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7/30/06 vs Los Angeles

Final score: Storm 70 – Sparks 71 (L) (14-14)

Attendance | 9686

Anthem Watch | Didn't hear it.

Fan Psyche | She was going to drive and pass back out, right? RIGHT?

Game Highlight | LJ big time and in big pain.

Halftime | A juggler dude.

SF.O Keyword of the Game | Three! We need a... aw crap.

Game Photos

Betty will most probably be replaying the last few seconds of this game in her mind for the rest of her life.

Did she not know what the score was and that we needed a three to tie, not a layup? Did she think she could get a foul with the clock running down, something that rarely if ever happens? Did someone on the bench not make sure that everyone knew what to do if Moore made either of her two free throws?

No matter how you cut it or where you want to lay the blame, somewhere along the line there was a major breakdown in communication for the Storm. It certainly looked like Betty's only thought was drive hard to the basket. At some point in the final timeout, taken by LA with 7 seconds left with the Sparks up by two, the team had to have talked about what to do once they put one of the Sparks on the line. The Storm had a couple fouls to give, so it wasn't until TJ fouled Moore with 6 seconds left that the Sparks were shooting free throws.

Here's where the communication failure happened. The Sparks were already up by two before the Storm started fouling. With any made free throws, the Storm would be down by at least three. Unless Moore missed both and the Storm rebounded, the Storm would need at least a three to tie.

Moore missed the first and hit the second. The Storm inbounded and Betty went flying down the court. When she crossed the three-point line and started driving towards the basket, everyone was expecting her to pass it back to Sue (or whoever it was behind her) standing at the three-point line.

Instead, she took the shot, made it and started to celebrate as if she thought the Storm were only down by two and she had tied the game. She even caught the Sparks off guard. They looked around at each other like they suddenly weren't sure they had just won the game. Betty was so certain with her drive and immediate celebratory reaction at having made the basket that everyone had to do a double take on the scoreboard. We all hadn't hallucinated that made Moore free throw — game over and the Sparks win by one.

The final 6 seconds aside, I wish the new owners had been here for this game. Not only did this team again play with a ton of heart and determination, the crowd was totally into it and it was almost like we were back in '04 again.

But this isn't '04 and this isn't the same team. Try as the Storm might, they simply could not catch and take the lead from the Sparks. Every time the Storm would get defensive stops or get the game close, the Sparks would find agonizingly easy ways to score baskets. If you had a device that could measure effort, the Storm would have had the thing pegged in the red all night long while the Sparks would have spiked a couple of times but would have mainly been coasting in the green.

It's getting old to be saying this kind of thing as we're all looking for silver linings, but the fact is that the Storm was in this game the whole way. The Sparks are the league's dominant team right now. Hate them or love them, you have to give them that. But even as bandaged up and fatigued as the Storm players are, they were right there with the league's best the entire game.

There was no third quarter disappearing act. There were no double digit leads. Scoring runs were answered with defensive pressure. The Sparks were forced into 3 or 4 shot clock violations. Statistically, the game was almost dead even. The biggest discrepancy was with the Storm's three-point shooting, a dismal 5-20.

The Storm got the calls, shot two technicals, got the Sparks in the penalty early and often and outrebounded the Sparks, which on its own has to be a minor miracle. Even with all that, plus no Mabika due to a suspension, the Storm just didn't have the gas to take control of the game.

In the "if only" world, give us a healthy Janell, a healthy Palmer, or even just a healthier LJ and this game would have been ours. The tale of this season might end up being summed up with three words — injury-ridden frustration — because the players and coaches have to know that with a little more luck, it would have been the Storm sitting on top of the West instead of the Sparks.

Other Notes:

No other notes tonight.