score: Storm 58 Sun 76 (L) (11-11)
I managed to find a computer here in Marlton, New Jersey on
which to try and bang out a quick game report/travelogue.
As I typed the final score I looked back to see our half-time
score. 17 points, in the 2nd half, really? It's a good thing
that I didn't have any expectations coming on this road trip.
This allowed me to remain calm when I got stuck in Atlanta
for several hours due to a string of issues. I took planes,
buses, taxis. The game wasn't much fun, but the Mohegan Sun
Arena was fairly nice. It has that intimate feel like the
Key Arena has...it's not one of those wide, shallow bowls.
It does have more of a "gym" feel than the Key,
though, with no ArenaVision, but rather big screens mounted
in the corners and scoreboards at the ends. And the Casino
is pretty nice too; and locals I talked to after the game
say it's worth it to pay for a room in the hotel for a night
or two...so perhaps on a future road trip. I checked my bags
as soon as I got there (every place should have this convenience),
and wandered around most of the early afternoon, browsing
the stores and taking in the sites. It was odd to go someplace
where people are smoking indoors (I clearly don't spend much
time in casinos), but the ceilings were high, the ventilation
good, and there was no smoking in the shopping/eating areas,
so I only kind of smelled at the end of the day. . Probably
the coolest thing was the automatic toilet seat covers! I
have a picture. Trust me, they were groovy...who thinks of
I chose not to wear my '04 Champs shirt, thinking that would
be rubbing it in too much. I wore a more demure green shirt
with "Storm" on it. As I wandered I ran into some
other Storm fans who were local, and we had a nice chat in
which they informed me that NBA-TV said that Sue Bird was
definitely playing. That brightened my afternoon, though I
wasn't too surprised. The current rumors plaguing the Sun
are all about Nykesha retiring and Katie Douglas going to
Indiana next year. Oh, and Dydek's back also makes retirement
a possibility. I met up with Scullyfu at Geno's for lunch.
She had the Diana Taurasi pasta, and says it was delicious.
I had an Ashley Battle roast beef panini, and it also hit
the spot. Geno's is sort of a food court with a deli, italian,
asian and mexican station at which you can choose meals.
There was no problem getting my tickets at will call. But
right up until the game was practically ready to start I was
nervous that I'd been advised to buy on the wrong side of
the Arena. Sue and Lauren were out shooting around on the
floor, and then went to chat to Adia. Some young boys came
out to shoot around, and Sue walked over and pretended to
guard one of them, which was cute. Pretty soon the rest of
the team came out for stretching/warm-up. They looked fine,
but the Sun looked at little more energized, in my opinion.
What can you tell from shoot-around, though, right? Thibault
was out there in gym clothes shooting around with his team.
I've heard rumblings that the buddy-buddiness is an act, though,
and that there are similar "chemistry" rumblings
in the Sun org from the perspective of the fans. It's interesting
how much our teams' development mirror one another, or at
least that's how it seemed after having drinks with some CT
fans post-game: both barely making the play-offs in '04, meeting
head-to-head in the championship, similar salary cap, losing
veterans, struggling to find an identity this season, possible
coaching-gm issues--though to hear them talk, Thibault is
a better GM than coach, and in my opinion we have the opposite
challenge. Anyway, Katie Douglas and Coach T had a shoot-out
of some kind to end shoot-around, and Katie won.
There were several things about the Mohegan Sun game production
that I found inferior to the Key, and several other things
that I was impressed with; but mostly attending a Sun game
really made me appreciate the Key. Perhaps because it's home
turf, but I never said I'm not biased. The Storm ran out on
the court, and if I hadn't been watching for it, I may not
have even noticed: no announcement, no crowd reaction, no
music. It was odd to one used to at least acknowledging the
other team in the Key. During team intros Sue got a pretty
good reception, LJ got a respectable amount, but I was surprised
at how little Wendy got. They played some music no one could
clap to (and no one tried) accompanied by highlights on the
screens, then the players were actually introduced and that's
when the crowd got into it, but curiously this wasn't accompanied
by music or sound effects of any kind. No one was on their
feet, nor were there prompts for the crowd to do so, and in
fact I nearly had to get in a fist fight at the beginning
of the game with fans in my Section and the ushers (I'm only
barely exaggerating here, but you do not just order me around),
before Izi quickly scored, so I decided during Half Time that
there was no shame in bowing to the traditions of an Arena
I'm a guest in. It turns out that was a good idea, because
it took for freaking ever for us to score in the second half.
So Izi made the first basket, a 3. I hoped this boded well.
