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7/24/07 at Washington

Final score: Storm 96 – Mystics 97 (L-OT) (12-12)

Attendance | 7036

Submitted by Norwester

Plane tickets from Seattle to the East Coast: $250. Game tickets: $50. Getting to watch Lauren Jackson score nearly 50 points in one game: priceless. Seriously. Of course it would have been even better if we'd won, but I'm heartened that our offense seems to be getting back on track, and I'd say we honestly had nothing left by the end of the game. It was in my mind from the beginning, wondering how our legs would hold out. So call it a combination of long road trip and injuries, but we were gassed even before overtime. I do not know where Lauren found the reserves to even stay on her feet (and I guess she did "fall" a couple of times there at the end...though when Alana falls it's a Storm foul, but the opposite was clearly not so) much less continue to score and rebound. How much can one woman do to will her team to victory? I'd say Sue showed up, and Izi showed up. Wendy had some key rebounds and defensive stops and Ashley and T gave as much as we've become accustomed to. I don't think Betty can quite be blamed much, as she seemed to be in the dog house, and got yanked early and often for mistakes. In my opinion Betty's game has really matured this season. When she makes mistakes or tries to play harder she isn't just making the same stupid moves repeatedly, but rather she's passing the ball if her shot isn't falling, and she's shooting from the outside if the driving lanes aren't there. Clear mistakes made on court I could see being a big motivator for her to focus and play even harder, but what do I know? Perhaps her injuries are what's limiting her minutes. Anyway, despite this, no one matched LJ's absolute commitment. She just played a special game; she was so focused out there. And she seemed quite frustrated and disappointed in the end result. We just never seemed able to gain a psychological advantage over our competition. They'd make big plays; we'd make big plays. Back and forth. All night. Were there fouls not called at the end? Probably. you know Lauren gets repeatedly hacked, and even the Mystics fans around me had to concede some of that. But in the same vein, I'm sure there were fouls LJ committed that she got away with. I feel the disappointment of the team, but I'm hopeful that we can take the positives of this game, this trip, and really turn the season around on our home court. Each of Lauren's team members need to look at her effort, dedication, and act of will and find a way to somehow match it. Then we'd be nearly unbeatable.

I don't know that I particularly liked the Verizon center, at least compared to the other arenas I've been in lately. It lacks the intimacy of the Key and Mohegan Sun Arenas, and the history and better basketball seat configuration of MSG. It wasn't awful, and was certainly easier to navigate than MSG. But the basketball set-up leaves a ton of space on the ends, and being on a "corner" had me actually looking out at a rather significant concrete aisle between the end seats and the floor seats around the basketball standard. Not much action going on there. Plus, turning to look at the court, often these tall women in green would stand up and block our view of the court. but I had a lot of fun with the fans around me. NY was fun because I knew some people. I wondered why I didn't know anyone in DC. But I had just as much fun with my new seat-mates in the Verizon Center. I got the usual ribbing and dirty looks for BRICK! But I had many nice chats about the League and our respective teams, and most gave me a bunch of leeway when they found out I'd flown in clear from Seattle! We started out arguing about whose team was more inconsistent. It was a rather sad contest, so I conceded. They have had 10 coaches in 10 years. And similar to the Storm, they have talent that seems to be underperforming. This made me a touch worried at the half when my new friends assured me that they were pleasantly surprised that their team had shown up in the first half, because they were typically a 2nd half/4th quarter team, particularly given our propensity as of late to tank in the 3rd. But while they were surprised, I was happy that the Storm kept battling back, and even after they squandered opportunities they didn't give up, right up to T tipping the ball away from the inbounds as the buzzer sounded at the end.

The elevators from the Metro (train station) were out of service but my sister has become pretty proficient @ crutching onto the escalator in the past few days. I thought the ushers were going to have a collective heart attack as she insisted on hopping down the stairs to our seats near the floor, versus slowly making her way around another half of the arena to get to the elevator. They kept wanting us to stay up at the handicapped seats clear at the top of the lower bowl, saying they were liable if she fell. Um...no. We did take the elevator out, though.

