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7/15/09 vs Detroit

Final score: Storm 63 – Shock 66 (L) (8-6)

Attendance | 6821

Box Score | Jayda's Game Blog | Pelton's Game Blog

Game Photos | Scott E | Rick

What is going on with this team? When was the last time we saw such stagnant play and such lackluster defense? When was the last time we saw a player weeping on the bench (Suzy)? When was the last time we saw Sue Bird panic with the ball in her hands?

Losing sucks. Losing twice in a row at home after being so dominant at the Key sucks even more, but I'm not terrible worried about that. The loss to Chicago was tough, but I thought the Storm played well except for their 3-point defense. They weren't dominated, but they were competitive. Tonight's loss is forcing the questions I outlined above.

Let's start with what had been the Storm's primary identity this year — hard, smothering, turnover-forcing defense. The Sky and now the Shock were able to shoot above 50% against the Storm. Both teams were able to effectively run their offenses and get the shots they wanted at key times of the game. For the Sky, it was the ability to get their three-point shooters open. For the Shock, it was the ability to get their all-star guards open for 4th quarter baskets — mainly Katie Smith. It seems like the Storm aren't making or aren't executing adjustments late in the game to counter the other teams' moves.

That leads back to the coaching and another issue the Storm seem to be having — Coach Agler's rotation scheme. His reluctance to play the centers and forwards on the bench has been widely noted already. He loosened up and actually gave Janell some playing time and she's been doing better. Suzy and Ashley are still getting single digit minutes if they play at all. Suzy got some time tonight after LJ went out (more on that later), but it ended badly. She went in and had a couple really bad plays. The team called a timeout and during the huddle someone laid into her. I don't know if it was Coach Agler or one of the other players, but when the huddle broke up Suzy headed to the end of the bench and was left sobbing.

To be frank, her play on the court has been bad. It's a chicken and egg thing — she won't get better until she gets more court time, but when she gets a little court time she plays badly. At this point, you have to question why Coach Agler brought her back to Seattle. Maybe it was a ploy to get LJ to come back. Suzy is one of her best friends and maybe giving up a roster spot to someone you don't really plan on using to secure the best player in the world made sense at the time. Right now, it's pretty clear she's miserable and there is some growing frustration between her and the coach and/or other players.

Aside from the bigs, Coach Agler's rotation for the other positions isn't making a lot of sense at times either. Katie Gearlds was hitting her shot, but she gets pulled. She is a rhythm shooter and was finding that rhythm, but out she came. Swin makes one bad pass and gets pulled. Tanisha starts getting back to her dribble, dribble, dribble routine but stays as the point guard. The offense as a whole seems to have fallen flat, which doesn't make a lot of sense when the team was able early in the season to get good shots with movement and rotations that put players in their power positions. Somehow that philosophy has been left behind and we're back to players playing away from their strengths and a stagnant offense.

There are other growing issues, led by Sue Bird's recent play and frustration. I honestly can't remember seeing Sue act like she did against the Sky or tonight against the Shock. Nothing epitomized that more than the final play of this game. The Storm were bringing in the ball with just a few seconds left. Sue got the ball and had time to dribble out or make a move to get away from her defenders. Instead, it looked like she panicked and took a horrible shot in the face of two defenders while falling down with 5 seconds left on the clock. It was a bad shot and bad clock management.

And to top it all off, LJ left the court with about 3 minutes left in the third quarter and didn't come back out for the rest of the game. Talk about salt in the wound. I didn't see how she hurt herself. All I can say is that she was hobbling like a drunken sailor as she made her way through the player tunnel to the locker room.

The Storm have the playoffs in their sights. Phoenix and Indiana both look formidable right now, but the Storm look at times just as tough. They need to get some things figured out, however, and soon. Playing the way they did against the Sky and now against the Shock will mean blowouts against the better teams in the league. I don't like blowouts unless we're the ones inflicting them on someone else (and even then they get kind of boring).

Basically, the Storm is better than this and ought to know it.

Other notes:

Kate Starbird was in the stands and said she is in graduate school in Boulder, CO.

There were other side things that happened, but I was too irritated by the game to remember them.

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