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9/10/09 vs Phoenix

Final score: Storm 84 – Mercury 92 (L-OT) (19-14)

Attendance | 9089

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

Game Photos | Scott E

Why not another overtime? It's been like a theme or something this season. It's only fitting that the final regular season home game goes into overtime.

I can certainly say that I wasn't expecting the game to be that close, and to be honest shame on me for thinking that way. The players weren't thinking that way. They wanted to win. They knew they could win. They weren't playing to put up a good fight sans their three All-Star starters. They were playing with the attitude that they could and should beat the Phoenix Mercury.

And they almost did it.

The Mercury didn't rest their starters and in fact came at this game with their normal rotation. Yes, they have the Western Conference all sewn up, but they have the Championship in their sights and are still playing for the best record overall and home court in the Finals. Even though this game had been described as meaningless in the media and on the various fan forums (including ours), neither team seemed to agree.

Phoenix wasn't messing around. The Storm wasn't messing around. Both teams wanted this game and fought for it.

I will qualify all of that with this though — Phoenix, Diana and Cappie in particular, weren't playing in their top gear the whole game. There were stretches when I think those two slacked off a bit. That was a mistake on their part because the Storm used the Mercury's lapses to keep themselves in the game.

So, back to the start. It had been announced yesterday that La'Tangela Atkinson had been signed to a 7-day contract to help plug the now gaping chasm on our bench. She was even included in the Season Ticket Holder event last night. I hadn't read ahead of the game that the Storm also signed A'Quonesia Franklin as well, perhaps the first ever signings of two apostrophied first named players to 7-day contracts WNBA history. I leave that particular factoid to someone else for clarification/verification.

I think the various Storm player efforts to get the fans to stop being so damn polite to the visiting teams is starting to take hold. Swin has mentioned it a couple times at fan events and in a video shown on the big screen. ARob mentioned it last night at the STH party. Finally, during the intros for the Mercury, there was mostly silence with only a smattering of applause. There were even boos for the starters. Okay, that was mostly me booing with the Meganator. Still, we're getting there.

Partially because they were all getting significant minutes and partially because, as I said earlier, they really wanted to win this game, we saw some season-best performances from some of the Storm supporting cast.

Camille and Tanisha carried the most weight. They both put in their normal performances plus a little extra. It was interesting to watch Tanisha against the Mercury defenders. With our normal offensive powerhouses in street clothes, Phoenix knew exactly who was going to be the Storm's go-to scorer tonight — Tanisha. She was still able to drive through their defenses and either score or get fouled. She's not an automatic scoring machine like say Cappie Pondexter... yet. But I think we can all agree that Tanisha's on that path. The only times the Mercury really stopped her was by triple teaming her and forcing her to pass out of her drive towards the basket.

Camille, who I still don't think has any actual plays drawn up for her, fought like crazy for rebounds and was there to clean up the garbage. She missed a couple chippies, but stayed with the play. It's a lot of fun to watch her outjump and outplay posts players who are taller or bigger than her. She has become such a cornerstone for the Storm team that I have a hard time envisioning how we survived without her before Coach Agler brought her over.

Before getting into the performances of the Storm bench (which, starter tonight or not, was everyone else on the court), I have to talk about Atkinson.

Hey Coach... CAN WE KEEP HER? Seriously. KEEP HER. Sign her for whatever you have to sign her for.

In one game, she showed what we've been lacking from the bench all season. It was what we got off the bench during the Championship run in 2004 from Adia, Chelle Thompson and Tully — energy, a spark, a player coming onto the court with the sole purpose of making something good happen. Atkinson was such a breath of fresh air that she almost single handily made most of the rest of the bench look real bad.

Her stat line won't tell the whole story. Two points total doesn't tell how her breakaway run down the court after a steal electrified the crowd. Eight rebounds won't describe how some of those kept Storm possessions going or how she knifed her way through traffic to fight for the ball. Two steals doesn't cover how one second the Mercury player was cutting through the Storm defense and the next second Atkinson is flying the other direction with the ball. She deservedly got more minutes than every player other than Camille, Janell, Pee Wee or Tanisha. All I can say is WOW. I want this woman on our team... and how the hell did she get cut in the first place.

Suzy had one of her best outings at home, but still got into trouble out there when she would get out of control on a drive or get cut off by the defense. Her decision making process at that point has been questionable, usually resulting in a really bad shot instead of a pass back out to the guard on the perimeter. That said, she did get the ball in the paint on several occasions, made strong moves to the basket and hit her shots. I think Suzy needs a lot of playing time to get into her groove, like on the order of 30 minutes. The Storm are too post heavy for that to happen this season.

