score: Storm 91 Mercury 85 (W) (21-2)
Score | Jayda's
Game Blog | Live
from Press Row
E | Rick
L | Annie
With this win, the Storm clinch the #1 seed throughout the
Western Conference playoffs. The next step is clinching home
court throughout all of the playoffs, but that is a challenge
for another day. Tonight, the Storm had their hands full and
had to earn this win.
the half, I typed the following line on my iPad:
has the makings of a horrible loss or an epic comeback.
comeback it was.
think I speak for most when I say I was nervous about this
game. Phoenix was on a winning streak and had been running
wild on other teams. They seemed like they were finally turning
their season around and putting together a run to take better
command of their second place position in the West. They also
made the trade with Tulsa for Braxton to bolster their inside
presence. I don't think anyone expected this game to be easy
or a blowout. It was going to be tough and dangerous.
the other hand, the Storm knew what was at stake. A win tonight
would clinch the #1 spot in the West — beating Phoenix
would leave the Mercury 11 games behind the Storm with 11
games left on their schedule. With the Storm winning the seasons
series (3-0 already and 4-0 with a win tonight), they would
win any tiebreakers with the Mercury and secure the top seed.
while I was nervous I had confidence that the Storm would
come in and take care of business. The Storm also had a decent
sized crowd on their size. The stage was set.
then the Mercury started blowing the doors off the Key.
difference between the two teams through the first half was
incredible. The Mercury were much faster than the Storm. They
pushed the tempo to such a pace that I could start typing
out a quick note while the Storm were on offense and the Merc
would get the rebound and be down the court and scoring before
I could look up.
think their game plan was very smart and one that few teams
could really pull off. Basically, the Storm's strength lies
in their active, disruptive defense and the offense that they
generate by forcing turnovers or getting rebounds. The Mercury
were playing so fast that they denied the Storm any opportunity
to play their normal team defense.
kept the Storm in the game early was their efforts to attack
the paint. Unlike the Tulsa game when it seemed the Storm
weren't interested in going in to LJ until the second half,
the Storm were going at the basket very early. A telling play
for me came in the first quarter when LJ had the ball out
on the three point line. She gave her defender a ball fake
and passed off to the right. She immediately dove to her normal
spot in the post while the ball was passed again to the Svet
in the corner. As soon as LJ got her position, Svet delivered
the ball and LJ turned quickly to take a shot.
that was good, it wasn't making up for how badly the Storm
were getting outrebounded. The raw numbers weren't that crazy.
Phoenix was only a handful of rebounds ahead of the Storm
through the first half, but the killer was the kinds of rebounds
the Mercury were getting. On the few missed shots the Merc
made in the first, they were able to get the offensive rebounds
even after the Storm had successfully blocked out because
the none of the Storm players were reacting to the ball. It
would bounce in the middle of 3 or 4 Storm and no one would
go after it. Then a free Phoenix player would fly in and get
it while the Storm stood there and watched. Or the ball would
get batted around a bit and inexplicably land in the hands
of a Mercury player.
Agler started the second quarter with Veselá, Camille
and Le'coe in against Bonner, Braxton and Dupre. He had to
give LJ a rest, but it didn't last long. On the second Storm
offensive set, the team wasn't communicating well and had
horrible spacing. Just as I yelled out something about watching
their spacing, Temeka Johnson who had been paying attention
to their spacing jumped a pass, stole the ball and ran down
for an easy layup. The Mercury had a lot of easy layups in
the first half. Coach Agler called a quick timeout to refocus
the team and get LJ back in.
Mercury kept up the pressure and kept their foot on the gas
through the second quarter. They built on their lead, which
had stayed in the 7-9 range, and started to extend it into
double figures. Phoenix were still scoring so fast, they were
keeping the Storm from getting into any defensive flow. On
defense themselves, the Mercury went into a zone and slowed
the Storm down even more. The Storm started jacking threes,
but they weren't falling and the Merc were feeding off the
long rebounds to start their fastbreaks.
seemed like for every basket the Storm got, the Mercury got
three points. It also seemed like any time the Storm went
into the lane they were getting mugged by Phoenix and weren't
getting any calls while Phoenix were getting fouls on every
possession on the other end. The crowd was going crazy at
the refs, especially when we got replays of the non-calls.
Sue and Swin both were trying to get explanations and coming
up empty. Nothing the Storm were doing was slowing down Phoenix
and it looked like this might be the Storm's first loss at
home and their first loss against a Western Conference opponent.
I said above, at the half the Storm were down by 18. They
looked slow and unable to get into any kind of defensive flow.
The halftime stats displayed on the big screen before the
start of the third showed that Phoenix had shot 61% through
the first half. The game looked poised to become a huge Phoenix
an epic Storm comeback.
said this before — Coach Agler knows how to make adjustments.
The Storm came out in the third quarter with a completely
different attitude and energy than they did to begin the game.
