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2010 WNBA Finals, Game 2

Final score: Storm 87 – Dream 84 (W) (2-0)

Attendance | 13898

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

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

I honestly wasn't expecting another tight game like this. I thought that the Storm would make the adjustments necessary to give themselves the edge they would need to take control of the game. You just have to look back at how the Storm not only handled the Sparks and the Mercury in the first and second rounds of the playoffs, but also back over the whole season as they found ways to continually beat teams. Phoenix head coach Corey Gaines was mostly right — it is extremely difficult to beat a team multiple times in one season, but the Storm under Coach Agler's direction have been able to do it.

The way they have done it has been to focus on what their own strengths and limit their opponents' strengths. For example, beating Phoenix took controlling the boards and stopping the Mercury running game before it got started. Take away their fast breaks and you can beat them.

The Storm have beaten the Dream four times now this season, but I don't get the sense that the Storm are doing it by making any real adjustments. They are surviving these games — outlasting the Dream. Tonight the Dream could have used a 41 minute game and they might have won.

Back to what I expected to happen: I honestly thought the Storm would win with a comfortable margin, double digits for sure and by at least 15. I thought that if the Storm could build a lead by executing on offense like we know they can and then getting defensive stops in bunches, they could build a lead and protect it. My hope was that if the Storm could push the lead past about the 12 point area, the Dream might lay back just a bit, knowing that they have two games at home ahead of them. Put them on their heels, get them down and thinking more about Game 3 than Game 2 and then turn on the gas.

Great game plan, except the Dream had winning Game 2 firmly in mind and the Storm seemed to want to help them.

As much as I dislike playing against teams without their star players — if you are going to beat someone, I'd rather do it at full strength with no excuses or asterisks due to missing All-Stars — it seemed during the pregame warmups we might be doing just that. No McCoughtry on the floor. She finally came out when she, Sue and LJ were introduced as being named to the WNBA First and Second Teams. She walked back to the bench instead of joining in with the shoot-around and I thought that even though she was suited up, she might be sitting out. Nope. She started. I'm not sure why if she was good to go for the game she didn't warm up — I took it as a sign she was still feeling the effects of Veselá's teeth in her temple.

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Even with a potentially less than 100% McCoughtry and a KeyArena crowd that was rocking from the get-go, the Storm came out really flat. Swin, as I think we all expected, was very active and looking to score the ball. The rest of the Storm seemed tentative on both ends of the court. They were especially porous on defense, allowing Izi and Angel to penetrate the lane with some ease and score uncontested layups.

The Storm's only scoring early on came from free throws, Swin hitting a couple followed by LJ hitting a couple. After a timeout after going down 7-2, the Storm put together their first mini-run. They started going in to LJ as soon as the Dream did any kind of switch on defense and LJ found herself defended by Dream guards or small forwards.

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The Dream really can't guard LJ. Every time she got the ball in the low post, throughout the game, she either scored or got fouled. Every time. And when the Dream started focusing their double or triple teams on her, the Storm would find Camille or Le'coe on the other side. The only problem with that was the Dream bigs tower over the Storm's undersized forwards. Camille and Le'coe, along with Swin on occasion, had to really work to get around DeSouza, Lyttle and Leuchanka.

Just as the Storm started to get things going with LJ and took the lead, they kept finding ways to give the ball back to the Dream. The Dream were getting offensive rebounds like they were doing a tip drill. When the Storm were able to get their hands on the ball and maybe get a defensive rebound, a Dream player would punch the ball away or intercept a pass and get it right back. Too many times, a Storm rebound turned back into a Dream possession.

At least the Storm were getting to the free throw line. The first quarter turned into a real foul fest and the Storm, mainly LJ, were able to put points on the scoreboard. However, as the game wore on, the Storm weren't able to keep this up either. They ended up missing 10 of their 37 attempts, and as we'll see when we get there in the fourth it almost cost them the game.

The Storm used their free throws and their interior play to erase a Dream 6 point lead and get it down to 2 by the end of the quarter.

The one-on-one battle that looked the nastiest was Swin versus Angel. The two of them were really going at each other on both ends of the court. For the most part, they balanced each other's scoring. But the advantage had to go to Swin, with help from her friends. She and the Storm shut down McCoughtry much more effectively than Angel shut down Swin. Very few of Angel's shots were open or uncontested. She even had a couple airballs in there. She was of course complaining to the refs non-stop, but instead of knocking out two players with fouls like they did in Game 1, the refs let this part of the game go.

