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7/11/07 vs Connecticut

Final score: Storm 63 – Sun 76 (L) (11-9)

Attendance | 10891

Game Photos | Rick | Scott L | Scott E

Submitted by Norwester

I'm sure there are people out there who have been waiting for this game report, but they probably aren't those who attended the game. I was looking forward to seeing the new and improved play of T, a newly cohesive team with well-defined roles, able to withstand diversity and respond by playing even harder together. I know some people don't like Connecticut. But I do. That said, they are a team we should have beaten. Sure, we were playing a bizarre back-to-back schedule (I think this was the first time the WNBA had scheduled a team on B2B mid-day games), the second B2B in a week. Granted, we had a history of winning the first game convincingly then coming out flat in the second game. But we were at home. Surely that would be enough to buoy us when we got tired. And there was Sue, looking lovely in street clothes, sitting with us on the bench...how could that fail to be inspiring? If nothing else, a win would have helped clear the bad taste of last year's loss to Sacramento, something that really didn't even register as we were all so stunned that the team had been sold to an Oklahoma City consortium. There we were, sitting on the last game before a long break, and you'd think we could leave it all out on the court. Well, Lauren Jackson did. And I have to say that Betty Lennox showed up as well.

Sadly, that wasn't enough, and we not only didn't win, we lost in a really ugly fashion. I can't really fault certain bench players who were subbed in and too fast to really make an impact. But it didn't seem like we were even a team out there. Once again when our shots stopped falling we panicked, in essence, and became a group of individuals, pulling against one another really intensely, instead of working together. This is particularly devastating for our defense, as our style has always been very team-oriented. In addition, we played right into Connecticut's game plan of running our legs off early.

I'm not even really frustrated. I'd more characterize it as disappointment. 2-2 without Sue isn't bad, in the grand scheme of things. It's harder to write game reports when we lose, but at least it gives me another venue in which to rant, and I do like to do that (I don't know if you've noticed ). Ranting is cold comfort, however. Hopefully everyone takes some time over the All-Star break to consider their relapse. LJ can get out of Seattle and clear her head (it's not Korea, but her weekend festivities should still be fun). Sue can continue rehab. Betty can rest her nagging injuries. Janell can institute a search and rescue effort for her game. Izi can recharge with her family. The bench can take a break, perhaps work on their game, ruminate over what this team needs from them, examine their emerging identities as contributors. I don't really fault them for this loss, but mostly because the starters remained in the game as we staggered to an uninspiring end. Perhaps this was due to lack of bench production earlier, or perhaps this was to send a message to the starters. Who knows anymore?

It's initially quite amusing to be surrounded by so many little kids. Not all of the concessions were open, but I found one at which to buy lunch. One thing about Camp Day is that lines aren't really long for the most part, since you can't buy every kid something to eat...you'd break the bank. Also, they really trickle in. It also feels like playing hooky to be leaving work in the middle of the day (not that I would know what that feels like ), which adds to the whole nostalgic experience.

We started shooting around at our end of the floor, which meant we were going the "wrong" way. But I'm starting to think of it as the "defensive way," as I understand that's the way defensive-minded road teams choose to play the game, so that their coach is right there to yell defensive versus offensive instructions at the end. We have an interesting history with this team; you can't help but think back to the Championship when we play them, particularly because so many of the same big players remain in place on both squads. It was really weird to see the Storm working out on the floor without Sue. Has she ever missed a home game before (2004 when she broke her nose doesn't count)? It was kind of sad to see LJ out at center court as team captain all alone (Katie Douglas was the Sun captain).

All of the Sun starters got pretty good applause during intros, which kind of surprised me. But I was really struck (for the first time) by the inexperienced nature of the crowd when Sue Bird walked out onto the court first during Storm intros, and only received average applause. At a regular night game, I guarantee the Key Arena crowd would nearly have brought the house down at her appearance. Oh, well. It was funny to see how gently the team treated Sue. During the post-intro huddle at the bench with the coaches, Sue let the starters get in there, but then she came in with the benchies. Shyra bumped into her, but then when she looked and saw that it was Sue she was jockeying for position with she jumped back and put her hand on Sue's shoulder like "are you ok?!"