They were fighting harder for rebounds. They were tipping
the ball and disrupting passes. They were running the floor
as fast as the Mercury. And when the Mercury started missing
shots and cooling off of that 61% shooting, the Storm started
to chip away at the lead.
was really punishing the Mercury posts and forcing them to
foul. Tangela Smith hammered her during one play and didn't
like the call. As the teams lined up for LJ's free throws,
Smith decided to play drama queen. She got popped by LJ during
the play and was protesting the hit and foul by standing out
of position and not allowing Camille to take her place on
the side. Smith just stayed there, hunched over, doing the
"I'm checking for blood" move that never actually
finds any blood, passive aggressively forcing the refs to
acknowledge her. They finally did and she was subbed out.
Storm kept it up, denying the Mercury open looks and second
chances while getting their own offense finally rolling. Still,
it was dramatic how fast the Mercury were pushing their own
offense and how slow and deliberate the Storm were with theirs.
Continuing to chip away, the Storm had the lead down to 10
with about three and a half minutes to go in the third quarter.
Normally, the goal with a big lead is to get it down to 10
or so by the beginning of the fourth. The Storm weren't going
for normal. Remember, this was epic.
the Storm narrowed the lead, Taurasi started playing with
more and more of the "I'm the super star — I should
be the one getting all the calls" play she gets into
at times. One sequence that had all of us scratching our heads
was when Taurasi pushed Swin into a screen, hard, which resulted
in a foul on Swin, of course. Even though it was the Storm's
fourth team foul, Taurasi ended up shooting free throws. How
Swin being pushed into a screen meant Taurasi got free throws
wasn't explained to the crowd or the Storm. She just got the
shots. Made absolutely no sense.
then once she started getting the calls she wanted, Taurasi
just started flinging herself into players to pick up fouls.
I really wish the league would do something to stop that kind
of play. An offensive player throwing herself into the defender
and getting a foul call is pure crap and Taurasi is the biggest
shoveler of that crap.
matter. The Storm kept up their defensive pressure, outscoring
the Mercury 24-8 in the third, and cut the lead down to 2
by the end of the quarter. The crowd was going insane. It
was almost as loud as it was back in 2004. Seriously.
Storm finally tied and then took the lead early in the fourth
quarter. Taurasi kept trying to get it back all on her own,
but it wasn't helping. The Storm had completely turned the
game back on the Mercury and were doing to them what they
had been doing to us — being quicker to the ball, running
the floor, catching them before they could organize a defense
and getting open layups.
play of the game for me was when Sue chased down a loose ball
that had gone into the back court off a Storm possession.
It looked like a sure Phoenix pick-up and fast break, but
Sue beat the Mercury player to the ball, kept it from going
out of bounds and swatted it back to a Storm player who passed
it to LJ on the sideline, outside the three point line. She
didn't hesitate in putting the ball up and got off the three
before a defender could swing over. She hit the shot, putting
the Storm up by 7 and getting the crowd into a frenzy.
Storm had put together a 31-7 run since the beginning of the
me, an epic 31-7 run.
Mercury hit a couple threes while the Storm continued to score,
but it wasn't enough to pull back any closer than 5. Coach
Gaines kept calling timeouts and having the Mercury foul the
Storm to try and keep the game going, but it got a little
absurd. Maybe he was trying to get his team to keep up the
never-quit mentality, but when you're down several baskets
and there is less than a second left on the clock do you really
need a full time out?
games weren't working and the inevitability came to be. The
Storm came back from an 18 point deficit to beat the Mercury
by 6. It was arguably the best game of the season and one
of those wins that shows the real character of this team.
The Mercury played clock games to try and show they never
give up. The Storm made adjustments and completely turned
the game around to show that they never give up. The Storm's
confidence should be as high as it's ever been after this
win. They can take the best other teams throw at them, roll
with it and dish it right back. To quote a recent advertising
campaign, our better is better than your better. I'm looking
at you Taurasi.
the introductions for the Mercury, the arena staff played
the Empire's March from Star Wars. Have the Mercury become
the Evil Empire for us? Isn't that still LA, until we beat
them in the playoffs at least?
think it is interesting that any time the anthem is performed
in a more traditional style, as it was tonight — quite
beautifully I might add, the less likely people are to hoot
and holler at the end of the song after the highest note.
If the song is performed as if it were an American Idol audition,
then the crowd tends to be less respectful — one of
the reasons I really dislike the Idol style of embellishing
every freaking note.
was some Doppler bowling during a timeout and the main pin
had a Taurasi jersey on it with a photo of her screaming face
taped to the top of it. After being flung down the court a
couple times into the pins, Doppler took the Taurasi pin and
started abusing it. He did a pro wrestling elbow slam on it,
threw it at his assistant and then punted it off the court.
of you with an iPhone or iPad should already have the WNBA
Courtside app. It's a simple little app showing scores and
stats, but the cool thing is that it normally updates pretty
close to live during games. Normally. Tonight, it didn't start
updating until at the half. It was driving me crazy to not