WNBA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 1
score: Storm 79 Sparks 66 (W) (1-0)
Score | Jayda's
Game Blog | Live
from Press Row
E | Rick
L | Annie
the game started, I was surprisingly calm. Not so with Angie.
She had been nervous all day. Me? Nah. In fact, this really
didn't feel like a playoff game until the start of the introductions
when the Storm added some new playoff twists to the normal
routine. I had to wonder, was I just that confident that the
Storm were going to win this game? Was I being overconfident?
Might they be a little too confident? Nah, just being realistic.
if the Sparks played their hearts out, I really didn't think
they had a chance. Not really. Aside from having two of their
heavy hitters out for the season (which I haven't seen a lot
of whining or complaining from the LA side about "if
only Parker wasn't out" — they don't have the right
until they've dealt with that kind of crap for a few seasons
in a row, right LJ?), they are overrun with the aged and infirm.
Yes, Tina Thompson can take over a game and she has enough
dagger shots to break the hearts of any opposing fan, but
I just didn't think that would be enough. Not tonight. Not
against this Storm team. Not this year.
as it turned out, it took everything the Sparks had to keep
the Storm from blowing open the game from the get-go.
Storm came out with an intensity on defense that we frankly
haven't seen for several games. I guess they finally found
the "On" button. Through the first quarter, they
were playing great defense, constantly switching and doing
it very rapidly so that the Sparks player with the ball got
no open spaces to drive. They were effectively running out
and closing on perimeter shooters any time the Sparks were
able to find someone open and ended up either forcing bad
shots (and then getting the rebounds) or forcing the shooter
to pass off. On one play, one Storm defender ran out on Ferdinand-Harris
making her pause and reset to shoot, followed at just the
right time by a second run out which forced Marie to get rid
of the ball. It was simply excellent defense and the Storm
had the clamps down on the Sparks early. In fact, most of
the Sparks' first quarter scoring came from free throws instead
of field goals. I think they had only one or two layups.
offense, the Storm were rolling and running almost Phoenix
style down the court after rebounds or especially on turnovers.
Sue picked Tolliver twice in a row and lead fastbreaks that
resulted in easy Storm scores. When they had to go into their
half court offense, they went into the post and LJ as much
as possible. Like in the last game of the season, LA was switching
on LJ and she found herself with a guard defending her. The
Storm perimeter players were very quick to recognize the mismatches
and got LJ the ball. The Storm ended the quarter up by 10
and looking very good.
second quarter was more even between the two teams. The Sparks
started to chip away at the score and made adjustments to
keep the Storm from going on any big runs. That really was
how the rest of the game went. The Storm would kick the lead
up to 12 or 13 and the Sparks would respond but only ever
get the score back down to 7 or 8. It see-sawed like that
until the last part of the fourth quarter when the Storm put
in a final push to get back up by as much as 16. I think the
Sparks knew that if they allowed the Storm to run off any
big run, the game was over. Even from as early as the second
way they tried to keep the Storm within reach was the normal
LA style... mean and dirty. Delisha Milton-Jones took up her
normal task and was really working on LJ all game long. Unfortunately,
the refs were letting play go on. I think most Storm fans
would agree that it seemed like the refs weren't calling the
same fouls on both ends of the court. It certainly appeared
that LJ was getting mugged by double and triple teams without
getting any calls while Tina could make a step towards the
paint and get a foul called (she was especially effective
at this after any kind of Storm run — they'd score a
couple baskets in a row and she'd get the ball on the next
time down the court and get a foul each time).
was able to succeed in small part against LJ by instigating
a shoving match and foul language after the two got tied up
in the paint. LJ got a personal and technical foul called
on her, which of course was BS. They both should have at least
gotten offsetting fouls or double techs. DMJ was obviously
the instigator and had been trying to get LJ into foul trouble
all night. I was watching her specifically, expecting this
kind of stuff, and was surprised how many times during the
Sparks' offensive sets that she'd end up with the ball on
the perimeter and then drive in against LJ. She's not that
much of a scorer or a driving threat — her goal
was simply to get fouls on LJ. The Sparks knew they couldn't
play straight up basketball, so they had to change their offensive
plan so it was more about LJ fouls than actual scoring. Nice.