The game started with high energy. Betty scored first, and I was struck by the thought that she loves to play the Sun. Dydek overwhelmed JB, who was trying to play defense, but LJ came flying in to block Margo! It was so cool, and ended up being the All State Good Hands play of the game. LJ had another block to deny a Sun fast break. She really was everywhere, and Betty was active and aggressive early as well, but our outside shooting was ice cold, and we were attempting to play a really fast game which just appeared to be sloppy; we seemed to be out of control out there. Sure, we often like to run, and get transition baskets, but we were Sue-less, and realistically that was a bad game plan for the 2nd B2B game. We pretty much let the Sun control the tempo completely. And we let them keep the ball out of LJ's hands on the block in a position to score. Double . She mostly settled for outside shots, and picked up a couple easy buckets on offensive rebounds. Now if only her teammates would box out as well. JB picked up a couple of quick fouls (and Wendy practically sprinted to the scorer's table). I'm used to the team shaking out kinks early in the game, so at this point I could still laugh at the shrill screaming of the little kids, particularly when the "Louder" gage came up on the screen. The darlings seemed to really think they were affecting it. They got so loud that you couldn't hear the refs' whistles or any of the PA prompts. We were lucky not to be down 2 more at the end of the 1st, after the first in a depressing number of bungled out-of-bounds plays (who knew it was the start of a pattern? ). 1Q: 14-20

Discover Card Free Throw Line Shoot-out

Shona checked in at the beginning of the 2nd. ) She got some applause. She immediately ran a play straight to a posting-up LJ (through Izi). It was really nice. She really didn't look anywhere else but to get the ball to Lauren in the like two minutes she was in the game. I was disappointed that she didn't get more time. Perhaps with she and T out there at the same time, T as a shooting guard. Alas. As I write this we've probably already cut her but I hope we keep her around a bit longer. Perhaps we can re-sign her after the AS Break? Please. We want a 2nd real point guard on the team. Sadly, our defense became very porous at this point; perhaps that prompted the T for Shona substitution (Russia).

Ref #7 got a little bit whistle-happy at this time. He called a couple out of position calls, in my opinion, but whatever. JB had to sit down with 3 fouls (her 3rd an offensive foul, which are the worst ). LJ had a little talk with Clark after the no-foul-call when she was hammered on a rebound. Then she scored . Then she let out a girlie scream when she was blocked by Dydek, causing her to just laugh and shake her head. Betty tried to take everything into her own hands playing point guard, and called her own number, putting her head down and just driving straight to the basket on a couple of consecutive possessions. Both shots just missed, which was disheartening. Ashley bricked a couple of free throws. She air-balled the first and missed the 2nd, though happily Izi got the rebound. Why can Connecticut players usually make free throws, but with Tennessee alum it's hit and miss? Just something I noticed. LJ really got no help in the post. And every time our offense got a couple of consecutive good plays, our defense would just collapse and the Sun would score easily.

At one point LJ and Betty had Katie Douglas trapped under the basket on an inbounds (I think) and to get out of it Katie basically elbowed Betty right in the face. Directly in front of a ref! The no-call on that play was the only time the crowd began booing, but it was deserved. I guess Laimbeer was right. Make them call it. Ridiculous.

Everything just seemed a bit out of sync. Even the PA guy started to say "fans, let's hear it" for the Dance Troupe mistakenly during a freeze before their routine was even over. Whoops. HT: 32-42

They brought out a couple of speakers and Keke Palmer performed at half-time, complete with back-up dancers. It was very loud. The acoustics were bad. It was also very weird. Was she lip-synching? Sometimes her voice would come in like she was singing over the noise, but it was kind of disjointed, and didn't really show-case her voice, like we heard in the anthem. Whatever. Clearly I'm an old fuddy-duddy.

We started the 2nd half strong. Izi hit a free throw to allow us to sit. We immediately ran a couple of really nice plays to get LJ open under the basket, and started to string together some defensive stops with good possessions. JB looked a lot better, which may also help explain why we were getting LJ some good looks at the basket. Half-way through the quarter Betty had a chance to cut it to 45-49 on an &1, but though she's been basically automatic from the line this season (over 90%), she missed. That's ok, we finally cut the lead to less than 5 with a bit of luck. Then I guess our luck ran out.

LJ got a touch of rest, but she had to check back in quickly as we began to just fall apart. And we were so close, too. Sigh. The Sun scored, then out-hustled us into a turnover. LJ and Katie quickly checked in. I had a confrontation with Blaze, the Sun mascot (well, I got pelted by a ball of crumpled paper) when Thibault was trying to argue that Whalen was in the act of shooting when she was obviously fouled (right in front of us) on the perimeter. I yelled quite audibly for Thibault to give me a break. One thing about Camp day, if the mascots weren't active, and there were no prompts on the ArenaVision, it was pretty quiet. Not too much spontaneous cheering going on, apart from pockets of noise that would never really catch on. Yeah, I'm pretty proud.

