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8/29/09 vs Atlanta

Final score: Storm 91 – Dream 84 (W-2OT) (18-11)

Attendance | 9089

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

Game Photos | Scott E | Rick

Double overtime again? Really? The Storm may need to start supplying the ushers with portable heart defibrillators if they are going to keep giving us all heart attacks like this.

Before the game even started, we had some drama. Word spread through the arena that LJ's back injury is actually a stress fracture and that she wouldn't be playing in this game. Speculation was that she'd probably be out for the rest of the season. Hope was that she might be back for the playoffs. One way or the other, the Storm were going to have their hands full with the Dream.

What can I say about this game? Hearing that LJ was out didn't give me a lot of confidence. The Dream handled the Storm fairly easily down in Atlanta, and that was with LJ. The way the Storm played this game was both great and jaw-droppingly horrible all at the same time. Their defense came up huge time and time again at the end of quarters, regulation and the overtimes. On the other hand, the Storm were almost completely unable to hold onto the ball, committing 25 turnovers for the game (14 of them in the second half and overtimes).

The horrible part of all those turnovers was that so many of them were crazy sloppy. I think there were 4 or 5 Storm inbound passes that were tipped or straight up grabbed out of the air by a Dream defender. The same thing was happening with passes from the perimeter into the post players. The Dream defenders looked like defensive backs picking off interceptions. A Storm player would throw a high, slow pass over the Dream player only to have that player easily grab the ball like it had been passed directly to her. You know, the first time that happens, you can chalk it up to heads-up defense. The second time, you have to start thinking about not passing over a defender with long mutant arms. The fifth time — it's you, not them.

The Storm were almost just as butterfingered with the ball as they drove into the paint. The Dream was slapping and poking at the ball all game, but the Storm players continued to drive in against two and three defenders. One-on-one, we did pretty well. One-on-three meant the ball was getting stolen. According to the box score, the Dream had 21 steals. That is insane. I swear it seemed like the Storm had suddenly developed tiny hands like the guy in that new Burger Kind commercial. The worst part of all that was how fast the Dream got up the court for a score. Too many times, Storm turnovers due to poor ball handling led to free baskets by the Dream. It was honestly fairly amazing that the Storm were able to keep up with Dream even with all the mistakes.

The Storm's ability to stay in the game was due to their defense and the ability of Sue and Tanisha to break down the Dream defense. Sue, to start the game, was a woman possessed. She seemed like she was determined to make up for LJ's absence all on her own. She was particularly effective defending Izi once Izi got over her "pregame ceremony bump" success. Izi was recognized before the game for her inclusion on the Storm's All-Decade team. Of course, recognizing a player on another team before a game means she goes off and scores like crazy on us — hence the pregame ceremony bump. Izi started the game hitting the Dream's first 8 points. She kind of disappeared after than and wasn't a huge factor in the game. This was mostly due to Sue's smothering defense on her.

Sue was also looking for her own shot much more often than normal. She kept us in the game along the way and then did it for real at the end of regulation by scoring the Storm's last 7 points including a three to put the game into overtime. She did have her frustrations though, mostly with the refs. She wasn't getting any calls when she drove into the paint was got hacked or knocked to the ground. She also got into a long discussion with the refs after the Dream called a timeout near the end of the game. Lehning got the inbounds pass and dribbled the ball before the timeout was called. The refs said that the timeout came first, even thought it clearly did not. Sue was going on about that one well past the incident, including into the overtime.

Tanisha was really the only other Storm player who was able to consistently get her shot. She was able to drive to the basket, usually along the baseline and flipping up reverse layups to avoid the long arms of DeSouza and Lyttle, and get key jumpers in the fourth quarter and overtimes to keep the Storm in the game. Yes, she had turnovers, but only half as many as Swin (4 compared to 8). Tanisha also had 6 assists to go along with her 25 points.

The Storm's defense was a little schizophrenic — they were unable to do much against DeSouza or Lyttle for much of the game, but then were able to come up with big stops late in the game. I was honestly surprised the Dream didn't go in to their posts more often. They were able to pass over the Storm whenever they wanted. It wasn't until the Storm started fronting DeSouza and had timely rotation from their weak-side defense that they were able to control the paint. Janell in particular came up with a several huge defensive stops at the end of the fourth quarter and in the overtime periods.

Finally getting stops during the second overtime, the Storm were able to eke out a small two-possession lead. The Storm forced the Dream into three turnovers and were then able to convert those into points. The Dream had to resort to fouling and Tanisha buried all her free throws. The Storm took control and put the game away.

In their last five games, the Storm have beaten the top five Eastern conference teams. They've clinched a playoff spot. With 5 games left, they have a relatively strong lock on second place and have an outside chance at first place. Without LJ, the Storm are going to have to stop missing the easy shots, get more consistent production from their bench (all of our starters were up over 40 minutes played in this game), and they need to take their defense to any even higher level. They can do it. All of them, regardless of their current issues, have played better in the past (I'm looking at Suzy and the Ashleys — lack of playing time or not, there's not much excuse for the deer in the headlights reaction every time you get open for a shot). In a crazy reverse psychology way, I wonder if having LJ out and missing the upcoming road trip won't be a catalyst for bringing the team together and getting them to focus. I hope so. Otherwise, things might get ugly to end the season.

Other notes:

There were a bunch of little kids trying to shoot baskets before the game. Some of the kids weren't much bigger than the basketball - literally. It was cute.

Janell presented a Storm jersey with the number 4 and "NOLA" to a representative of a group working to help rebuild New Orleans.

Tonight's theme was Back to School Night. There was a spelling bee during halftime. From the results, I'd say were all doomed and that's spelled D-U-U-M. I will admit I probably would have had trouble with "anemometer" under the pressure of spelling it in front of 9,000 people. One kid had to spell anniversary and couldn't, even though it was printed on his own shirt, on the podium Shelley Hart was using and on the shirt of one of the camera guys which Doppler was emphatically point to. Like I said, doomed.

This was one of our bigger crowds in awhile. It was noticeably louder at the end of the game and I think it had a real impact. I hope we can get at least lower bowl sellouts once the playoffs get here.

Microsoft big cheese Steve Ballmer was sitting courtside. I told Angie I hoped he would do MonkeyBoy. He didn't. I was disappointed.

Steven Kilbreath was back as the arena announcer. He subbed in last year for a game too while the new guy was on vacation, so he was probably only here for one game. It was good to have him back.

Sheryl Swoopes was in the stands! She got an extended standing ovation.