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Final score: Storm 82 – Sparks 60 (W) (9-1)

Attendance | 7286

Box Score | Jayda's Game Blog | psheey's Game Blog | Live from Press Row

Game Photos | Scott E | Rick | Scott L | Toni | Diane

Ok then. We're in uncharted territory. The Storm are 9-1 and are having their way with the Western Conference in general and the Sparks in particular. The Storm are playing with a focus and determination that at times makes them unbeatable.

They started this game going crazy on defense, led by Camille. They forced LA into a shot clock violation on LA's first possession. Then over the next few possessions, in the first 3 minutes, the Storm put the clamps down and Camille was everywhere, disrupting passes and getting three steals. At the same time, just like they started the last game, the Storm came at the Sparks with great balanced scoring. The Sparks couldn't concentrate on any one player because the whoever was open was hitting.

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The Storm continued their defensive control of the Sparks through the first quarter, limiting them to outside jumpers which the Sparks continued to miss. Tina Thompson's first shot went nowhere and she flailed around looking for a foul. She didn't get it (although the refs would come to the Sparks' rescue later). The Storm's attack had the Sparks kind of shell shocked. By the end of the first quarter, all the Sparks' starters were walking up the court. Also, the only way they were scoring was at the free throw line. The refs started blowing their whistles on everything the Storm was doing.

The refs really insinuated themselves into this game. They were heavily penalizing the Storm for playing harder and faster than the Sparks. Of course, the same kinds of things the Storm were getting called for were being ignored when the Sparks were doing them. When LJ started to get going, the Sparks went back to their Michael Cooper-inspired plan of hitting her at every opportunity. She was getting mauled under the basket. Every time she ran up the court, Delisha found an opportunity to throw an elbow or shoulder. You'd think they would have figured out that crap doesn't work and hasn't since LJ's hair was darker, shorter or actually red (the current color doesn't count as red).

The Sparks eventually resorted to a zone during the second quarter to slow down the Storm, and it worked to an extent. The Storm didn't have nearly the success breaking down the zone as they did the other night against Phoenix. The Storm started doing this thing where they would drive about halfway to the basket and kick it out to the perimeter even when they only had one defender on them. In my opinion, they were overpassing on the perimeter. Players weren't taking open shots and when they did their three point shots weren't falling. LA was able to get the rebounds. Fortunately, the Sparks were having just as much trouble scoring on their end. Although, the fouls kept coming and they kept hitting their free throws. The second quarter was the Sparks' best defensive stand, holding the Storm to only 16 points, but they were only able to eke out 16 points of their own.

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The third quarter was painful to watch, but not because the Storm were playing poorly or were allowing the Sparks to get back in the game. In fact, the Storm were able to withstand a Sparks push and hold their lead around 15. No, what made the third quarter so unbelievable was the horrible, horrible officiating. I used to think Roy Gulbeyan and Kurt Walker were the refs of the apocalypse. They have competition in the form of ref number 55, Eric Brewton. He single-handily kept the Sparks in the game in the third. It was embarrassing and I hope the league takes a hard look at this game and his performance.

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The thing to look at through the third quarter wasn't the officiating or how the Sparks were resorting to their old hacking ways, it was the way the Storm kept their heads and found ways in spite of all of that stuff to keep control of the game and build on their lead. In a lot of ways, this was the Storm's toughest game to date. They played a team they've already played twice so you'd expect the Sparks to have a better game plan for going at the Storm's weaknesses. They played a game which was taken over by the refs and they were being penalized for playing their style of aggressive defense. They had foul trouble and had to deal with being in the bonus for long stretches of time. Through it all, they kept playing hard and smart and found ways to stay in control of the game.

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The bench, meaning Svet, La'coe and Jana, came in and did their energy off the bench thing. The starters played through the fouls and physical play from the Sparks. They held the Sparks each quarter to less than 20 points. They help Parker to single digits until late in the fourth quarter when it ceased to matter. They took the blows and the whistles and found a way to take an ugly game and win it by 22.

Winning ugly games is not something the Storm have historically been very good at. The fact that they are able to gut their way through games like this now, to me, is a bigger sign of the good things to come than their 9-1 record. I'm still concerned about the Storm's other historical soft spot — road games. We've got a couple coming up. Can they come back home 11-1?

Other notes:

I was taking notes during a timeout and missed the start of the video clip, but looked up in time to see Coach Agler doing the Stanky Leg. The bench was cracking up, as were the rest of us.

The Alaska Airlines First Class Upgrade went to a couple of fan newbies which was kind of cool. The announcer asked all first timers to raise their hands. There really weren't that many.

I think the announcer may have been getting a commission based on how many times he said that the Storm were first place in the Western Conference.

There was one odd play at the end of the first quarter when She knocked a ball loose, but then couldn't touch it and had to wave over someone else to pick it up. The only thing I could think was that she had tipped it to herself or something and would have been called for a travel or something if she picked it up. Anyone have an idea of what happened there?

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