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Final score: Storm 83 – Sun 82 (W) (23-4)

Attendance | 7539

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

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

This was a tense, worrisome and odd game. The odd part for me was that Angie and I missed the whole third quarter because we were bidding on the pink Storm jerseys the players were wearing for Breast Health Awareness night (we won Camille's!). So my normal game viewing experience was pretty disjointed.

I guess the good thing is that we got to see the good parts of the game — the first quarter and the end of the fourth — and missed the pain.

Approaching this game, my thoughts were focused on how the team would respond to their two road losses at Minnesota and Tulsa. I think most people weren't too concerned or upset at the Minnesota loss. The Lynx are a better team than their record indicates and the Storm's wins so far have been close. It was kind of a matter of time before the Lynx would get the stuff together, catch some luck and win a nail-biter against the Storm. In the post-game interviews, most of the players said as much. It was unfortunate that the Seattle win streak got snapped and it happened against a Western Conference team (I would have loved to end the season with an unbeaten conference record), but it was okay that it happened before the playoffs start and with enough time to give the team a chance to work on the things they need to fix.

Okay, no one was freaking out. Then, the Storm lost to Tulsa and there really weren't any good takeaways from that loss. Tulsa is as bad as their record indicates. The Storm, even on an off night, should have beaten that team. Whatever lessons the Lynx loss may have taught the Storm, the wisdom earned hadn't sunken in yet. It was easily the worst game the team has played this year and they were completely out of sync on offense and defense. If the Lynx loss was a teachable moment, the Tulsa loss was a warning sign. The Storm are vulnerable when they lose focus and with so much wrapped up in terms of playoff position, their focus may be questionable.

So how will the team respond? What have they learned and how will they apply it?

In the first quarter, at least, they responded really well. They were back to their normal aggressive selves on offense. Swin and LJ immediately set the tone by attacking the paint and hitting from outside. A lot of the plays that weren't working on the road suddenly were. Players were passing well out of double teams and hitting teammates cutting through the paint for open layups or they were getting the ball out to the perimeter and finding open shooters in the corners.

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On defense, they were going after Tina Charles the same way they went after Sylvia Fowles. They were picking up Charles outside the paint so that she couldn't get deep position and then once she got the ball the Storm were very quick with their double teams. The other Storm defenders were rotating as well to cut off any open Connecticut players from getting a pass from Charles out of the double team. The problem with this strategy as it developed through the game is that Charles has an outside shot while Fowles really doesn't. Charles was able to get the ball and shoot it efficiently before the double team got to her. She didn't need to go into the paint to score every time.

The Storm built what seemed to be a decent lead going into the second quarter, but it didn't feel very solid. I think because of the way Charles was hitting her shots from outside, it forced the Storm defenders to come out of the paint which opened it up and allowed for Sun players to make cuts to the basket for easy layups. They started using Charles as a decoy so their guards could run past and over the Storm defense and it took awhile for the Storm to recognize this and adapt. Of course, as soon as they started hesitating on the double team for Charles, she was able to go one-on-one and started going to the basket instead of staying outside.

On top of that, the rest of the Sun were hitting their shots. They were able to keep the Storm in reach and eventually started to creep up. The Storm lead vacillated between 7 and 5 for most of the second quarter. Their offensive punch slowed down and they had some miscues that lead to a couple shot clock violations. It was a very nerve wracking quarter. Normally when the Storm are up early, they are able to build the lead, even with the bench in, and really put the other team back on their heals. Not so tonight. The Storm couldn't put together any strings of defensive stops or offensive success and the Sun stayed with them point for point.

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A couple of first half items that caught my attention: Sue looked like she might have knocked knees with someone with about three and a half minutes left in the half. She came up limping a bit and was rubbing the side and back of her left knee. I didn't notice any trainer attention on her knee before the half and didn't see a brace or anything after the half, so maybe it was just a momentary stinger.

