It puzzles me that there is some chatter from Swin about the crowd being flat and dragging their energy down, or at least not giving them a boost. It seems like Jayda picked up on this too, referencing it in both her game blog (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/womenshoopsblog/2015279228_game_thread_minnesota_at_seatt_4.html) and her article in the Times (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/storm/2015280028_storm10.html). Were we attending the same game? I haven't listened to the radio broadcast yet to see if Dick and Adia agree about the fans, though I don't think they do, since I know Adia, at least, was tweeting about how much she loves Storm fans. We stood and cheered for 7 minutes in the 1st quarter, waiting for them to score. The longer it took, the harder we would cheer in encouragement on both offense and defense, trying to will them not to give up, and to gain some life, have energy in their legs.
I'll put most of my other pre-game observations down in my Run-off. We stood up for the beginning of the game as is customary, they unveiled the new intro that was pretty cool video-wise, but crap for clapping along with...the cadence is Way Too Slooooooowww, like half-speed. The clapping kind of all died out here. So this is how it's going to be? Because it's a consistent complaint, but the media-folks don't seem to understand what we're saying, so now we basically all stand around and watch a cool video, then get riled up afterwards when they play music we can keep a beat with. I'll have to figure out the tempo that's ideal and post that. ::) But, hey, it matched the way the Storm came out of the gate, so perhaps it's even more appropriate than I know (or knew at the time ;)). We don't want that to be true in the future, though...
I guess our intensity in the first quarter also matched our shoot around, in which we seemed very relaxed. It was fun to watch the team all loose and happy, though, and loose isn't necessarily a bad thing. They were dancing and singing to the music while they ran their drills and shot the ball. Well, that was mostly L'Coe dancing. Sue was mouthing along with all the words. And LJ got into that at another point. I'm sure a couple of the other players did a line or two, in fact Swin and Ify both got involved at some point, I think when Jamie Foxx's "Winner" was playing (I'm not the best at identifying songs, though) but Sue was doing the whole song for a few previous. She loves her hip-hop. :)
And to continue the trend: if our energy had matched that of the Evergreen Heights Elementary Choir singing the anthem--hey, they may have gotten quieter on the "rockets red glare" phrase, but they brought it home with "free" towards the end--we wouldn't have gotten down by 30. ;) The choir was super cute. Many a player was smiling after their rendition. Fans happy. Players happy...then the tip went up and from the very beginning the Lynx set the tone. It seemed we would control the tip, but through sheer effort and hustle Maya Moore managed to gain control, and because we were going the opposite way from normal, it was almost surprising that she was at her bucket (since that's usually ours at the beginning) and she was able to lay it right in for the first Lynx points of the game. All right. Shake it off. I have written in my notes, "Crowd energetic."
But the Storm were not. We missed, and missed. Fans are thinking, ok, some rust from being off for a week. Some jitters. Settle down and we'll be all right. These shots are good, and they'll start falling. Didn't stop the Lynx from jetting out to a 6-0 lead, though, in a matter of seconds. Barely more than a minute had passed, in fact, and the Storm were calling a time out. Ok. That's ok. We're still on our feet, but it's only been a couple minutes...something we continued to cling to a couple more minutes later down 0-12 with Brian signaling another time out, and me thinking, "My feet are tired." Were the Storm feet tired too? Because that would be one explanation for their inability to play transition defense. ;)
Storm fans were definitely restless during this timeout, and we were getting a lot more anxious about the game. It wasn't quiet, but the noise was very unfocused, like 3000 different conversations going on at once. "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys blared out over the speakers over this time out, and I couldn't help but think it appropriate. Who was this team on the floor, and what had they done with our team? The Lynx came out so physical. Bumping us, not letting us get to our spots, and in return we were letting them either waltz to the basket, or more commonly pull up for nearly uncontested jumper after jumper. They were getting great elevation on their jump shots, and we were looking lackluster and sloppy on offense, while playing tissue paper defense. Did we try to learn some new schemes during practice this week? Were we confused? Sue seemed to have to do an uncommonly large amount of talking a directing traffic, though mostly after the Lynx had scored again and everyone was wondering how.
Even this early in the game, I was thinking back to the Sky game last year, and letting all of my expectations go for how this game would turn out. I wasn't giving up (please, it was just the 1st quarter), but it was clear that we were not prepared for the energy our opponent was bringing. I thought that it was a shame that it had to happen at home this year, but meanwhile I was really curious to see how the Storm would respond. I mean, at this point the Lynx had to be shooting above 90%, and we were shooting 0%. Everything they threw up was going in. I hope the first part of this game isn't lost forever (as of this writing it hasn't made it to Live Access due to reported technical difficulties), because it would be fun for Lynx fans to watch.
When we went down 0-13 a couple minutes later, Brian brought L'Coe and Katie Smith in. And to their credit: all the fans were still standing, waiting for that first bucket. And it was a Lauren Jackson turnaround jumper at 2:57 to pull us within 20, 2-22! Take a look at that time and score. :o Not a mis-print. Embarrassing. :-[ Still, we finally got to sit down, but by this time I was almost taking as much if not more pleasure in watching the smooth offensive moves of the Lynx, as watching the Storm fumble around and try to figure out their issues on the fly. I mean: multiple alley-oops. Accurate jumpers. Scrappy defense. Assists. Strong lay-ups. Watching Maya Moore alone was quite mesmerizing. I love the extension she gets on her shots, and how quickly her long strides eat up ground. I mean, I'm a fan of the game as well as the Storm. Clearly I didn't want the Storm to lose, but meanwhile, I figured I might as well enjoy something. Consequently, I was fairly bitter (though I still cheered because that's what a Storm fan does) when she picked up a pretty weak foul and got benched. And speaking of benched: Brian yanked Sue and Lauren (though it may not have been for punishment; sometimes you have to watch from the bench for a couple minutes to get a better perspective on what's going on on the court). 1Q: 8-28
So the Lynx just came out better, faster stronger, more physical, but apart from that everything they threw up there was going in. I don't expect I'll see such a shooting display again this season from any team. It was truly something to behold. Inside. Outside. Mostly pull-ups with terrific elevation, but also three-pointers and lay-ins. It's been so long since I've seen Brunson play with such healthy knees. It so nice to see her fulfilling a potential that we've often had only glimpses of in previous years. And Maya Moore is as good as advertised. We don't get that much these days.
