the Storm's play last night was really stupid turnovers. There's no other way to describe them but just plain dumb. For example, fastbreak opportunities lost because the ball slipped out of their hands. Bobbling and losing the ball during a normal dribble with minimal pressure from the Monarchs' guards. Long, cross court passes against a team like the Monarchs whose game is jumping the passing lanes and looking for easy steals. This game would have been an embarrassing blowout for the Monarchs if the Storm hadn't turned the ball over so often. I know the Monarchs people will be thinking their vaunted defense forced those TOs. They didn't. It was the Storm's inability to handle the ball. After several such unforced turnovers, I commented that someone should rethink giving the players buttered popcorn in the locker room during the half. The Storm were lucky that the Monarchs didn't produce more off of the 20 Storm turnovers.

One other off key item I have to comment on — LJ. This will sound harsh, but we saw LJ from 2 or 3 years ago tonight. Not in terms of scoring or rebounding — she had an okay night on both, not bad but not that good either — but in terms of allowing the other team and the refs to get under her skin. Brunson, Scott-Richardson and Yo were committing assault on LJ just about every time she got the ball. Heck, they were pounding on her when she didn't have the ball. She played in a state of intense pissed-off from a few seconds after the opening tip to her walk to the bench after she fouled out. I'm not saying she should just take their elbows, pushes, slaps, scratches, and other body blows, but in other games this season when she got this kind of treatment she responded by kicking up her scoring, her drives to the basket and her rebounding. Tonight, she retaliated by pushing and elbowing right back and she got called on it. She was also flirting with getting a technical way too often. I wasn't the only one who saw her tell one of the refs to "Truck Off" (or something similar) right to his face. How she didn't get a T while Maiga did for doing who knows what is amazing.

I don't think any of these off key things are really things we need to worry about too much, well except for the turnovers because let's face it that is an on-going issue, because I think all of these things were indicators of how much importance the Storm put on this game. I think they were more anxious about this game than they would have let on and it came out as them sniping at each other and LJ getting overly frustrated. Both of these things, in my opinion, aren't something that is normal for the team. Now that the Storm are in the playoffs and have secured that all-important second spot, I think the stress will be off of them. I fully expect to see a different performance from the Storm against Phoenix.

Okay, the good stuff.

Izzy had a great game on offense (let's not speak of her not-so-great game of defense against Powell). She got the Storm off to a running start and then helped them withstand the Monarchs' push in the second half. I'm kind of trying not to get too attached to Izzy. I love her game and her enthusiasm and I think she really likes playing here. I'm also worried that since the World Championships are being held in Brazil next year that she (and Vodo and Zara and Suzy) might get the national team ultimatums that always seem to trump the players' commitments to the WNBA — Kamila and Tully aside. My message to you all is enjoy Izzy while she is here this season. I guess that point of "good stuff" kind of turned into a "bad stuff" pretty quick. I'm cynical, what can I say.

Betty back on the floor was another definite "good stuff" portion for this game. Betty is the poster child for "the will says yes, the body says no." She was as fearless as ever, but her wrist injury got in the way a couple times. Undaunted, she found ways to correct those mistakes very quickly. For example, she missed her first jump shot fairly badly but followed the shot knowing it was off, got the rebound and took it straight back up for the score. Later, she was taking the ball down the court and switched her dribble to the injured hand. She couldn't control the ball and nearly had a turnover. Instead she was able to fight off the Monarchs' defender and jab the ball back to Sue. It's obvious she's in pain and it's obvious that she desperately wants to contribute to this team. The challenge for her and for Coach Donovan is to balance that drive against the physical limitations of a wrist that is so heavily taped that it can't really bend at all. Betty knows her importance to this team and I know she'll find a way to make it work.

Janell had another big night, despite being a magnet for fouls. Actually, "magnet" isn't the right word. I think "100 gigawatt super-conducting quantum electromagnet" is more accurately descriptive of Janell's relationship with fouls. There were times last night when Janell was gang tackled by the Monarchs’ posts with no fouls called and then on the other end of the court she taps someone on the arm going for a block and hits them after the shot is off, which isn’t a foul (they changed that rule a couple years ago), and gets called. She rolls her eyes or stares down the refs and goes right back at it though. She quietly had a great game overall and scored her 500th rebound near the first part of the second half or so. She’s one of the first Storm players, in my opinion, who consistently has the “I’m getting this bucket no matter what” mentality. Once she gets in the paint and has a chance at getting a layup, she is relentless. I love that about Janell. I got a pair of her shoes at the auction last weekend at TOJ for Adia’s foundation and I will be proudly displaying them in the Storm shrine (as soon as I figure out what gets bumped – the shrine isn’t very big).

Hmmm. Not as much good stuff as I thought. Okay, how about this: here’s a good final thought for everyone as we head into the playoffs with the real possibility, if we are fortunate enough to get past the first round, that we will be facing Sacramento in the Western Conference Championship — the Storm are 7-3 against the Monarchs including the 2004 regular season, the 2004 playoffs and the 2005 regular season. Playing them without home court is going to be the toughest thing the Storm have ever done, but they can do it. And they can win.

Other Notes:

The "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie" chant saga has taken a new turn. Now, Steven Kilbreath, our excellent arena announcer, has started doing "Oi, Oi, Oi" after LJ or Suzy does something good. It sounded like him anyway. It might have been a recording that they are playing like the "Olé" song for Izzy. Either way, now we have a third "Oi, Oi, Oi" option.

Ashley Battle was in the friends and family section, here to "hang out" as someone who talked to her reported.

Damien Wilkins, newly re-signed to the Sonics, was also on hand for the game. I know most of you could care less about the Sonics, but I'm really glad they signed him. He's got the look and moves of someone who could turn out to be a big time impact player.

We again had several pro-visiting team fans at the game. At least the Sac fans could spell, unlike the LA fans who couldn't get "Go Sparks" right. It might not be accurate to say they were Sac fans since one group of them were wearing Portland Fire gear and had a sign for the Flopping Queen. Poor, misguided youth.