We played a bit sloppy early. Nykesha and Sue were going at
it pretty well all night, and everyone in the Arena was incensed
when Sales dramatically hit the floor on what I saw as just
good defense by Sue. Sue was given a lot more rest this game,
and T had some good minutes initially. Sue sat with 5+ minutes
to go in the quarter, and 30 seconds or so later we were up
6-10. Betty quickly picked up her second foul, though (she
had some defensive travails this game) and Sue came back in
for her. Lauren finally hit a jump shot, which was something.
It was really funny in a disorienting way to hear the fans
around me yelling at the refs when I'm sitting there in the
decided minority. And some of the calls I did just chuckle
at. The bad calls seemed to be pretty evenly spread across
both teams, though. As far as the crowd, they seemed overall
less loud than the Key, despite averaging around the same
attendance, and there were no visible cheer cues that I saw,
but plenty of audible cues that they seemed to follow all
right. There was spotty participation, but then there wasn't
much to get het up about in the 1st half. Mostly is was the
refs they freaked out about. At one point Rasmussen totally
flopped on LJ, and got called for the foul herself (sweet
justice ) leading to a bunch of booing. LJ was visibly intimidating
the Sun players with her interior defense, but she was being
stymied a bit on offense. Izi took up some of the slack with
timely shots. Sue was taking a good number of shots; they
just weren't falling early, and I hoped that that wouldn't
discourage her. 1Q: 16-20
T started the second. Whalen was shooting a free throw at
our end and I yelled BRICK! I was a touch early, and the shot
bounced around before going in. I received a lot of looks
for that one. The 2nd went pretty smoothly early with our
scoring coming easy off of a couple of offensive rebounds.
For some reason the Lazy Pass made a reappearance, for instance
Izi was extremely lackadaisical about meeting a pass, and
the Sun picked it up to score the other direction on a fast
break off the turnover. Do we not remember how they beat us
in Seattle? I was remembering how scrappy they were in that
game, totally putting us back on our heels, and it worried
me that they had been fairly flat so far in the game (by comparison)
and were still really hanging in there. Betty completely missed
a defensive assignment on a Sun fast break, covering Whalen
with Sue, even though Sue had been pointing for her to cover
the wing, so Sue tried to switch and Whalen got a lay-up basically
uncontested. That was frustrating, but it happens, and Betty
made up for it by hitting a 3 next possession. That just seems
like something that will fire Betty up. But she got yanked
by Anne right after that. Fortunately LJ started to get touches
and Sue's shot began falling, including a really nice lay-up
that I wish she'd attempt more often, as least to mix it up.
I felt like we should be ahead by a lot more at the half,
yet was still (foolishly, as it turns out) optimistic because
despite recent history we've had some really good third quarters
this season, and I keep expecting that. HT: 37-41
Half time was performance by Odaiko New England, playing those
big Asian drums. I have a picture. Kind of cool. The blimp
came out, to silent standing and waving of arms by a decided
minority of fans. Weird. They showed half time highlights
on the screens. The old people behind me reminisced about
some story involving Sue and Geno in which he totally balled
her out after a crappy first half, she owned up to it, agreeing
with him, then torched the second half. I think they were
worried about a possible repeat. It started me thinking about
Sue's development as a player and how she gets motivated.
Are there lowered expectations about the roles players play
on the Storm? I'm just spit-balling here.
Sadly (for the Storm) the Sun came out with a lot of energy,
and we weren't quite meeting it. But even though our shots
weren't falling initially, I felt like we were passing around
and taking the proper shots. The real problem was that we
weren't controlling the boards, and the Sun repeatedly got
the ball and threw it up ahead for a virtually uncontested
fast break. Repeatedly. I was reduced to laughing helplessly
while the fans all went crazy around me. We got frustrated
and stopped getting any good offensive possessions, while
they really clamped down on defense and used that to energize
their offense. I wish we could do that more. JB and Nykesha
bumped heads. The yell heard most in the stands was "3
seconds!" whether a player was even in the key or not.
We were really cold at this point, but rather than buckling
down on defense we began to crumble. We got LJ the ball a
couple of times, the shots missed, and we seemed to stop trying
that. I kept thinking that our shots would start falling,
and that we weren't really behind by that much, but we had
to get some back bone. Meanwhile Katie Douglas has really
stepped into Sales' shoes as a prolific scorer, and Whalen
was having a great game, hitting some jaw-dropping lay ups
right around LJ. She has an odd form, but it works for her.
Of course what also helps is our often soft defense that leaves
lanes wide open and allows her to just waltz in there. 3Q:
The Dunking Duo performed...remarkably like our Dunking Ushers.
It's a fun act. Too bad I was so sad. Well, actually, I was
only a little bummed. I actually had no expectations for the
game beyond seeing how sound Sue seemed, and seeing the Mohegan
Sun facility, so mission accomplished. I just wish we'd have
had a better showing, but we never seem to in Connecticut.
