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6/2/07 vs San Antonio

Final score: Storm 68 – Silver Stars 78 (L) (2-2)

Submitted by Norwester

Game Photos | Rick | Scott E

It's not so much losing itself that hurts so much, after all it's a fact of life in the parity-infused WNBA. Each of our players has lost at every level. What really hurts is losing to the same team in consecutive games in much the same way both times, with nearly a week after each game to stew in our loss. We had a week to prepare for the team who stymied us in San Antonio, and yet in the beginning Becky Hammon was penetrating at will, and in the end Crossley was draining open threes like she was alone in the gym. The Silver Stars seemed loose and rested; we seemed frustrated and tight, with an offense that repeatedly stuttered, and a defense that was alternately solid and swiss cheese. San Antonio is deep. Now that I've seen them in action they are somewhat scary. They made great moves in acquiring Hammon, Buescher and Riley, and getting rid of Pee-Wee. A starter would go out, but someone just as good would come off the bench. Young and Buescher would tag team Lauren, and they were giving her fits, pushing her around, at least enough that while she was working to establish position, their mobile and active perimeter defenders were clogging passing lanes and confusing our passers, who really didn't take advantage of the lob pass into LJ tonight, perhaps because they couldn't see it. Despite giving up inches, the Silver Stars played us very well. There's a lesson in there somewhere. The refs were letting the game be very physical, especially early, and we just weren't getting the ball into the middle like we needed to, like we didn't learn from last loss, and sadly (but predictably given those patterns) they came out ahead.

Sue seemed a touch out of sorts. In earlier games I know she was sick, and there were times when her effort was exemplary (even when the calls weren't going her way), but she got banged around out there, and there were too many times that our offense ground to a halt. Did we forget how to count to 24? Where did our collective sense of time go?

Izi showed spates of the aggressiveness we've been loving from her this season, she'd drive strongly to the basket, but at other times she'd disappear. Betty made a couple of early offensive mistakes, which happens, but unforgivably she'd sort of give up on defense afterwards, then have to run to catch up. Sure, she got her bell rung by Lauren on a rebound, following up a previous possession where Sue and Betty almost lost a rebound that landed right between them , but other than that she seemed to be trying to out-drama SASS, and they were going for some Oscar-worthy performances out there. This unevenness in the players led to the stuttering offense that brought us shot-clock violations. It was frustrating to watch, and hard to watch the players get out of sync. It's like we peaked too early, giving us a glimpse into the future when the bench steps up like they're meant to be on the court, and a newly-arrived Sue and Lauren play on basketball instinct and skill alone to make up for not having played much with the team.

LJ and Wendy have been the most consistent players. LJ was a monster on the boards, and Wendy is giving us solid minutes out there. There were few minutes for Ashley out there, though. I don't know where the Ashley of a couple games ago went, but if she could return and bring out lost shooting touch with her, I think we'd all appreciate it.

Katie Gearlds needs to get out of her own head. It's like she's in a rut thinking "my shot will eventually fall" instead of stepping up with her early confidence like "this shot will go in." She ran some excellent Pick and Roll plays with both LJ and JB, though that led to baskets. I guess if you're giving the ball up to the likes of them, it can be forgiven, but she seems to be losing some of her confidence.

JB was padding her stats early by missing a couple of times then putting the ball in, but the refs were letting a ton of arm-entanglement go all game, and I think her bad arm bore the brunt. She was solid early, and later really got into Ruth Riley's head, but she played a little less than we'd be accustomed to from Healthy!JB, in my opinion.

Advice for Ely (from whom we actually got a couple of timely defensive stops/tips): when your defensive assignment beats you and LJ is between her and the basket, don't push or grab her, just let her go. LJ is primed for that block (and she had a couple of nice ones tonight; one rivaled the A-Rob volleyball block).

Sure, the refs were pretty bad, but we got away with stuff too (like LJ wiping Buescher back, then getting a trip to the line herself, or Lauren knocking Wecker down after the foul was called on someone else--though it was a natural continuation of her before-whistle movement). Sometimes we foul. Often we are fouled. Sometimes an out-of-position ref calls a foul based on flopping and acting. Michael Price: two thumbs down. Byron as well. Shelly: I'm still on the fence about her.

