WNBA Playoffs, Western Conference Finals, Game 1
score: Storm 82 Mercury 74 (W) (1-0)
Score | Jayda's
Game Blog | Live
from Press Row
E | Rick
L | Toni
game delivered the hype. Everyone from the league to the sports
writers had been pegging this one as a battle to watch, and
neither team disappointed.
know that I was nervous about this game. Phoenix is dangerous.
I don't care what their regular season record was. I don't
care that the Storm beat them 5 times, or that the games were
overtimes, blowouts or tight to the end. Give Diana Taurasi
a chance and she will find a way to hit the big shots, get
the calls or find one of her teammates to do it for her. They
can score a ton of points in no time at all and if they get
into their running game, they can sprint away with a game.
I think we all knew coming into this game that if the Storm
could just play their style of game and keep the Mercury from
being the Mercury for 40 minutes, they should come away with
if, if. Nothing left to do but toss up the ball and let them
it took three times to get that right. I'm not sure what the
refs kept seeing, but they kept getting do overs on the tip
off. LJ finally won it clean and we got started.
Storm certainly didn't start the game in any way to alleviate
my pregame nervousness. They came out fairly unfocused and
a little sloppy with the ball, missing point blank shot after
point blank shot. Phoenix was straight up faster than the
Storm and were able to get back and stop two Storm fast breaks
before Sue could score herself or find a trailer for an easy
layup. Luckily, the Mercury started the game just as cold
and were unable to get anything going either.
started to come together for the Storm at about 5 minutes
into the game, or shortly after Le'coe and Sveta came into
the game. Talk about your sparks off the bench. They came
in and the Storm started clicking. Their defense clamped down
on the Mercury, hard, and their offense went from standing
around and holding the ball to snappy passing and finding
the open shooter for easy baskets.
Storm had a stretch through the first quarter during which
they held Phoenix to one basket and a couple free throws while
the Storm cranked out a string of 10 - 12 points. Phoenix
looked lackluster while the Storm dominated. Things started
to feel like a blow out... until the Mercury got three quick
scores and reeled the Storm right back.
switch over from dominating Storm to run and gun Mercury happened
very quickly. They got a couple baskets in a row and all the
sudden seemed to take control. The Storm went back to missing
their chippies and not fighting for rebounds, or worse, tapping
the ball around instead of grabbing it with two hands and
allowing the Mercury to get it. Any time they got a rebound,
they treated it like a steal and sprinted down the court for
a quick score.
Storm were helping a little bit by seeming to choose the outside
shot first over going into the paint. Miss and then let the
rebound go and off go the Mercury. They got the lead down
to 8 from 14 and then as the clock wound down on the first
quarter, fouled Svet as she shot a three. With .9 seconds
on the clock, she had three free throws... and missed two.
can guarantee that one of the main things Coach Agler drills
into the Storm's heads between now and Sunday is free throws.
The Storm really shot themselves in the foot with their poor
free throw shooting tonight. They missed 9 free throws out
of 29 attempts, and it seemed like they came at the worst
times like when Svet missed two out of three to end the first
quarter. Hit them all and the Storm are up by 11. Miss two
and the Mercury get that psychological boost of only being
down by single digits, even after the Storm had a pretty good
the second quarter started, I made a note that the Storm needed
to do a better job of rebounding and get back to their good
ball movement, both of which would limit the Mercury's ability
to run down the court and get easy baskets.
not so much.
Merc hit a quick three and then the Storm have a sloppy offensive
set that ended up with a turnover as LJ stepped out of bounds.
Coach Agler called a timeout to get his team back on track,
but it didn't help immediately. The Storm followed that with
an offensive foul on LJ for an illegal screen and then a Taurasi
three. What could have been an 11 point lead (if Svet had
hit all her free throws) quickly became a 3 point lead.
momentum had completely shifted to the Mercury. They were
looking sharper than the Storm. Taurasi had that gleam in
her eye and had that tilt to her body language that said "I'm
going to score and score a lot." The Storm had been dominating
the game, but gave the Mercury just enough daylight to allow
them to get their own style of game going. Time for the Storm
to knuckle down.
started guarding Taurasi and got her to drive into the middle
of the lane on one play, straight into a waiting Swin who
had great position and got a charge called on Diana. That
seemed to get the Storm going a bit and they brought more
energy on both ends of the court. They started boxing out
and fighting for rebounds and stopping the Phoenix fast attacks.
didn't last long though and the Storm seemed to be having
some on-court communication problems. Sue and LJ really got
into it after one botched play. LJ was yelling about getting
the ball and Sue was yelling right back. That had me worried.
Shortly after that and another bad offensive set — lots
of slow perimeter passing and waiting for post players to
get open leading to a turnover right before the shot clock
was going to hit zero — LJ got a technical foul called
for complaining to the refs. It happened on the south end
of the court, so I didn't see what see said, but the refs
didn't wait long before calling it.
then, back the game goes to the Storm and they start playing
much smarter ball. Back to the fast passing and reversing
the floor until they got a mismatch underneath or found a
wide open jump shot. On defense, they limited the Mercury
to single shots and only gave up a couple baskets on broken
plays when the Merc were able to sneak someone open under
the basket. The Storm rebuilt the lead up to 14 at the half.
the dogs ran the court for halftime, I wondered which team
would come out with the most impactful adjustments. For the
Storm, it seemed fairly straight forward — rebound to
keep the Mercury from running and be decisive and clean on
the third quarter started, the Mercury's adjustment was clear
— give the ball to Candice Dupree and let her go to
work inside. The first four plays for the Mercury all went
into Dupree and she either scored or got fouled on all but
one of them. On the last of those four, the Storm tried to
anticipate the pass in to her and were able to tap it about,
but she got it anyway, got the basket and a foul.
play down, again Phoenix went inside but on the miss, the
Storm started to tap the ball around instead of grab it. Of
course it went back to the Mercury and with a quick pass out
to Penny Taylor, they get a three instead of a two. To top
it all off, the Storm were fouling like crazy and got themselves
into the penalty with more than six minutes to play in the
only thing keeping the Mercury from completely wiping out
the Storm's 14 point halftime lead was the MVP. I swear she
was automatic from just about anywhere on the court as soon
as she got even a sliver of open space from her defenders.