the Sparks were focusing on LJ, the rest of the team picked
up the scoring load led by Jana Veselá. That's right
my friends. Veselá was the Storm's leading scorer at
the half. She was dropping threes during the second quarter
like she was in a three-point shooting contest. It caught
the Sparks off guard to be sure and took a ton of pressure
Storm did have a slow down in the second quarter, even with
Jana's production. The Storm started to turn the ball over
and the Sparks started to switch up their defense, throwing
in a zone to force the Storm out of the paint. They didn't
stay with the zone, but used it for just a play and then would
go back to man-to-man. It was effective and did result in
a Storm shot clock violation. The Storm also got a little
sloppy with the ball. The Sparks started overplaying the passing
lanes and the Storm players weren't nearly as snappy with
their passes as they had been earlier. The Sparks were able
to get some steals and turn them into fastbreak points. Still,
the Sparks were never able to get the score any lower than
7 and the Storm kept coming back and pushing it out to double
me it really felt like the Storm were on the edge of running
wild at any moment, but it never felt like the Sparks had
enough in them to take over the game. As I said above, they
were giving everything they had to keep the Storm in check.
They just didn't have enough to do more than that.
third quarter got chippy and the Storm finally started going
to the line. They only had two free throws through the first
half — I know, crazy. With as slap happy as the
Sparks were through this whole game it was amazing they had
so few calls against them.
Storm had another rough patch through this quarter when they
stopped moving on offense and Tanisha held the ball too long.
They had pushed the lead out to 13 and had a couple opportunities
to get more, but they had bad offensive set after bad offensive
set and it allowed the Sparks to chip away again. Instead
of continuing their passing and good ball movement, they weren't
starting their plays until the clock was near 10 seconds.
They were basically letting the Sparks rest on defense, so
when the play actually materialized the Sparks were able to
defend hard. They forced bad shots, bad passes and finally
a shot clock violation. Luckily, the Sparks weren't able to
really capitalize that much on the Storm's mistakes.
was the trend as the Storm slowly built their lead. They'd
jump out a bit then makes a string of mistakes allowing the
Sparks to creep back but never far enough to completely wipe
out how far the Storm had jumped out. Storm score 6 points,
LA would score 4. Storm would score 5, LA would score 2. By
the middle of the fourth quarter, it was basically out of
reach for the Sparks as the Storm went on a mini-run to push
the score up to 16. The Storm eventually won by 13.
Storm didn't dominate the game they way they have with some
of their other wins this season, but it felt like they were
on the edge of it the whole way. Even when they hit their
rough spots and let the Sparks have a little hope, it felt
like all they had to do was clamp down on defense a little
harder and take control. I, of course, wanted to see a crushing
defeat. I'll take a domination-lite win instead.
upper bowl on the west side of the arena was open between
sections 218 and 211, and there were plenty of people up there.
I know many or most of those people were at the game on free
tickets (we had 2 that we gave away), but no matter. I'm a
firm believer in the "you see one game, you'll be back"
mindset. They'll be back.
normal pregame fan warm-up video was interrupted with a playoff,
home court advantage focused video montage with quotes from
opposing players and coaches on how hard it is to play at
KeyArena. Oh, and it was set to "O Fortuna" from
the Carmina Burana. If that piece of music doesn't get you
pumped up, nothing will. When that was played, I knew it was
the LA introductions, of course they played the Empire March
from Star Wars. Also, the announcer made a point to say that
LA ended up in "fourth and last place" in the Western
big reveal before the game was the gigantic "We are home
court advantage" banner in the rafters on the south end
of the arena. Containing more than 6000 names of season ticket
holders, it was truly an awesome sight and really got the
crowd rocking. As an aside, this was just another in a long
string of things the owners and team management have done
recently that have just felt right. I can't tell you how happy
I am that they are running this team and organization.
wave got started down on the south end of the arena during
the fourth quarter and made a few laps. It was odd and a little
distracting. People seemed to get into it, but I didn't like
it. Fine for football and soccer, but not really for basketball.
thing I really like to see were all the signs. Tons of signs
and not just the ones the Storm put out in the first 10 rows