She was involved defensively in one of the worst ref calls in recent memory. Diana was driving to the basket and Suzy was alone in defending her. DT was moving at an angle to the basket, kind of along the baseline, and Suzy was matching her so there wasn't going to be a blocking foul. Suzy was playing great defense. She had cut off the easy layup and was timing herself to get a swat at Diana's shot when it came. Diana started to do a one-handed scoop reverse as she was passing under the basket and Suzy got a full handed, clean on, block of the shot. Ref Penny Davis called a foul on Suzy. People were already yelling at the refs before the play was replayed on the big screen. Oh man did that place erupt when the video clearly showed the all-ball block. People booed while the refs talked it over. They booed through a timeout and really booed when Taurasi took her free throws. You've got to hand it to Suzy for playing clean, solid defense, but Taurasi is going to get her share of superstar calls and that was a doozy.

ARob had opportunities to shine, but fell kind of flat. She had a big block, but looked unsteady with her shot and did nothing on the boards. She actually had zero rebounds in a game against a team that doesn't seem that interested in rebounding the ball.

AWalker, on the other hand, had opportunities to shine and took advantage. She had fewer minutes than ARob, but was still able to get 6 rebounds — a couple of which were monsters that she had to really scrap for — 6 points and a steal. She looked relaxed out there and did a solid job on defense. I'm really disappointed that we didn't get to see more of her because she has been out for so long with that foot injury. She didn't have the same driven hunger that Atkinson had, but she did have that tenacity that we haven't seen off the bench much this season. I hope she sticks around next season. I'd like to see more of her.

Like I said earlier, I wasn't expecting a whole lot from this game and was mildly surprised to see the Storm play the Mercury straight up through the first half. The second half started with the Mercury going on a mini-run and threatening to take the game firmly under control, but then they pulled up. The Storm started forcing turnovers or getting rebounds and were able to slowly reel back in Phoenix's 10-point lead.

The Storm kept up the pressure and started hitting baskets. They tied it with about 6 minutes left and then got into a basket-trading cycle for the rest of the quarter. With one or two more stops, the Storm might have won this game in regulation. DT and Cappie were either getting fouled or open shots, however, and were able to force overtime, wiping out what would have been a game winner for Tanisha with about 18 seconds to go.

The overtime looked a lot like the other Seattle/Phoenix overtime game a few weeks ago. The Storm sputtered and had a hard time executing their offense. The Mercury immediately attacked on any Storm mistakes and seemed to score at will. In that other OT game, Phoenix scored 17 points in 5 minutes. Tonight, they scored 14. The Storm had been able to keep pace with the Mercury's scoring for 40 minutes, but they lost steam in the last 5.

We should have won this game. We could have won this game. You could see the disappointment on the players' faces after it was over. They wanted it and weren't happy with how they ended the game.

Even though we lost, I think the fact that the team believed they could win even down three All-Stars says a lot about the character of these women and should give us all hope for the playoffs. The odds are against the Storm. Yes, they've had a stranglehold on second place in the West for what seems like most of the season. Yes, LA has been inconsistent and can be beaten. But with no LJ, it doesn't look good on paper for Storm success.

I think the team's collective answer to that would be, "So what?" Tonight they showed tonight determination and a desire to win that might be what it takes to give Lisa Leslie a sour ending to her good bye season. Won't that be nice?

Oh, and I think the Storm will be looking forward to any potential match up against Phoenix in the playoffs. After tonight, I don't think the Storm are intimidated at all by Phoenix or their leaders. Tanisha gave us a little taste of what might be down the road when she put Taurasi on the floor in the second half.

So bring on the Sparks, and anyone else too.

Other notes:

Big surprise in the first quarter when after a video montage of "The Legend" of Sue Bird, the arena announcer lets us know that Sue has signed a multi-year contract extension with the Storm. Hot damn! That's some unexpected and great news.

Cappie Pondexter had very interesting hair. It was an evolution of the poof thing she had going the last time they were in Seattle. Now she has one side shaved down to nothing. The other side is short, but not shaved and the mushroom-like poof is still in effect. During some Storm free throws during the first half, she came down as stood near the baseline in front of our section. I told her she needs to stop taking hair advice from Bridgette Pettis. She turned around with a big smile on her face.

Dow Constantine was in the house. He just happens to be running for King County Executive and got a warm reception from the crowd.

Doppler's train was delayed until overtime because of a long, involved fan giveaway that took up all of halftime and several timeouts during the second half. We didn't win anything. Bleh.

During the Storm intros, one of the kids who was handed a ball went down the line of Storm players getting high fives.

LJ's hair is extremely long.

Oh yeah, there was some video with a couple fan interviews and some screen grabs off a fan website, or something.