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The Storm started the second quarter with part of the bench in and were able to get some decent energy out of them while Sue and LJ sat out for a few minutes. The Storm actually put together another little spurt of energy on defense, keeping the Dream to one shot attempt, while scoring on their own offense. Veselá got a running layup to go in, Tanisha drove the lane from outside the three point line and made it to the basket almost untouched (kind of what Izi and Angel tend to do whenever they get a head of steam), and then Swin took Angel one-on-one with some fancy shake and bake moves to hit a mid-range jumper.

Again, it felt like the Storm were ready to break the game open by executing on offense while getting defensive stops in bunches. The Dream got a whiff of that and called a timeout. The Storm came back with a Swin drive, basket and a foul building the lead to 6 points.

I swear that as this game progressed I started to wonder if the league hadn't passed down a new rule that the Storm weren't allowed to get any farther than 6 points ahead of the Dream. It was some sort of magic number. As soon as the Storm got to that lead, they would commit a foul, turn the ball over, get a shot clock violation or find some way to let the Dream come down and hit quick scores. You really have to give the Dream a lot of credit. Their game plan was obviously to keep the Storm within reach by responding to any runs with harder defense and super quick offense. Silence the crowd and chip away at the Storm's confidence by frustrating them and not allowing them to feel like they have any control over the game.

The second quarter was agonizing. The Storm slowly added a point here, a point there, until they got past that 6 point barrier a little. The Storm are keeping McCoughtry under control, for the most part, and continued to use the LJ inside game and free throws to grow their lead. Once they got it past 6 and pushed it to 8, of course Izi came right back with a three and then the Storm turn it over.

There was a short period where neither team could keep their hands on the ball. Back and forth up and down the court, steal, bobbled pass, steal, steal. Sue finally got the ball and came down for a three attempt. She got clearly fouled by one of the Millers, but there was no call. As soon as the Dream got the ball and started running back, Sue stepped in front of the Miller and got her called for a charge. To me, it was clearly a make-up call for the missed three point foul. Miller was going crazy and Sue just shrugged her shoulders as if to say that's what you get. I'd rather the refs get the calls correct the first time. Dee Kantner was at the game, so hopefully something will come of that, but I doubt it.

So the second quarter was winding down and the Storm were up by 8 still. All the sudden, turnovers and bad defense allowed the Dream to wipe that lead out. Another halftime buzzer beating three from the Dream, this time is was McCoughtry, chopped the lead down to two and left the crowd stunned.

All I could think of during halftime was that if the Storm could just get a few stops, hold the Dream from those crazy open jumpers and super fast scores. We've seen them impose their will on other teams. We've seen them get into their aggressive switching scheme, disrupting passes and forcing the ball handlers to get rid of the ball early in a shot clock — basically turning on the power defense and taking the other team completely out of their game. They can do this. They have done it. Coming out of the half was the time for it to happen. Execute on offense — the knew what worked — and disrupt on defense.

Sure enough, that is exactly what the Storm did to start the third quarter. They got the ball into LJ and got stops on defense. They again built an 8 point lead and it felt like finally, FINALLY, they were on the verge of taking control.

Sigh. Miller hits a jumper. Camille misses and the Dream get the rebound. Miller misses and the Storm rebound, but then Swin gets a three second violation under the basket. The Storm come back well on defense and break up the Dream's play, but the Dream still find a way to score as the Storm bobble the ball away. Back on the other end, the Storm have a horrible set and get a shot clock violation. A DeSouza jumper followed by a Angel fastbreak and foul (Camille totally got ALL BALL damn it) and the Dream tie the game at 55.

For crying out loud.

The Dream take the lead on a drive by Izi, capping off a 10-0 run just as the Storm had looked like they were going to break the game open. Any other game in the season, that 10-0 run would have been the Storm slamming the door on the other team. Against the Dream, there is no door slamming. There are no dagger blows. There is no game control. They resist all of that. They don't let any of it get to them because they know that they are always one or two scores away from taking it all right back. They have this ability to turn the tables on you just when you think everything is going your way.

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All this doom and gloom shouldn't be taken to say that the Storm were playing particularly badly. They were still controlling McCoughtry for the most part. She and Izi both were having bad shooting nights, due very much to Seattle's defense. Seattle wasn't playing very well consistently on offense, but they kept finding ways to get the lead back and find that 6 point barrier. As much as the Dream were answering the Storm's effort, they HAD to keep answering because the Storm were being just as relentless.

After all the Dream's effort in the third quarter, the Storm was still able to finish the quarter up by 4, outscoring the Dream by 2 for the quarter.

The fourth quarter started and the crowd stood as we always do... and stayed standing. We were trying to will the Storm forward, trying to push the over the hump and onto the win. I actually didn't even try to take any notes for the first half of the quarter because I was too busy screaming my head off.