With her popping jumpers and hitting, she helped the Storm
ride out the Mercury's offensive push until they could get
their minds back into the game and start to reassert themselves.
Mercury were able to chip away and get the lead down to 4,
but the Storm finally got back and with a couple straight
baskets — a three from Le'coe and one of Sue's patented
"the team needs me to score now" baskets —
they got it back up to 9 to end the quarter.
and forth. Both teams were able to take control for short
stretches. So far, the Storm were able to have more "time
of possession" for game control and were able to keep
the lead. On to the fourth quarter — nerves still twitching.
begin the fourth, LJ was on the bench getting a much needed
rest. She was getting banged up out there to be sure. I remember
thinking, "So where's the scoring going to come from,"
right as Tanisha drained a three, followed by another three.
Taylor answered by going inside and draining some outside
threes of her own. What is it with Australian post players
and their near-automatic three point shooting. I think Taylor
is even quicker on the three point trigger than LJ. She did
get a little shock to the system however that might explain
why she stays outside — she started a drive in
and got rocked by Le'coe. It looked like Penny ran into a
damn wall she went flying back so hard. I honestly think Le'coe
had solid positioning, but got the foul called on her because
of the severity of Taylor's hit. I don't think Penny flopped
either, she really got rocked that hard.
Storm hit another slow patch and came up empty on three consecutive
offensive sets. Of course, the Mercury took advantage and
started to chip away at the score again, getting it down to
the next Storm possession, the Mercury played them tough and
got the shot clock down to 2 before knocking the ball out
of bounds. On the inbounds play, the Storm tried one of their
lob plays to LJ. She got the ball and had great position for
the layup. Dupree didn't even try to play defense and just
wrapped up LJ as the shot when up. I was a little surprised
that Dupree gave up on it so quickly. She could have just
as easily gone for a block. LJ hit both free throws putting
the Storm back up by 9.
a little over 3 minutes to play, the Storm seemed to be milking
the shot clock as much as possible. They aren't at their best
when they slow it down that much, but they kept getting bailed
out by Phoenix fouls. That would have been great except they
weren't hitting their free throws. With a couple minutes left,
the Mercury were still in it but were running out of time.
Storm kept playing the slow down game, almost willing the
clock to go faster. With under a minute left and the game
basically won, Tanisha drove to the basket and Taurasi fouled
her. It was an obvious foul and it was Diana's 6th. Of course,
the Key went crazy. I, however, think she took the foul to
purposely foul out. She is one of those players who knows
exactly what's going on in the game, not only how many fouls
she has but she could have probably told you how many fouls
all the Storm starters had, how many timeouts both teams had
and what brand of underwear Kurt Walker was wearing. She had
incredible game awareness. She knew she was going to foul
out and did it on purpose. My guess is she was making a point
to the refs and going for a little civil disobedience. It
was her way of complaining about the foul calls without getting
fined. I guarantee that she gets more calls in Phoenix in
game 2. Guarantee.
way, the Storm won. They did it even though they had some
rough patches and allowed the Mercury to dictate the pace
of the game for short stretches. That really was the important
thing — keeping the Mercury from running wild for more
than a couple minutes at a time. Each time Phoenix looked
like they were going to break the game open, the Storm found
a way to clamp it back down, rebuild the lead and take back
control. It also didn't hurt that they got so much production
out of Svet and Le'coe. LJ had an MVP kind of night with 23
points, 50% shooting and 17 rebounds, but our two spark plugs
gave the Storm 26 points and 10 rebounds. They were a huge
lift off the bench. Add in Sue's timely scoring, her 10 assists
and the defense both Swin and Tanisha played on Taurasi and
you had a great team win.
think the Storm have a good chance to beat the Mercury in
Phoenix in game 2. The Storm are the better team, top to bottom.
They know what they need to do and have done it on the road
many times this season. And yes, Corey Gaines, one team can
beat another one 7 times in a row. The Storm have already
done that and they can do it again. It won't be easy. Diana
will be in prime form and the refs will give her the benefit
of the doubt. The Storm just have to do the same thing they
did tonight — keep the Mercury from running for more
than a couple minutes, play solid and consistent team defense
and then play their style of offense.
all that and it's on to the big show.
Carlile sang the anthem. I think only Pat Wright from the
Total Experience Gospel Choir has ever done a nicer job on
the anthem for a Storm game. Beautiful job, Brandi.
of signs again, but the sign of the night and perhaps the
season had to to be the one on the north end of the arena,
which read, "Even Chuck Norris is afraid of LJ."
was given her award for being named to the league's All Defensive
Team. LJ got her third MVP and Coach Agler got his Coach of
the Year all before the game. Tanisha looked like she enjoyed
it. LJ looked uncomfortable and Coach Agler looked like he
just wanted it done so he could get back to work.
Russell and Lenny Wilkins were both sitting courtside tonight.