We'd made our run, and the Sun got it all back. Sales got hot. We went flat, turned the ball over, had shot clock violations, and the Sun had all the energy and will. We were so slow at the buzzer, making extra passes when the shot clock was winding down, that I'm surprised anyone even tried to argue that Izi's 3 was good. They did do a floor review, but the PA guy never audibly gave us the answer. 3Q: 51-61

I don't know if I agree with the announcer getting us to our feet at the beginning of the 4th quarter too. Particularly when our play is less than inspiring. And to be half-heartedly standing there and to start the quarter with another shot clock violation (SCV)? Brutal. We finally scored after nearly committing another SCV, but we hucked up a desperation shot that hit the rim, and JB got the o-board and scored. Whew. We were putting up good shots that were just missing so I still felt we had a chance if our D could hold the line, but you could see each miss draining us, and our defense wasn't picking up at all, and Anne seemed to be making a point by only playing the starters.

LJ was more frustrated than I've seen her in some time, cursing a blue streak when a second ball that she hustled to corral in a rebound situation went off her body and out of bounds. She was only in position to get the ball through pure effort, but it was a tough break to not get possession. Particularly with how hard she was working on offense. Time and time again the Easter Island strategy--everyone standing around the perimeter while T dribbles slowly from side to side and LJ runs back and forth in the paint--made an appearance. T would dribble to one side, LJ would run over there and establish position, T would see that she had a defender on her and decide to pass back along the perimeter or dribble back that way, causing LJ to have to sprint to the other side of the key and battle again to establish position. Our inability to get Lauren the ball in coverage (and single coverage at that point) was pretty ridiculous. This is where you really miss a player like Sue who had shown a talent for threading passes into the post, and most of all has played with LJ enough to be able to tell the moment when she's sealed her defender or gains position so that the ball arrives just where Lauren needs it, just when she needs it. Plus, a floor general needs to rally the troops, calm everyone down, pull them all together. I'm not saying Sue is perfect. We had these same types of problems with her early in the season. But by this point I think she's worked through some of them, and the Sun were definitely vulnerable.

Whatever. With 4 minutes to go we got trapped in a corner and though LJ was frantically calling for the ball, T called a timeout. Then we promptly turned the ball over out of the time-out anyway, leading to a Connecticut basket. I'm told Sue looked up at Section 113 to see certain fans with their heads in their hands at this point, and she flinched in response (or perhaps sympathy) and turned back to the "game." LJ started just throwing the ball up every time she got it. Some of her shots were so crazy, and half of them were still going in! Why don't we get this woman more touches? It reminded me of her quote a couple games ago where she said she got angry and started just chucking the ball up there. The thing is, at basically any point in time I'd rather have LJ just chucking up shots than pretty much anyone else on the team.

I don't know that we really had a chance to rally at the end, but we showed some signs of life. The fans around me were yelling "hurry up!" to T as she just slowly dribbled the ball around the perimeter and ran precious time off the clock. I was impressed with the scrappiness the Connecticut Sun showed, and I wish we could have at least met their level of effort, even with a loss. They picked off 4 or 5 of our out-of-bounds plays, and caused several turnovers on our fast breaks. LJ looked beat by the end from all her running around. She rarely has her jersey tucked in very long (from players pulling and grabbing as they battle for position), and never by the end of the game.

At least the players stuck around to throw shirts to the kids.

Run-off

Item of the game: stuffed Doppler doll for $10 (that's like half-off)

Pre-game entertainment: Connect All-Stars, a cheerleading/hip-hop squad from Bellevue featuring young women from 4-18 years old performing a routine

StormVision featured an interview with Katie Gearlds. It was difficult to make out the details of what she was saying. A combination of bad acoustics and Midwest Mumble I guess. But the gist was that she's aware of taking baby steps leading to big strides (hopefully), and feels like she can help be a spark off the bench. Growing up there was no one WNBA player in particular that she looked up to, but she remembers Swoopes and Tina Thompson, Sue & Diana from their college days, and has been amazed playing with Lauren here in Seattle. It's also been wonderful being able to learn from established players, like Wendy Palmer

LJ was wearing her green shoes

The anthem was sung by Keke Palmer, who is promoting her new album. She's the 14-year-old star of "Akeelah and the Bee." I thought that her voice was remarkably powerful. She sang a bit slowly for my taste, but her pauses between phrases were minimal, and I thought she kept the frills to a minimum

Pacific Medical Injury Report: only Sue Bird (knee surgery)

It was Doppler's Birthday celebration, as is traditional on Camp Day. He was joined by mascots (I don't know all their names so I'm not really going to try) from San Antonio (fox), Chicago (guy), Sacramento (dragon), Connecticut (...Blaze), LA (dog), Indiana (?), and New York (dog). There was much mascot mayhem all game, including tugs of war, and participation in the LaZboy Furniture upgrade. The kids really got screaming, and it would have been kind of nice for the mascots not to rile them up when we were just trying to watch the game, but I'm glad it was fun for them.