So we're sitting there pre-game. I wave to scullyfu and Jayda. Then scullyfu comes over and says Adia wants to interview us. What?! I was all shy, but she was insistent, plus I knew Adia would be a delight. How did we sound? I couldn't think of anything special to say, like lambasting the current ownership for jerking the fan-base around, but I guess it went all right.

I did like the big scoreboards in the corners of the arena that were constantly updating team stats (field goal %, free throws, rebounds, etc.), but this did not alleviate a pet peeve wherein I was unable to look anywhere to see individual stats beyond the points-scored and fouls typically displayed on the ArenaVision (AV) for those on the floor. So I have no idea how many rebounds LJ had, or assists Sue had. It led to an odd sense of detachment, that's all.

The arena seemed huge, and totally swallowed up the number of fans there early, though by the time the game was underway it had filled out considerably. Pre-game we were hit with a pretty constant barrage of commercials and mini-features about the Mystics players and the team (and sponsors) on TVs on the concourse, and on the AV. Wendy got some applause during intros, and in conversation I realize that she's got a lot of respect from various fans for her longevity. LJ got some, and Sue some more, and even Betty got some love. It was amusing that they played the Empire/Darth Vader music during the Storm intros. The lights were dimmed and the music and spotlights came on for the Mystics intros, while the cheer squad did a little dance, but there was no pre-intro montage set to music. Then at center court Delisha Milton-Jones was presented with the game ball from the Minnesota Lynx game, in which she scored her 3000 point. AV prompts came up about noise, and this Chris Styles guy (who may be a local DJ?) came out on court with a microphone to whip the crowd into a frenzy.

Sue was hot early, and I was loving that she was looking for her shot, but we were overall kind of sloppy on our sets, and our defense, particularly in transition. In addition it was kind of hard to concentrate early from my section, particularly being surrounded by vocal Mystics fans. They were fun. The refs were very free with their whistles early, too free in my opinion, since it was the Storm entering the penalty with only 4 minutes gone but plenty of fans around me were yelling to "let them play" also. We were plagued with miscommunication on offense, which led to repeated turnovers, and had a really hard time getting any consistent scoring, though it was really their free throws that allowed the Mystics to jump to a 10-point lead. There were no video cheer cues for the most part, but there were plenty of audio ones. I was impressed with the good minutes T gave us in the latter half of the quarter. She would have gotten a buzzer shot off too if a Mystic defender hadn't been landing on her head at the time. I don't really understand the non-call there. Whatever. 1Q: 28-21, Mystics

We'd settled down to end the quarter, though were still being out-rebounded and had too many turnovers. We were shooting well, and not just launching a bunch of threes and other outside shots. Our defense behind Sue, Izi, Wendy, Arob and Shyra sprung a bunch of holes to start the 2nd. I panicked briefly when I looked at the bench and couldn't see LJ anywhere, wondering if she was hurt again, but no, there she was where Anne had rushed her out to the scorers table, quickly followed by Betty. Sue scored to stop the drought, and Wendy drew a foul. Shyra and Izi both had excellent moves at the basket, but weren't able to finish. In fact, we missed fast break lay-ups repeatedly this game as well, for not being able to finish, but more than once there was LJ, cleaning up the rebound and putting it back up and in. With two minutes left in the 2nd we forced a Mystics timeout, down only 38-36 after a sweet pass from Betty to Sue under the basket that Sue just couldn't handle before it was poked out by the Mystics. Happily, a nice alley-oop to LJ tied it up, and Wendy answered to keep us tied up at 40. LJ missed both free throws but got it back at the other end by forcing a travel with her defense . We miss, they miss. The half ended with a whimper. HT: 40-40, Storm

We were hanging in there, but still being out-rebounded. We got back into it by controlling our turnovers and forcing a bunch of Mystics ones. I was expecting the Mystics to come out on fire (according to their fans, since they're a 2nd half team) and hoped we'd be able to match it. Meanwhile, poor Coco Miller was getting no love from the fans around me. They told me how they blamed themselves for her 7 years of ineffective play because back when she won MIP they would taunt whatever team Kelly Miller was on by chanting "we've got the best twin." They feel like they've jinxed her. Both teams emerged from the locker room with about 2 minutes to go. Izi was out way before everyone else and stood there uncertainly at the edge of the court until the rest of her teammates began emerging from the tunnel. There was loud music and a lot of cheering to begin the 2nd half, but no one got on their feet.