My old friend DeMya Walker made her way onto the Sun and had a couple fine flopparific moments. She had one offensive play where she got the ball and ended up with her back to the basket, but was under the backboard so didn't have any kind of clean shot. She had LJ and one other Storm defender on her, so she kind of flung herself at LJ, moving backwards and sideways and just tossed the ball up over her head as she fell to the floor. Thankfully, no call for what was an obvious flop. Then on defense, she somehow ended up on the floor backpedalling in front of LJ who was diving to the basket. She ended up tripping up LJ who also went down. The play had been to get the ball to LJ I think because once she was on the floor, the play kind of fell apart and the ball got loose. The shot clock was winding down and luckily Tanisha got the ball and put up a shot that unfortunately missed.

The Storm really didn't have an answer for Renee Montgomery. She was blowing past people at will it seemed and even after she put up some serious numbers early, the Storm defense was still allowing her to run free later in the game. The refs were also giving her a lot of deference. Just because a player throws herself around and then gets up after running into someone yelling for a foul doesn't mean she's right. She's just loud. Quit rewarding attitude.

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As I said, Angie and I missed the third quarter almost entirely because we were stuck up on the concourse waiting to pay for our auction win. As we were walking back to our seats, I got a glimpse of the scoreboard through one of the entry ways and was surprised to see the game was tied. What happened? Apparently, the Storm's slide continued into the third quarter and the Sun kept hitting their shots. Momentum definitely seemed to be going Connecticut's way as they went up by four to end the third quarter.

The one thing we've all learned this season about this team and Coach Agler is that they are able to make in-game adjustments very well. The Storm came out of the quarter break and played hard for the next ten minutes. LJ especially looked like she was playing with as much intensity as she has all season. The Storm got back to attacking the basket and anticipating where each other was on offense, hitting the cutting players and looking for open shooters. Things started to click again, but the Sun continued to answer.

The Sun continued to get offensive rebounds and steals off the Storm and were able to keep the Storm from putting together a scoring run. Part of the issue the whole game, I think, was that the Storm fell into a pattern of LJ and Swin producing all the scoring. The Storm weren't nearly as balanced as they have been previously which allowed the Sun to concentrate on LJ and Swin. We also got perhaps the worst performance from our bench since the beginning of the season. Without support, LJ and Swin had their hands full of Sun defenders.

As I said, the Storm played the fourth quarter hard. They reeled in the Sun and even though they still had too many broken plays or shots that looked like they were put up looking for fouls more than looking for scores, they got the score down to 3 with a little more than 2 minutes left (this, after the Sun had their lead up to 7 with about 5 minutes to go).

The Storm got a huge three-pointer from Sue to get it closer and then after forcing a Sun shot clock violation (the crowd noise was deafening), Swin got fouled, hit both her shots and tied the game with just over a minute left. On the next Sun possession, Montgomery again ran through people in the lane and got a foul call. She missed the second free throw and the Storm got the ball. Then Tanisha got fouled, hit both shots and the Storm finally took the lead by one. Could they really pull this off again?

The last 30 seconds were broken plays, mad scrambles for loose balls and way more drama than any of us want. It all ended with a Tan White attempt at a long range buzzer beater than went off the front of the rim. Amazingly, the Storm pull out yet another come from behind win, this time in the final minute.

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My worry is that the luster is off the Storm's success so far and other teams will smell blood in the water. The Storm's weaknesses are being exploited by bad teams, leading to tight games and either Storm losses or squeaker wins. Yes, the Storm are about to wrap up home court for the entire playoffs if they make it to the Finals. But, other teams are figuring us out and other teams are getting hot. Getting into a slump at the end of the season will kind of wipe away the early successes if the Storm lose their focus and momentum. None of the teams we might face in the playoffs are going to be pushovers. Phoenix scares me right now. Even LA might still be in the Storm's heads because of our playoff history. Minnesota is finally playing better and knows they can beat us. Yes, we have our playoff position set, but nothing is going to be easy.

Other notes:

It was Breast Health Awareness night and everything was pink. At one point, the arena announcer asked everyone who either had or had been impacted by cancer to stand up. An alarming number of people stood up. Alarming.