The Storm were up by 6 with about 6 minutes left. They were looking energized. The crowd was rocking and waiting to erupt at every Storm score, rebound or steal. The Dream again took an effective timeout, probably sensing once more that the Storm were on the verge of opening up the game.

Coming back from the timeout, the Storm got away with an over and back on their possession. The ball got tapped out of Tanisha's hands (I think it was T), but it pretty clearly went off of her last. She even thought so and almost let the ball roll down the court but finally went and got it. She hesitated, anticipating the whistle. It didn't come so she went back up court. The Dream bench was going crazy. Unfortunately, and probably due to a little basketball justice, the Storm weren't able to capitalize on the continued possession and score.

Still, they were up by 6 and were getting stops on defense, limiting the Dream to single shots. But then, just as they had done the rest of the game, and through Game 1, the Storm killed their momentum with turnovers. They had another horrible set that ended in a shot clock violation because the Storm were overpassing the ball, trying to find the next open shooter even though they were passing on open shots. Coach Agler may have aged a few years on that play alone.

With just three minutes left, the Storm were still only up by 6.

As the clock wound down, the Storm were getting foul calls and trips to the foul line, but inexplicably missing their free throws. Between Camille, Tanisha and even LJ, the Storm missed 5 free throws between the three minute mark leading up to about half a minute left in the game.

Every miss gave the Dream more life. Even making 3 of those would have pushed the score out just enough to get it out of reach. But no. The Dream had a chance and they took that chance.

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They start hitting shots so fast, you could turn your head and miss it. I swear they were scoring in 2 or 3 seconds. They started fouling, and easy decision since the Storm weren't hitting, and used quick shots to slowly whittle down the lead.

Sue was finally fouled with 22.9 left on the clock and actually hit both free throws. I think everyone, except for the Dream that is, figured a 6 point lead with 22 seconds left ought to be enough. Ummm, no.

Angel comes right back and scores. Lead down to 4. Another foul to stop the clock and Swin goes to the line. She missed both — BOTH — but because the Dream were out of timeouts, they had to go full court and just ran out of time, finally.

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If the Dream had started their fouling routine a little earlier, they might have been able to win the game. They missed by about another 20-30 seconds.

This ending was not satisfying at all. Yes, the Storm are now up 2-0 and only have to win one more game to take the Championship, but the way this game ended could only give the Dream more hope. They have to be thinking that they have every chance to win not one but both of the games on their home court. They aren't going to be focusing on the fact that they gave it everything they had and still came up a couple points short again, they are going to be focusing on the fact that they were getting what they wanted at the end and ran out of time. The Storm didn't "beat" them, they ran out of time. I don't see them down or looking deflated. They need to win 3 in a row, but I don't see any indication that their confidence has eroded at all.

The Storm are going to have a tough road. I do think they can win in Atlanta. I think they can win Game 3, and if not then Game 4. I honestly don't see a Game 5. The Storm are too good and too focused, but they have to find a way to translate that into execution on the court.

My hope is that being on the road will focus them. They haven't played their style of game yet in this series. If they do that, it's over. Game 3 is going to be the hardest one yet.

One more thing in the Storm's favor: us. The Dream had a few fans in Seattle. I saw maybe 5 behind the Dream bench during Game 1 and fewer for Game 2. We are going to have maybe 70 for Game 3 and we're all sitting behind the Storm bench. The Dream fans in Seattle barely made a peep. We will be roaring every time it is quiet. The Dream fans will be getting some instruction on what it means to be visiting fans. One of the Dream fans here in Seattle joined our little post-game conversation group and said that the fans in Seattle were worth about 5 points a game. I'd push that total up a bit, but okay. Here's the thing — I think we're going to be worth a lot more than that in Atlanta. I'm not going to be happy unless we keep the Dream down to about 50% on their free throws. I'm serious. If I have a voice left after Game 3, I will have failed.

Atlanta, get ready. The Storm invasion is on its way.

Other notes:

More famous folks at the game, starting with Semeka Randall and Jaime Redd. There were also several Seahawks there, but I didn't catch their names and didn't recognize any of them. Honestly, if it wasn't Hasselbeck I wouldn't have recognized them.

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Doppler gave away a dozen Top Pot doughnuts for the best sign at the game. I love that. I've always wanted to do something for the best sign of the game. The winner was the "Even Chuck Norris is afraid of LJ" sign. Great — I love that sign.

I have to admit that I'm done with the Stanky Leg thing. It was funny at the beginning, but it's kind of been run into the ground a bit. Same thing with the wave. It was cool that first time because it was spontaneous, but it feels forced. Sorry guys.

If things go according to plan, this was our last home game of the season. If so, 21-0. We. Are. Home. Court. Advantage. I love you guys.