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8/04/09 vs Phoenix

Final score: Storm 90 – Mercury 101 (L-1OT) (12-8)

Attendance | 6728

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

Game Photos | Scott E | Rick

How frustrating was this game for you? For me, it was excruciating.

All the things that have been going wrong for the last few games went wrong again tonight, only this time it was against a team that won't let some last second heroics get in the way of a beat down.

I've made the mistake so far this season of not putting much into Phoenix's record. Their history is one of little or no defense, weak rebounding and weak interior play. Yes, they could run other teams off the court, but when it came down to grinding play they couldn't always keep up the run and gun. I had some small hope that the Storm could do just that, especially after the Merc's jaw-dropping loss against Atlanta.

Um, not so much.

Yes, the Storm stayed with the Mercury for most of the game. Yes, the Storm held Cappie and Diana under their season scoring averages. Yes, Sue and LJ both eventually got their scoring on track and Tanisha dominated the first half and ended up with a new career scoring record.

However, I could not shake off the feeling all night that the Mercury were toying with the Storm. It didn't really matter what the Storm threw at Phoenix. They were unflappable. They continued to execute their offense with maddening ease at times. And they took immediate advantage of any Storm turnovers.

Before the game, I was talking with someone and predicted that if the score was within 6 points under three minutes to go, the Storm would lose. If it went into overtime, the Storm would lose. If the Storm didn't take care of the ball, they would lose.

All three came true.

The hardest stretch to watch was during that super critical stretch in the fourth quarter when the Storm finally started to play with a purpose. They started getting key defensive stops and had chance after chance to score only to end up turning the ball over. At maybe the 7 or 6 minute mark, the Storm had the momentum swinging to their side. They started getting fouls called on the Mercury. They were getting the rebounds and finally getting down on the floor to fight for loose balls. Their inability to score, to execute their offense wasted all those chances. The best they were able to do was hit a couple desperation baskets in the closing seconds to tie the game and force a third home overtime in a row.

Like I said, the Mercury were unfazed. Cappie and Diana were actually laughing and dancing around a bit. Then they put the pedal to the floor and blew the doors off the arena.

Part of their ability to go crazy was due to how tired our starters were. Coach Agler was still playing his shortened roster when Katie went down on her left knee in the second quarter to not come back. Suzy was dressed to play but didn't even take part in the shoot-around, prompting someone near me to wonder aloud, "I she hurt or has she just given up?" They didn't announce an injury during the pregame injury report, so who knows at this point. Add to that Ashley Robinson whose biggest contribution this season was that new nail polish color at a local beauty salon and you've got a grand total of 7 active Storm players.

The Mercury, on the other hand, are about as deep as they've ever been. And that was before Penny came back.

I swear that the Mercury used the second quarter of this game solely to get Penny some concentrated playing time. It got to a point where she got the ball on every play and she was taking advantage. She was posting up and hitting from outside. You could almost see the rust falling off as the quarter wound down.

Likewise, I got the feeling that Cappie and DT were both holding back early in the game to get the rest of their teammates into a solid rhythm. This was them getting their mojo back after that disastrous game against Atlanta. For Seattle, this was almost a playoff game. For Phoenix, it was a warm-up game. Tonight at least, they looked damn formidable.

At this point, I have no doubts that the Storm are going to make the playoffs. As long as they stay in second or third place, I'm confident that they will make it past the first round (finally!). Phoenix will be in the Western Conference Finals. Can we beat them in a three game series? I don't know. If it happened right now, I'd say no. The job before the Storm for the rest of this season is to get their offense figured out, because they are going to have to be able to execute on every possession against a Mercury team that has the WNBA Finals in their sights.

Other notes:

Tanisha got some big time love for her efforts tonight, including a new multi-person "TANISHA" sign a few rows up behind the scorer's table.

We got to see the Jet City Jumpers dog relays, always a fan favorite.

Simone was at the game, throwing out t-shirts, jumping out for the Doppler Train and doing her best to get the crowd going.

NBA mega-legend Bill Russell was at the game, although he was sitting up in the cheap seats. Give the man a seat upgrade for crying out loud.

We need some designated "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie" cheer starters. The guy that used to sit up behind the basket on the Storm end of the arena isn't there anymore and it's been hit and miss in his absence. He had his timing down with LJ's free throw routine. Those trying to get the cheer started tonight were off and one had it going while LJ was in the process of shooting the ball. Not cool. Actually, one cheer attempt from our area was kind of funny. Someone in our section yelled out the "Aussie" x 3 at the same time someone on the other end of the arena did it. No one at our end did the "Oi" x 3 answer, but the other end of the arena did, so it sounded like she started it and the other side of the arena finished. It was funny.