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5/21/06 vs Los Angeles

Final score: Storm 90 – Sparks 76 (W) (1-0)

Attendance | 9686 — rock on!

Anthem Watch | A strong performance from a young girl who was the runner up in a national (?) competition for singing the anthem.

Fan Psyche | This is how you start a season!

Game Highlight | Wendy hitting a three to really get the crowd going in the 3rd quarter during a Storm 15-4 run. The Diva fouling out.

Halftime | Bounce - a duo combining gymnastics and juggling.

SF.O Keyword of the Game | Hell Yeah!

Game Photos | Scott E | Stalker 23 | Rick | Scott L

It's hard to not put too much on this game. The LA fans out there, all 3 of them, will yammer on about the fact that Diva Jr. missed the game and the Sparks were short handed. Even if she had been here, they were short handed. The Sparks remind me a lot of where Seattle was last year — unsettled, unsure and unconfident.

At the beginning of last season, none of us in Storm Fan Land felt very good about the coming season. The losses of Tully, Kamila and Sheri were a shock to the system and you could see it in how the players worked (or didn't work) on the court and in how they related to each other. You knew that even if we had a decent year, which we did, there was too much doubt about making it very far in the playoffs let alone repeating as champions. I had that feeling from day one last season.

This season couldn't be more different and tonight's game is the exclamation point on that statement. At every preseason event (on a side note, thank you thank you thank you to the Storm front office for putting on some of the best preseason events we've had in years), you could see how well this team is getting along and how confident they are in each other. Coach Donovan has said several times that this may be the best roster she's ever had — the deepest, the most cohesive and the most driven.

After watching Seattle and Los Angeles go head-to-head tonight, I think it is clear that Seattle is rising and LA is fading back. I've felt for the last couple seasons that the Monarchs have been Seattle's real "rival" and not the Sparks. Yes, it's fun to boo the Diva, but LA has been on the downward spiral for awhile and this season they are accelerating. The only reason they have a chance at the playoffs is because they have the Diva. Say what you will (and say it often), but she doesn't have any quit in her.

Back to tonight's game. There isn't really too much that could have happened to make this a better way to start the season. The Storm played well, blew out the Sparks by 23, the Diva fouled out and Wendy Palmer showed everyone that she is here to play. The only real dark cloud was the hit Izi took that put her on the floor in the 4th quarter. It looked like she was knocked out because she wasn't moving at all. She walked off a bit wobbly and I'm sure that she'll be out with a concussion of some severity, but she was okay enough to smile for the big screen on her way out.

 

LJ, Sue, Wendy and Izi all had great games. LJ started slowly but really came on in the second half during the Storm's 3rd quarter push. She really had her way with the Sparks' posts — it didn't really matter who was guarding her. She was scoring inside and outside.

Sue got a franchise record 7 steals along with 13 points and 9 assists. Yeah, almost a triple double. Her shot was there any time she wanted to take it — and it seemed like she timed when to take her shots perfectly. When the Sparks would start to pull back into the game, Sue would hit a running jumper. Any time the Sparks hit a couple of shots in a row, Sue would come in a hit a three. She was very smart about when to score.

Wendy straight up blew the shoes off the Sparks' posts. She was a monster on the boards and hit some huge shots in the second half. I wouldn't want to be the person trying to fight her for a rebound. She was hyper aggressive in grabbing and protecting the ball when she rebounded. There was no question she was getting it and you could see as the game progressed that the lesser-experienced Sparks' players almost backed off and let her get the ball. Intimidation, pure and simple.

Izi too had a strong offensive game, until she got popped on the noggin. The outside shots from her teammates and the team's rebounding lead to Izi slashing to the basket for shot after shot. She had a couple turnovers early when she drove to the basket and tried to dish it off to Johnson or Palmer instead of taking it up, but she worked that out and was more smart with her passes later.

Betty had an off night, perhaps due to lingering effects from the accident she and her agent were in a couple nights ago. She was really forcing her shots and driving into solid defenses early in the game. She settled down and took better shots later on, allowing her offense to fit better with the flow of the game instead of imposing her offense on the game.

Our bench players were a little shaky, with the exception of Tanisha who put together one of her better games as a member of the Storm. She was very active on defense and had a couple steals that she didn't get credit for in the box score. She also helped contribute to a couple Sparks' shot clock violations. Tanisha really attacked the Sparks back-up guards and forced them into bad passes or bad decisions.

Shaun Gortman looked pretty good, although it seemed that she might need more work on when to take on the point guard position. I thought that it looked like she was sliding into the 2 or 3 spot more than what she was supposed to. Although to be fair, Coach was playing 3 guards at times with Gortman, Sue and Betty out there are the same time.

Tiffani Johnson, Barb Turner and Kaayla Chones didn't get much playing time, so it's hard to judge their performances.

The times that the bench was in were the times that the Sparks put together their few pushes. You might say of course, but there was at times a marked let down in the sureness and sharpness in the Storm's execution when the starters were sitting out — maybe too much of a let down. I don't think this game was really enough of a test. We'll see how the bench does against the Comets on Tuesday.

Overall, I think you could rightly accuse me of catching the irrational exuberance bug. I have a very good feeling about this team. The last time I felt this good about the Storm at the beginning of the season was in 2004. We all know how that ended.

Other Notes:

The new announcer only had one "Seattle Soni..Storm" slip ups that I heard. I think everyone should give the guy a break. He did better this game than he did in the preseason game.

The Storm started a new arenavision thing called "Storm Vision" that I really liked. It was a series of video clips showing a behind-the-scenes clip about the dance team tryouts, a pregame analysis from David and Elise, the item of the game for sale at the team shop and one other spot that I don't remember. The spots were all well-produced and fairly informative. Whoever thought this one up needs a raise.

WNBA President Donna Orender was at the game. When she was introduced, she was paying attention to the timeout activity on the court and did a hey-I'm-on move before smiling and waving. She stayed for the whole game, which I think is a first.

Katrina Vannoy, the Sportspagemagazine.com photographer was sporting a new Canon 70-200 f2.8 IS L lens. Congratulations. I'm not jealous. At all. Nope.

The seat upgrade thing has been upgraded from a couch in the corner to three really comfy looking armchairs behind the south basket. Damn. I need that. Jezzie and I long ago discussed the perfect Storm game viewing experience and it involved big stuffed armchairs, courtside with lots of drinks and munchies. I think our seating has arrived.

To the people who have been asking, yes — Angie and I moved our seats from behind the bench to section 111, above the tunnel. It's going to take some getting used to, but it is our new home for awhile.