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8/24/07 vs Phoenix

2007 Playoffs, First Round

Final score: Storm 84 – Mercury 101 (L) (0-1)

Attendance | 8833

Anthem Watch | Hmmm. National A-A-A-A-A-A-A-Anthem as a-a-a-a-a-a-a gospel song. Maybe it was more of a lounge jazz rendition. She did start to sca-a-a-a-a-a-t part way through the song.

Fan Psyche | Why isn't LJ getting the ball? WHY ISN'T LJ GETTING THE BALL!?!?!

Game Highlight | Ashley with some big time blockage.

Halftime | Those flip guys.

SF.O Keyword of the Game | Is this really, you know, it?

Game Photos | Scott E | Rick

Well.

As potential last games ever, that kind of sucked. It was like watching the whole season compressed into one rollercoaster game.

We had all the key elements from this season: the inability to breakdown a zone defense; the inability to get the ball to the (eventual) league MVP; the inability to defend the perimeter; the inability to stop the opponent in transition; the Storm players getting into stare-downs and arguments with the refs (even if the refs were way, way off); and not enough production off the bench (Katie and Tanisha).

This game was a study in preparation and knowing your opponent.

The Mercury had the Storm scouted to a T (so to speak) and did everything right to prey upon the Storm's weaknesses while amplifying their own strengths.

The Storm could not stop the Mercury at all and even knowing how the Merc were going to play were not able to adjust. They were left reacting and chasing the Mercury instead of controlling the game.

That's pretty much it. There were, of course, flashes of strong play from the Storm both on offense and defense, but none of it was consistent enough to match what the Mercury put on the court.

The Storm had to know that the Mercury would be throwing zone defenses at them. Sure enough, Phoenix settled into one on the first play and, I think, stayed in it all night. The Storm appeared to have a couple new plays — I say "appeared" because Sue was using new hand signals and had to direct traffic a couple of times when players were out of position — but they had little effect. Our perimeter shooting wasn't strong enough to force the Mercury out of the zone and the Storm's inside game was nearly nonexistent.

That fact — no inside game — was both unsurprising and hard to believe at the same time. Of course, LJ was going to be a major focus for the Mercury. They were on full-time double team and were all over her like a second uniform. Not surprising. But here's the hard to believe part: they did it with guards and small forwards. That's right, Taurasi was the primary defender on LJ with help from Taylor, Snell, Mazzante a couple of times and even Miller. Sure, it looked like DT was hugging LJ half the game, but so what? Throw the ball up where only LJ can get it. We know she can corral the basketball as long as it is in reach.

The telling stat from all of that was that Wendy Palmer had as many shots as LJ. Nothing against Wendy — she's the one shining point of light off the bench with 9 points and 7 boards (including 4 offensive rebounds) — but if she's getting as many shots as LJ the Storm will lose every time.

At the same time that the Storm were struggling from inside, the Mercury were lighting it up from inside and outside. And, most importantly, they were doing it fast. It didn't matter if they were coming down the court after a Storm turnover or made basket. Every possession started out feeling like a Mercury fast break. This was the first game when Izi's speed didn't feel like an advantage. Miller and Pondexter did an Izi every other play.

They made the Storm pay on every mistake whether it was a turnover or missed defensive assignment. How Taurasi, Mazzante, Smith or Pondexter could possibly get so consistently open for three point shots is dumbfounding. You have to credit them — they executed their offense perfectly and when they got open, they hit their shots.

What is there really left to say? They executed. The Storm didn't.

Was this our last Storm game ever? I hope not. I hope the team can make adjustments and force Phoenix to react instead of dictate. I hope LJ finds a way to drop a couple 40-point games on them. I hope they pull off the upset and pull a Houston on Phoenix, winning games 2 and 3 after losing at home. I hope.

If this was the last Storm game, all I can say is I didn't want it to end this way.

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