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7/01/06 vs Minnesota

Final score: Storm 92 – Lynx 75 (W) (10-8)

Attendance | 7240

Anthem Watch | Decent, until the end and she went all over the place.

Fan Psyche | That is indeed what we are talking about.

Game Highlight | Lots - JB, LJ, Sue. Hard to pick what with JB and LJ going crazy in the middle, JB getting her 1000th point or Sue getting 14 assists.

Halftime | Spelling bee that went on too long. By the way, few people in the building could spell Kamila Vodichkova - especially since she only started adding the "h" because stoopid Americans wanted to keep spelling it phonetically.

SF.O Keyword of the Game | DEFENSE (well, for 3 quarters at least)

Game Photos | Scott E | Rick

The key for this game that I think shows how much the Storm have improved as compared to the beginning of the season was their defense. They played 3 solid quarters of defense with only one in which they broke down. Earlier this season, they'd usually have one good defensive quarter and 3 bad ones.

Added to that, the Storm had one of their best offensive nights for the season — not just in total points scored but also in getting the ball inside to Lauren and Janell. They took advantage of Minnesota turnovers and successfully converted those mistakes into fastbreaks and easy points. And maybe most importantly, when the Lynx (or more specifically Augustus) went off in the third quarter, the Storm were resisted the urge to get panicky and tighten up. Instead, the picked up their defense and went right back to what had been working on offense — hammering the Lynx inside with LJ and JB.

This game was a direct result of the team's all-around gutty effort in LA without Lauren. Sue said after that game that they played the whole time like they were down by 5 — they were pushing and attacking at all times. I had a concern that with LJ coming back the next game and being at home that the Storm would relax back into their normal mindset. I think we can all agree that they didn't relax at all and kept that same aggressive attacking attitude against the Lynx, with the addition of a similarly-minded LJ.

The one breakdown was the third quarter and the Storm's defense on Simone Augustus. She had been kept to single digits prior to the first half under the smothering defense of Barbara, Izi and Shaun. They were completely denying her the ball. She didn't even get a touch until late in the first quarter. Simone got a few more opportunities in the second quarter, but nothing that allowed her to get into any kind of groove.

The third quarter was an entirely different story mainly because the Lynx started getting Simone the ball much earlier in the shot clock, sometimes well before the ball crossed the half court line. This meant that she had a full head of steam as she got to the three-point line and had a clear view of the Storm defense. She was able to find the seams and attack the defense much more efficiently and was able to spark a Lynx offensive burst. The Lynx erased a 15-point lead (stretching back into the end of the second quarter) and took a 4 point lead — a 19 point turnaround all in the third quarter. The Lynx more than doubled their first and second quarter combined scoring.

The game had a few moments there that had the fans getting a little nervous. Here was another rookie lighting us up in a game we should be taking strongly. The Storm did fight back and got the game back in hand at the end of the third at 60-61, Lynx in the lead. I was thinking that we were in for another tight one for the whole 4th quarter. At the end of the 3rd, the Storm looked like they were getting their energy back and weren't letting the Lynx run get to them, but Simone was still on fire. We've unfortunately seen this before.

However, the Storm weren't just getting their energy back — they thundered back (cliché intended) and went on their own 19 point jaunt to blow the Lynx out of the building. Between some swarming defense, bad shooting from the Lynx and some key fastbreaks, the Storm ran away with the game and turned what could have been another heart-breaker into a heart-pounder.

This was a great team win with lots of individual highlights.

Janell got her 1000th point. Sue tied her career-best with 14 assists. Everyone was perfect from the line. LJ and JB combined for 18-21 shooting. Sue and LJ both got double doubles and JB was a couple rebounds away from one too. Edwige got a little more playing time and while she missed her two shots, she gave us some much needed consistency at the point. Izi looked a ton better than she has in the last few games. Everyone was relaxed and having fun. The only little dark cloud was Betty. She was the only one who didn't have a very good game. She didn't really get going on offense and was tasked with guarding players much bigger and taller than her like Abrosimova and Mann. She had a tough night.

The Storm are now 10-8 and have passed the halfway point of their season (played 18 of 34 games). At this point, the Storm are certainly in striking distance of matching the 20-14 records they've posted in the last 2 seasons. I would like to think if they can continue they way they've been playing and improving for the remaining 16 games that they can do better than 20-14. The western conference is tough this year and it will definitely take an 18-20 win season to get into the playoffs, let alone jockey for decent position. There is also huge potential as tight as the west has been so far that the 2nd through 4th playoff spots will be decided by the last games of the season and tiebreakers. I don't think anyone wants to get into that kind of situation. As it is with every season, the Storm's future is in their own hands.

Other Notes:

Wendy was tooling around on one of those knee-support scooter things and was being a big goof the whole time. She had a little squeeze horn and was working that thing like crazy. She had Coach Donovan, the other players, the fans and everyone cracking up.

Sonic Johan Petro was at the game and seemed like he was having a lot of fun. He got up and joined the kid train. He got up and was dancing along with the Hip Hop Squad and Dance Troupe — and looked pretty good doing it. As he was leaving the court for halftime, he was watching that clip they always show of the Sonics in which Kevin Calabro goes incoherent trying to describe a Petro two-handed tip-jam and had a huge grin on his face. The Sonics players usually disappear after the half, but he was there the whole game. It was great to see him really getting into the game.

Sonics' Head Coach Bob Hill was also at the game, looking like he just got off the tuna boat from Margaritaville. Someone remarked that he looked a lot like Nick Nolte — not the good "48 Hours" Nick Nolte but the bad mugshot Nick Nolte (goggle it).

A note about the Storm's sponsors and the in-game activities used to promote those sponsors — baseball arena-inspired activities do not appeal to basketball fans. There's a reason why the Safeco Field crowds get excited about the video boat race thing — they're bored and there is usually nothing really happening to visually stimulate them. We aren't bored. We have plenty to watch on the court. Having a video Mini race around the the arena video screen is kinda lame. Having fans try to race remote-controlled Minis around the court = fun. Also, it's nice that DiGiorno is a sponsor, but having the players say which is their favorite DiGiorno pizza during the "Fastbreak with the Storm" segments is painful and detrimental to our urge to go out and buy DiGiorno pizza.

Also, while I'm at it, we like the dogs for halftime, or the Dunking Ushers, or Bungie Ball — what ever happened to Bungie Ball. I personally loved Bungie Ball.