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Final score: Storm 85 – Fever 81 (W) (12-2)

Attendance | 9083

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

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

This game looked to be the Storm's hardest test at home so far and it certainly developed that way. It felt like a playoff game and might be a preview of the finals if things go the way it seems they should the rest of the season. At the end of the game during her player of the game interview, Sue said that home court advantage is what it's all about and it's something the Storm really need. If they are fortunate enough to make it to the Finals and do face Indiana, they will be in for a scrap and home court will be vital.

But that's getting very ahead of where we are tonight.

The top thing on my mind before the game was how Sue's knee was really holding up. I, and I think most of us in the stands, were very happy to see her running through the warm-ups and shooting drills pregame without any apparent discomfort. I did she her stretch a couple of times, focusing on the knee, but that was it. No brace. No ice. No discernable limp. Major bullet avoided.

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This game was both great and frustrating at the same time. Neither team, especially through the first three quarters, could establish control over the other for more than a few minutes or possessions at a time. As expected I think, the game really came down to which team could play at their best defensive intensity for longer and force the other team into mistakes.

The first quarter mostly belonged to the Storm. The did have a short period when they got turnover happy which allowed the Fever to get some easy transition baskets, but pulled it back with tough defense at the end of the quarter and built a small lead. They seemed to be successfully anticipating Fever passing and were switching a lot on the perimeter and trapping the Fever guards. They translated that into points on the other end.

It was also interesting that Coach Agler altered his normal bench rotation a bit and brought in ARob for LJ instead of Veselá. I hadn't heard anything about a potential injury to Jana, so maybe it was a matter of match ups for Coach Agler. In fact, Jana didn't get any playing time this game.

As the second quarter started, I got the feeling that the Storm were trying out some new offensive sets because there was a lot more confusion and directing of traffic than I've seen since the beginning of the season. The Fever took advantage of the Storm slowing things down to force a couple shot clock violations and turnovers. Douglas started getting hot and was hitting some crazy shots, including a beyond-the-NBA line three just because she could. It didn't really matter if she was truly open or had two Storm defenders draped all over her. In fact, I think the more off balance she was the better her shot was. At one point of the game, Angie leaned over to me and said, "I hate her. She's scary good and a whiner." And yes, Douglas was in fine whine mode all game. Later, she'd have a good reason, but she was going on about every play it seemed.

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The second quarter mostly belonged to the Fever. They outscored the Storm by 13 and went into the half with a six point lead. The Fever were really testing the Storm in a way we've not seen from any Western Conference teams so far. I'd go so far as to say the Storm and the Fever are very balanced to each other and play very similar games.

The Storm came out really flat in the third. They weren't getting anything into the post to LJ and it felt like the Storm weren't getting any offensive rebounds (the stats at the end of the game had the Storm with 13 OR, but man it felt like they weren't getting any second chances during the third). Like I said, neither team was able to control for more than a few minutes and the Storm were able to turn it back on defensively. They started getting rebounds and stops, but turnovers continued to keep them from capitalizing on their defense. The Fever were able to maintain an 11 point lead.

In the last few minutes of the the third quarter, the refs started to lose control of the game. They really didn't seem to know what was going. Their consistency outright sucked. The Storm were clawing their way back in, still slowed down by fouls and turnovers, but managed to cut the lead down to five after getting into the penalty and a Swin free throw. Things started to get chippy and one ref called a technical foul on Zellous. During the arguing about that, one of the other refs called a tech on Coach Dunn. Somehow, that one got waived off and the Storm only took one free throw for the first tech. There was no indication on why the second tech was called or why it was cleared.

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The Storm started getting very aggressive once they were in the penalty and were forcing the Fever to switch on defense and then went right at any mismatches in the paint that developed. The Storm used the line to get the lead down to two at the end of the third. The Fever were really rolling at the beginning of the quarter, but the Storm amped it up and slowly stole the momentum back by playing great defense and forcing Indiana into fouling on the other end.

The momentum shift was short lived however as the Storm start the quarter with turnovers that allow the Fever to go back up by five. Sue hit a couple threes to keep the Storm going, but the Fever kept answering. Douglas again, of course. The refs started calling the game tight on the Fever and the Storm got to go to the line a lot. Unfortunately, they also missed a lot. La'coe missed a couple, Tanisha missed a couple and Swin missed a bunch. If the Storm had made have their misses (and gotten closer to their normal average), the score at the end of the game would have been very different. As it was, the Storm regained the lead but couldn't get any space because of the missed free throws.

There was one play near the end of the quarter that made me a little crazy. Tanisha had the ball at the top of the three point line and threw this long, slow pass to LJ under the basket when LJ was being guarded by two defenders. If either of them had seen that ball coming it would have been stolen away. Luckily, LJ was able to snatch it out of the air and put it up. When Tanisha threw the pass, I was all "NOOOOO," and when LJ caught it and scored I was all "YESSSSS."

The end of the game got crazy. January had a horrible turnover which allowed the Storm to go down and score, pushing their lead up to five. Indiana came right back and hit a three to cut it to two. The Storm got the ball back and called a timeout to advance the ball. As they tried to get it in, Douglas pushed Sue from behind trying to go for the ball and the ball went out of bounds. The refs called it Storm ball right away, but the Fever, and especially Douglas, went nuts arguing against the call. The refs eventually went to the video review and maintained the call on the court — Storm ball. Even with 1.2 seconds on the clock, it was vital that the Storm got the ball back. You know that Douglas would have jacked up a three and would have gone after a call whether there was contact or not and the way the refs had been going, she would have gotten the call.

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The Storm inbounded the ball and got it to LJ. Tully fouled her and LJ iced the game. Whew.

I really thought that the Storm were out of gas at the beginning of the fourth after having worked so hard to tie the game after being down by 11. The fact that the Fever quickly recovered and went up by 5 made me even more nervous. The Storm stayed with it though and were able to pull it through.

Looking ahead at the Storm schedule, they don't have a Fever-quality opponent for awhile. They should do well, as long as they don't allow themselves to ease back after being so dominant so far.

Other notes:

The last time we had the guitar kid play the anthem, I suggested that someone invest in a metronome for him. I make that suggestion again. Really. Please. Also, perhaps an explanation that going for dramatic pauses on every note defeats the purpose of dramatic pauses.

Loree Moore walked past our seats going up the aisle. I asked her how her rehab is going and she said that it's going really well.

The arena DJ was going heavy on the Michael Jackson catalog tonight on the one year anniversary of MJ's death.

Ashley Robinson got some blonde highlights. Apparently, LJ's continuing efforts to get brighter red hair are impacting her teammates.

The LJ bobblehead clip debuted with Sue and Swin playing together with their bobbleheads. LJ comes in and admonishes them for being too old to play with dolls. After they leave, she sits down and put the three bobbleheads together and says, "Suckers."

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