The good: mostly I mentioned it already with LJ's blocks and all-around solid double-double performance (she was a monster on the boards, though she "only" had 20 points...someone has to get her the ball; she can't always drive to the basket), Wendy's consistency, the Katie-LJ/JB pick and roll, Sue's drives to the basket (when the shots rolled our way).

The bad: Betty is usually so strong for us in the second half, but her head just didn't seem to be in it tonight. She let the physical play of SASS get to her, but rather than responding with a rash of scoring, she went for the drama, and got called for a T when she swung her closed-fist arm around to dislodge it from her defender, after the foul was called (though she did also give the ref a pretty good stare down). I didn't realize basketball was an acting competition, but Betty is very competitive.

The ugly: many knees and elbows, etc. to sensitive places on our players. I think LJ got at least one crotch-shot, and did come out of several scrums in pain, leading to a brief substitution so she could recover. And at the end Sue freaked us all out by coming up lame, barely able to hobble off the court, gesturing uncomfortably to her right leg. Knee? Ankle? Oh, no! But I believe it was just a knee to the thigh, leading to a massage and ice from the trainer, and allowing her to recover enough to throw t-shirts and walk off the court on her own several minutes later.

SASS is really good. It's not a fluke. They aren't just in our heads like Houston has been in the past. They are scary deep like Sacramento was a couple seasons ago. This depth helps them play swarming defense. They are going to be a force in the West. It's not nice to lose to them, but it's nice to see a team with a good fan base start to come into their own.

Us? We could be really good too. We saw glimpses of this in the first couple of games we won in the Key. We were giddy with success early before the benchies seemingly forgot how they carried the team in the pre-season. The measure of this team will really come from how we respond to this adversity, and I'm interested to see how well we develop over the next month.

1st Q: 16-17, SASS
Nothing too spectacular, except for some spectacularly bad calls. Apart from shooting percentage our team stats were remarkably close all night. JB opened the night with our first bucket...after missing twice and getting the rebound (padding her stats ). The physical tone of the game was set here early, and the refs weren't calling anything. I don't think either team entered the bonus, though LJ did pick up two quick fouls, which wasn't very consistent with how they were calling it. Betty got hit in the head. Young had to go out on an Official's Time-out to get her bloody head taken care of. Ruth Riley hit a 3, to epitomize how everything was falling for the Silver Stars, and the crowd was getting restless with the overall lack of rhythm to the Storm offense, and the way Becky Hammon was penetrating pretty much at will. Why can't we get some of that? We did get a couple of really good defensive stops toward the end, but SASS didn't let it get to them and would pretty soon get an easy drive to the basket.

2nd Q: 35-37, SASS
The Dance Troupe was performing between quarters, and the players almost blundered into the middle of their routine trying to return to the court. Sue, LJ, Katie and JB were having a bit of a chuckle over it. I wish there'd been more in the quarter to be amused about. This was when Katie was finding her rhythm with our bigs, but there were a couple of awful consecutive calls by Price, Katie shot an airball, T came in and right away had a near-turnover. Wendy did get her 3,000th point, but what's the point when SASS scores right away afterwards? Watching SASS I wondered why we didn't drive more, be more aggressive to the basket. The lead see-sawed a bit. Sue took a charge that was oddly called a foul on her, putting us into the penalty besides (to SASS's 2 fouls) which collected plenty of boos from an irate crowd. Free throws were really keeping San Antonio in it. Sue got a nice steal and a 3 near the end, but down two with the ball and 20 seconds to set up a shot we got nothing even off in time. You can't blame that on the refs.

Half-time entertainment was a basketball game between the Lady Bugs and the Li'l Storm. They were so small!

3rd Q: 51-57, SASS
We were hanging in there at this point, but it was very worrisome that we were back at that 6-8 point deficit barrier that we hit in the first game in San Antonio. Izi started the quarter scoring on a strong move to the basket. The PA guy mistakenly announced a foul on #33, Janell Burse (when it was on #33 Sophia Young), which got the crowd riled, not quite putting it past the refs to call it that way. Right after that the game was held up by the refs to adjust the clock, producing more crowd disgruntled mumbling. The refs seemed to bite on every SA flop, but JB was really mixing it up with Ruth and seemed to get in her head. Sadly, she was yanked after a quick 3rd foul, but the crowd was delighted. This combined with an LJ block (All-State Good Hands play), Sue forcing a jump ball, and LJ spiking a Becky Hammon shot out of there seemed to indicate things were looking up. Our effort was high. LJ wiped Buescher to the ground, putting SA in the penalty, and a subsequent Betty rebound then 3 got us within 5, now if she'd only stop giving up on defense. LJ came up a bit lame (I think this was the sensitive hit) at this point and was subbed out for a rest. Sue hit a lay-up where she got knocked all over the place, but it went in. LJ had 18 pts and 12 rebounds. Ely showed some defensive spirit. We all felt that a rally was imminent.