We started the half with an alarming number of outside shots again. The crowd began to get antsy at the number of post fouls called, but I've noticed this pattern the past couple of games. The Mystics got hot from the outside, but we were scrappy (a beautiful thing to see after being rather flat in Connecticut) and forced a couple of turnovers. We called a fortuitous timeout with just under 5 minutes to go (right as we were turning the ball over) down 56-52. Sue came out of the game, and I'm not necessarily making a correlation but we immediately turned the ball over (I've been told by nearby fans to write "good D by the Mystics" ). Every time we'd narrow the lead they jumped to (by we, I guess I mean LJ, once we started getting her the ball again), they'd get a couple of open shots, and we'd start to turn the ball over. By the end of the quarter LJ had another 30-point game, but I was thinking she can't do it all herself. The Mystics finally missed a shot, and LJ rebounded it at the buzzer. 3Q: 71-64, Mystics

We took the court playing some good defense, yet they still made a tough 3 as the shot clock wound down. Shyra showed some moves. LJ was clearly winded, bending over and grabbing her shorts after her foul stopped game play. LJ hit a three to keep us in the game, 76-73, but as Sue went to the line she came and signaled the trainer for something. She was not able to come back and collect whatever it was for some time as there were no breaks in game play. For all I know it was just fresh gum, though, because I think I saw her finally take her old gum out and toss it to the sideline under the Mystics basket. I was a touch confused at this point about what was called a foul, and why other plays were non-calls, but what else is new? We were playing pretty well, they were just hitting the tough shots. While we were waiting for the refs to figure something out, AD gestured the team over to the bench, and as soon as play began Sue scored straight away on whatever play Anne called. The Izi hit a 3 and LJ tied it from the line 86-86 with a 1:28 to go! It was LOUD in there. A foul on Izi (that wasn't called at the other end on the Mystics on an identical play where Izi got hammered on a rebound) sent Teasley to the line for 1/2. Then LJ fell down but scrambled flat out for the ball and got it to Sue who just missed a nice finger roll. Wendy alertly fouled on the rebound, Mystics missed one, so down 2 points we called a time out while "We Will Rock You" played. Everyone was on their feet out of the timeout, and LJ was fouled on her shot (again, it was requested that I write "good defensive play" ). 3.2 seconds left. Down by two. LJ makes the first. Mystics timeout. That one song with "Hey" in it is played during timeout. I was told to write "DC fans are really nice," but they were. Then LJ hit her 2nd for her 41st point making it tied at 88! Clutch, clutch, clutch. I'm surprised I can even read my notes at this point because my hands were shaking with the surge of adrenaline. Overtime, no! 4Q: 88-88, Storm

