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7/10/08 vs Phoenix

Final score: Storm 89 – Mercury 78 (W) (13-7)

Attendance | 10454

Anthem Watch | Little girl from the Shrek musical — did a pretty good job.

Fan Psyche | A 6 point lead is not nearly enough.

Game Highlight | Katie for 3 to end the 3rd quarter and put the Storm up by 11.

Halftime | Mascot dodgeball.

SF.O Keyword of the Game | SQUEEEEEE (as in my eardrums were shot and all I could hear was SQUEEEEE).

Game Photos |

This was a game I was a little worried about. Phoenix is a team that can blow the doors off an arena and if their opponent isn't matching or exceeding Phoenix's energy and shooting, forget it. Their record is wavering around .500 this year, but that really means nothing. On any given night, or afternoon, they can burn you record or not.

Sure enough, they started out hot led by Cappie who seems to be able to hit any shot at any time. If she puts it up in any kind of rhythm, it's going in. The good news is that the Storm's game opening slump is getting shorter and shorter.

Seattle only let the Mercury get out to a 4 or 6 point lead before reeling them in with defense and getting their own offense on track. And leading that offensive attack early was... Yolanda. LJ was getting smothered, as was Sue. Yo was able to work inside and get a couple short jumpers and a couple put backs to keep the Storm's scoring going while the Storm worked out the Merc's zone defense.

The Storm had the game under control, to a point. They would grind out a bit of a lead, but then the Mercury would run off two or three baskets in a row to get it back down. It wasn't until the end of the third quarter that the Storm built a double digit lead on a last second three by Katie. Up to that point, the lead stayed in a 4-6 point range that is never enough when it comes to Phoenix.

To be honest, the Storm's 12-15 point lead through most of the fourth quarter wasn't ever enough either. The starters stayed in the game until the last minute or so and had to keep scoring the ball to keep pace with Phoenix and stave off a mini scoring explosion. The Mercury poured in 27 fourth quarter points, trying to eat into that lead. Luckily for the few thousand kid campers, the Storm did the same thing and saved the win.

The best part of the game for me, aside from watching the Storm continue their all-around great team play, was watching the battle between LJ and Diana Taurasi.

DT almost always gets the better of LJ. Getting into LJ's head for Diana seems to be too easy and I think she does stuff just to yank LJ's chain. Watching the two of them go at each other, you can see DT holding LJ or giving her a little extra elbow action and then smirking once LJ starts dropping f-bombs or complaining to the refs. Of course once LJ starts yapping at the refs, DT soon follows suit. Tonight, the two of them double teamed one of the refs and both ended up laughing about it.

They and Sue play together in the off-season and lived together, I think. They are obviously good friends. For the most part, that extends to their on-court interactions — LJ actually gave Diana a low five coming back up the court after DT put up one of her crazy, super quick threes. But, I think LJ gets irritated a lot quicker and gets nasty rather than stay chummy. It almost looks like a little sister pushing her bigger sister's buttons and laughing about it the whole time.

The other part of any Phoenix game that is fun to watch from a pure basketball fan standpoint is Cappie Pondexter's shot. I don't know if there is another player in the WNBA that has a shot that is as natural or seemingly effortless as Cappie's. I can't wait to watch her in action in Beijing and be able to cheer instead of groan every time she puts up a big shot.

In the more immediate picture, the Storm are now an incredible 11-1 at home and looking stronger as a team than they have for years. They are playing great team defense. They aren't allowing themselves to get panicky when the other teams goes on a big run and the coaching staff is making smart in-game adjustments. I don't think it can be said in any recent games that the Storm has been outcoached. Finally, we're seeing real production off the bench from Tanisha, Katie and now Camille Little. I'm feeling a lot more confident going into this sans-LJ 5 game stretch leading up to the Olympic break. The break itself can only lead to even more improvements since our coach, this time, will be staying here and focusing on the Storm.

Now, bring on LA.