They're on an upswing lately, and we're trying to tread water
and prevent a marked downswing. I think we're both 11-11.
We'd have to really fall on our faces not to make the play-offs,
but I'd like us to not back in.
The Sun kept shooting with confidence in the 4th, and we looked
lost, but we hadn't given up. The daggers just kept coming,
though. It was the timing of their good plays more than anything.
We'd start to piece something together, and they'd shred it
apart with a timely defensive stop + fast break combination.
It was a killer. Wendy hit the deck, and finally got some
applause from the crowd when she stood up after some delay.
At this point I was also surprised that the Sun actually got
a grass roots "Let's Go Sun" chant (I think that
was it) going. If you have a loud voice you can really get
it to carry in the MSA. I was mildly impressed with the life
the crowd showed in the 2nd half (though it's easy when your
team is trouncing the opposition).
Our benchies came in. Whalen and Douglas got much (deserved)
applause when they checked out. The crowd applauded when "1
minute remaining" was announced, but never got to their
feet the entire game, even after being repeatedly exhorted
to do so by the PA guy. Huh. Whatever. Post game Anne went
straight to the locker room (no mid-court congratulations).
Much of the crowd stuck around as the Sun players threw mini
basketballs to the fans.
If teams take on the personalities of their coaches, I think
we're playing scared. Anne has said publicly that one of her
biggest fears is being out-coached, and I think we've all
seen that happen, though I don't know that that was the problem
this game. We seem very risk averse and tight when things
are not going so well. LJ talks about getting a Detroit swagger,
but Laimbeer has that personality; Anne does not. I would
not necessarily want her to, either, but I think that her
attention is very split as GM, Coach, and with additional
National Team responsibilities. It's not an enviable position
to be in, but it's one we have to deal with. It will be interesting
to see how the rest of the road trip goes.
There was a give-away of a Sun viewfinder at the door, with
pictures of the players inside. I kind of miss cool give-aways.
I understand that they don't have priority over solvency,
etc., but it's sad to be continuously squeezed as a fan. One
of the things I was most impressed about when I initially
became a STH was all the fan stuff the Organization did. This
has seemed to fall by the wayside, for the most part, and
we're now back to being chintzy like most of the other teams
in the League.
Pre-game they showed highlights on the screens of the Sun's
last game: a win over Minnesota.
The PA guy read off current sports scores around the Nation
pre–game, then updated them throughout the game. They
rarely had graphics to accompany this, but he had good enthusiasm,
Pre-game two little kids did a free throw line shoot-out to
see whose family got to sit in the rock star seats next to
the Storm bench; later during a game break they were interview.
This was a fun bit.
I liked the guy walking around on the floor with a balloon
hat selling cold bottled drinks.
Pre-game the Contessa blimp also was flying around (I miss
the Starbucks blimp...I don't miss the noise it would generate
when we were trying to hear an interview or something, but
it was a fun filler for other times). The strange thing here,
again, was that there was no cheering to try to get its prizes.
To get stuff dropped on you apparently all you had to do was
sit there and quietly wave your arms intensely.
The coaches looked sharp. LJ had on her green shoes, and a
white wrap on her right leg. Wendy had a sleeve on her arm.
Sue had no brace.
Mary Beth Murdock sang the anthem. No dimmed lights, which
was again different for me, but she did a creditable job,
straightforward, though her voice was a touch too pop/country
for me. She was accompanied by a color guard.
Sue, LJ and Katie Douglas were the team captains out in center
court, but there was no "junior captains" presentation,
which is a little thing in the Key that's kind of cool. There
was a presentation of the Dish & Assist Hero award pre-game,
but I'm not sure what it was for.
Erin Phillips was in the stands, and received a very warm
reception when she was introduced.
The Sun have a group they call the Connecticut Sun Munchkins
who dance like our Dance Troupe. There was one girl who had
a freaky amount of make-up on, though. But most of the time
some sort of older dance/cheer squad made up of older girls/women
came out. I swear that tons-of-make-up girl was actually on
this squad as well. I tried to get a picture, but my camera
wasn't good enough to get a non–blurry one. I didn't
mind the dance squad. Their moves were tight and more polished
and sophisticated. I guess it just depends on what your tolerances
One of my favorite things the Sun game production people did
was to give a Sun prize pack away to the fan in the stands
with the best poster. They provided poster materials on the
concourse; it's unclear to me whether a home-made poster would
also be eligible, but I thought this was a fun, relatively
cheap way to encourage poster making: make it a contest.
A cool thing Blaze had was a t-shirt gun. I have a picture.
Perhaps it wouldn't be necessary with just the lower bowl
in the Key. And we do have the t-shirt sling-shot. But the
gun/cannon was pretty fun.