4th Q
Sadly, it went downhill from there. Between quarters they showed the Be Fit video again, initially while the coaches were talking so the featured players were looking up at their images and smirking at one another. The crowd was LOUD to start the quarter. Then we all had to stop because the shot clock didn't start. But we were all cheering again a few seconds later. Crossley and Betty got tied up (I mentioned the prevalent arm-wrapping, which the refs should have been calling closer) running down court, and Betty got her T (and subbed out) for throwing her arm+fisted-hand around to dislodge her defender. She made up with it with a really nice little runner to get us within 5 again, but pretty soon Crossley was putting them up 10+ with a bunch of threes. We had turnovers, and they seemingly scored at will. Even the Train during timeout seemed kind of sad. One interesting note: the front-row people of Section 108 automatically stand up for the Train, allowing the little kids to run in front of them. Huh. With like 5 minutes to go we were down 20, no one was passing to LJ, and Sue had a really nice move to the basket...and the ball typically (for us at the time) just rimmed out. Fans were leaving (way too early ), and Sue came up lame with four minutes left. She was bent over, grimacing, repeatedly trying to unsuccessfully walk or put any significant weight on her right leg. I was so worried about her knee, but it appeared to be defender knee-Sue thigh collision. Ouch!

I think we got to within 14 or so. LJ did a jump ball against Becky, which was rather amusing. Doppler threw t-shirts to the crowd, which really got them riled up despite our waning rally. Katie had a really nice inside move right at the end to get us within 10. Perhaps we should have matched up a bit more with SASS size-wise. I don't know. It's easy to sit back and pick apart another loss.

At least they didn't out-assist us, but our points in the paint margin should be higher, and again: where's our shot?

Run-off

There was a severe ketchup-shortage in the concourse before the game. We had to go to three stations in order to find some. The food-services had just seemed disorganized so far this year.

It was fun to see LJ dive across the scorers table to give Adia a peck hello.

Item of the game: Storm Glossy Basketball for $12 (regularly $29.99)

The anthem was rather non-traditional, but I kind of liked it. Perhaps a bit too much drama for some, though. She did correctly sing "o'er the land of the free[/i], though.

Injury report: none. Applause.

Honorary Captains: Sue, LJ, Vickie Johnson, Becky Hammon
No one on the Silver Stars got as much applause as Assistant Coach Sandy Brondello (I can still hear the "call" of her last name), but Becky came close.

LJ & JB are two of three players to have multiple double-doubles so far this season.

It still hasn't gotten old watching LJ's half-court shot from the Houston game, which they're currently using on the ArenaVision to advertise tickets.

StormVision with Sabrina: the organization takes pride in the community and helping its kids. Clips of the Be Smart. Be Fit. Be Yourself campaign showing Storm players in conjunction with the WA State Nurses Association instructing elementary-aged kids in nutrition and exercise. Healthy kids = healthy adults...should I be eating M&Ms while I watch this?

Adia & Alan Game Breakdown: Storm failed their first test on the road, allowing SASS to be aggressive and penetrate early, though JB and LJ were both bright spots. LJ was #2 in the W in both scoring and rebounding.

When the players emerged from the tunnel before the game and after half-time they tossed Discover Card-sponsored mini-basketballs to the crowd.

LJ had a braid--which in years past meant business--rather than her bunny-tail of previous games. The superstitious can draw their own conclusions.

Pre-game Tyler Sanford was awarded at mid-court for winning the Women in Sports essay contest. Clearly he writes better than the Go2Guy.

Wendy scored her 3,000th points tonight! Sadly, Becky Hammon dampened our mini-celebration by making a basically uncontested lay-up at the other end.

Heidi was wearing that odd, hooded outfit tonight. Anne and Shelley looked smashing.

During the 1st quarter we were treated to a montage of the 100-point win against the Mercury. Always nice to relive the fun moments. Bravo, staff.

ETA: I thought they were working on Tanisha dribbling less? Old habits die hard?