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8/28/08 vs Houston

Final score: Storm 66 – Comets 49 (W) (0-0)

Attendance | 8320

Anthem Watch | Pretty good except for a couple low notes. A little slow, a little too "important" — she was trying too hard or something.

Fan Psyche | No Lauren and against a team that was hot before the break? Plus Sue with jet lag? Um, yikes?

Game Highlight | Steal city in the third quarter and holding the Comets to 2 points in the third for almost 9 minutes.

Halftime | Dogs! We love the dogs.

SF.O Keyword of the Game | Defense.

Game Photos |

Seems like a long time since we've had one of these. I kept expecting to hear "Cha Yo!" from all the Chinese in the stands or something.

:et's just say it's still a little weird to be back. Angie and I still have jet lag. I can't imagine playing a professional basketball game for 40 minutes against a team with possible playoff implications. But then, we're not Sue Bird.

She comes out and scores 22. We had to fight the yawns from lack of sleep.

On the other hand, Tina Thompson looked a little frazzled. She was scowling and bitching at the refs like normal, but the rest of her game was still buried in her luggage with her Olympic pins and talking stuffed Fuwa.*

By now, the news that LJ elected to stay in Australia for ankle surgery has started to sink in and the Storm's challenge facing them is here whether we like it or not. 8 games to play, only 3 at home, with the playoffs in the balance and a field of Western Conference opponents all in striking range of the top 4 spots. Enter Houston, who had a hot win streak going into the break and looking for any opportunity to knock the Storm down a peg.

Both teams came out playing poorly, although the Comets looked worse than the Storm. The score early on was fairly lopsided, but it could have and should have been much worse. The Storm missed too many easy baskets and had some unforced turnovers that kept the lead under 10. If they had been clicking even a little more, they might have built a 15 point lead or more in the first quarter. As it was, their rustiness allowed the Comets to keep it reasonable and then to close the gap late in the first. It was only through a couple last minute baskets by Sue that the Storm started to pull away again.

Sue was fantastic tonight. She definitely shook off any Beijing fatigue to really take complete control of the game tonight. Maybe it was because she didn't play <i>that</i> much in Beijing while Tina had more time on the court and was really getting banged around in the post that Sue was able to recover more quickly than Tina. Whatever might have been going on, Sue came to play and Tina came to make faces at the refs.

The rest of the Storm looked like they had to fight off the jet lag as well. The one area that they seemed to show the most energy was rebounding. Even with Snow and Lyttle on the court, the Storm dominated the rebounding across their roster. Everybody was getting into the act, except Sue. Six of our players had 5 or more rebounds. That's pretty damn good and it led to second chance shots and fastbreaks.

The Storm also were able to pick up their team defense in the second half and really close down the Comets. The Comets made just two baskets in the third quarter and picked up the rest of their points on free throws. They were held to two points until Ajavon hit a free throw with 1:13 left in the quarter. We had 3 steals, a block and 10 rebounds in that stretch of time. My friends, that is a great example of solid team defense. True, the Storm's offensive output wasn't completely on track, but defense like that gives the team time to work out the scoring bugs.

The good news on offense is that everyone got something on the board. True, Sue's 22 made up for a lot of missing scoring, but the rest of the scoring was relatively balanced. A couple more chippies going in and we would have had several people in double figures. Against a tougher opponent (and Connecticut is next at the Mohegan), those chippies had better fall.

Now that the Storm has this one under their belts, I'm feeling a little better about this season-ending stretch. The time will come when we no longer have LJ for real. If the Storm make it to the Finals, she may be ready to play. I'm honestly not confident she'll be back next season, for a lot of reasons. The Storm need to figure out how to play and win without LJ, not only to make sure this season is a success but also to position themselves for the future. We've got the talent, we've got the opportunity. The playoffs are looming and I am confident that we will be in. I think the Storm are too.

Other notes:

The Storm are on track to set a new home win record. We're 14-1 now, which ties our home win record set in 2005 (we went 14-3). With Minnesota and Atlanta left, I think we might pop at least 15 wins. That's pretty damn cool.

It was a little weird to be back at a Storm game. When we were watching Team USA last week, we kept wanting to yell "Go Storm." Now I kept wanting to yell "U S A."

The Storm had a DJ scribble scratching on a couple turntables above the player tunnel. I think he messed up the kids for the Doppler train by playing the train song earlier in the game than the Pavlovian-minded children are conditioned to hear it. It threw them off their training, I think, because there were a lot fewer kids for the actual train song when it finally came.

The LJ auction had some great stuff in it, including her shoes from the All-Star game. I was sorely tempted, but knew I'd be outbid. It was hard to resist.

*Fuwa — the Chinese name for the Olympic mascots. We actually did buy a talking stuffed Fuwa, by mistake. We got a pack of the things for some kids and when we took them out of the box to stuff them in our luggage, they started going off. Every time we touched one, it went off. I hope the TSA agents didn't freak out when our bags came down the conveyer belt talking in Chinese.