The DJ Styles guy got the crowd excited with a medium-sized stuffed Pax, which he eventually threw into the crowd. Ashley started the OT, and tipped the ball too hard way past LJ into the Mystics hands. We were clearly losing our legs at this point, which was leading to some turnovers, etc. But we weren't down due to lack of effort. We got chances to even it up or go ahead, but we just couldn't capitalize. I was impressed with how we kept battling for those chances, though. Beard finally made a 3 to put them up 95-90...they'd missed a few, but we couldn't get the rebound, and they kept getting chances. LJ committed a hard turnover, and the Mystics were clearly the more energetic team out there, getting to the loose balls, etc. first. A gassed LJ went to the line to complete a 3-point pay to get us within two, she missed her next shot that would have tied it, amidst a lot of contact (which they usually call on the missed shots, but ignore if the player makes it...oh, well). Beard scored to basically put it out of reach, and LJ drained a wide-open, fairly meaningless 3 (except that it gave her 47 points) with like 1 second left. We fouled on their inbounds, but we also had fouls to give, and on their next inbounds with 0.9 seconds to go we poked the ball away as the buzzer sounded. We pretty much gave it all we had; the bounces just didn't go our way. Hopefully LJ doesn't dwell on her missed free throws or that turnover, because she really couldn't have done more than she did. She was clearly frustrated by the outcome (I was a little sick myself, despite my pride in our effort), but she's a professional. This is a team game, and we need more than just a few people to step up. With this kind of example, how can they not?

So, now I've been in three other arenas besides the Key, and while I've met some wonderful fans, and really enjoyed some of the stuff the game production people do in other Arenas, I have to say that the fans in the Key are top tier. I didn't get to go see the ponies swim from Chincoteague due to my sister's foot problems and the logistical challenges presented, but perhaps another year. This has been a fun trip, and now that I'm a bit more wise to the ways of the road, I may consider taking it again in the future.

Run-off

LJ was wearing her green shoes & a white sleeve on her right leg, Sue's black sleeve was back on her left knee, and Betty also had a sleeve on her left knee; Wendy still had her arm sleeve, and Alana Beard also sports a sleeve from shoulder to wrist on her left arm. Apparently no one knows how she's still able to play.

The anthem was performed by Willaree Murray, from the AARP office, with a color guard standing by. It was a bit slow, but pretty solid, even with the frill or two she threw in. It was some sort of AARP promotion night: they handed out little Mystics flags with a small AARP logo on them, and at half time Nova United, senior women's basketball medalists at the National Senior Games, and another team of senior women's basketball medalists scrimmaged.

The new Mystics mascot is no longer a rabbit, but Pax the panda; there is a panda at the National Zoo. The new owner is responsible for the change. Rabbits at least have something to do with magic, but I like pandas and though Pax was good.

A STH who purchased her tickets with her Amex card was awarded court side seats for the game, presented by that Chris Styles guy, who was pretty active all game, running the contests, etc., and was a good addition to the atmosphere of the Mystics game production.

Mystics Mayhem was one of the dance groups, made up of young girls to early teens.

Another bit Chris Styles did during play break in the 2nd quarter was "who's broke?" I have two $100 bills, and two contestants got one free throw each for a chance at a bill. Both missed, but still received Mystics prize packs; then the cheer squad danced while Pax and Chris threw t-shirts to the fans.

Other half-time entertainment: Half court shot attempt for $50,000 (missed badly, all arms and no legs, but she still got $1000 and a gift pack), then a dance off between three contestants out on the court, decided by applause.

3rd quarter game stop brought the Discover Card Challenge in which they played a clip of Alana Beard with the ball in the All-Star Game, then froze the action and gave the contestant three choices as to what she was going to do next (take it to the hoop or pass to a couple different people). The fan chose take it to the hoop, they showed the clip, and indeed she did. The fan got a prize pack.

Between the 3rd and 4th the dance squad performed a strangely quick routine (like 30 seconds or something), then on the AV they showed a montage of players around the League set to music...it was cool but then turned out to be a commercial for that girl who's going around performing at games (I think the same one who performed at our Camp Day game). Also Styles yelled "who's hungry?" into his mic, then plugged the grill (outside the arena?). Then the cheer squad came out into the stands to do a quick bit of YMCA right before game play began.

During the 4th Pax and the Gecko (I'm not sure whether or not it was the Geico Gecko, but it wandered around all game) races around the court on tricycles, then had to jump off and be the first to make a lay-up. Gecko won.

During a Storm timeout in the final seconds they played a scene from "Gladiator" on the AV, then a clip of Samuel L Jackson exhorting the crowd to make some noise, that got about half the fans to their feet, and it did once again get LOUD.