Sue and Lauren remained on the bench to start the 2nd. And Ashley Robinson was bringing a ton of energy on offense and defense. The Storm went on a mini-run to force a Lynx timeout, with stiffer defense that even nearly forced a shot clock violation as the Lynx shooting percentage started to come back down to earth on the backs of a lot of their bench players. So their starters came back in. Meanwhile, despite some signs of life, our shooting woes continued: Katie Smith missed both of her free throws (and we didn't shoot that many this game), though A-rob really battled for and successfully grabbed the rebound. 8-)
The crowd was doing what they could. Typical of Storm fans, particularly if the Storm have several poor plays in a row, the crowd starts to get into it on about every other play. We cheer hard to encourage them, thinking this is the play that will turn around the momentum. If the play is successful (either offensive or defensive), the place goes crazy. If it's unsuccessful, we get knocked back a little bit and have to catch our breath. But all of this is going on in waves regardless of what types of prompts the game operations folks are playing. It involves a lot of noise, rather than chanting or clapping in unison, but it's fun to see if we can make a difference. It's tough when the team doesn't seem to respond. But the 2nd quarter was much better overall for all our psyches, even though we didn't make any inroads score-wise, we at least somewhat staunched the arterial spurt that was the first quarter.
This second quarter is where I actually had to sit back and just marvel at the artistry of how the Lynx offense was working. Multiple alley-oops. Sweet moves. But the refs always have to put their stamp on things. I don't know if it's good or bad that I could identify all three by first and last name before they even took off their jackets to display their numbers: Penny Davis, Roy Gulbeyan and Cameron Inouye. They seemed content to let a lot of contact go in the 1st (sure, while the Lynx were gaining a lead), but tightened things up in the 2nd. Sadly, Maya got her 3rd foul right after a beautiful move to the basket. We cheered, but it was kind of a shame.
Brian decided to put Sue and Lauren back in before half the quarter was gone. And when she saw court time Sue seemed to be trying to shoot her way into the game, since no one was capitalizing on her aborted assists (given that the shot on the other end wasn't made). Even when we were scoring it was often painful to watch, because it turned into an isolation play or something where our player just ended up making a good move, versus Storm Basketball, which is characterized as of late by crisp ball movement to open up a good shot. Why can't we score? Why does LJ look lost? With 30 seconds to go in the half Sue finally hit a shot! :) Hey, it kept us within 26. ;) HT: 24-50
A slightly stunned crowd cleared out at half-time to get concessions, or sat in their seats dumbfounded. I agree that the energy was down at that point. Hope wasn't gone, but the 1st half was emotionally draining! Trying to cheer the Storm to victory. Being disappointed repeatedly. The hardy old-time Storm fan remembers those days of regular blow-outs. Of going crazy every time Simone Edwards made a shot or got a rebound. Of getting to your feet if two made shots bracketed a defensive stop. Aw, memories. Not always happy nostalgia, but I think that Storm fans were getting kind of complacent. I think having this game at home also makes the fans wake up a little and appreciate more what we have, in my opinion. At least it did for me. :) So, the Laurelhurst Unicycle and Juggling Team performed in front of a largely shell-shocked crowd. I hope someone was able to take comfort in the skills those kids possess that I never will. ;)
The fact that we ended the half shooting 28% overall and 12.5% from 3 tells you just how awful that first quarter was. :P :-[ :-/ Probably there aren't enough emoticons in the world to express the dismay those numbers engender. Can you really spot a good team (which the Lynx have been in the past, and had been flirting with in the last couple of seasons, if only the injury bug hadn't bitten them) 26 points, then hope to win? Honestly, I was thinking at this point that if we only lost by single digits, I'd count it something of a moral victory. But the thing with the Lynx is that their play felt very cohesive. Unlike with Phoenix, where it seems like they start becoming individuals rather than a team under pressure, the Lynx felt like they had really strong on-court chemistry. With that, and without a pace similar to the Mercury, would it be possible to come back down 30? Clearly our Western Conference Championship rally was on my mind, but it was the most recent hole we'd hauled ourselves out of.
It took us a bit of an uncomfortably long time to score in the 2nd half, particularly considering the amount of ground we had to make up. 3 minutes in Sue finally got us on the board for the quarter, and we'd done a decent job of controlling the Lynx, though LJ was back on the bench. The crowd felt re-energized at this point. Sue's pulled our fat from the fire so often in the past, that you can't help but have faith in her, and she was the one hitting all of our shots. And though Sue was focused out there, she was loose too. She and Whalen were laughing together after Sue fouled Whalen. We were halfway through the quarter and hadn't really made up any ground, and I wrote, "It's a shame this had to happen at home." But I really feel like we need to experience this once in a while to remind ourselves of that feeling we don't want to re-experience.
Still, we kept plugging away. With 3 minutes to go there was a mad scramble for the ball as we tipped it away from the Lynx, and we came up with it and called a time out. You think we'd hit a game-winning shot or something. ;D Then Swin finally hit a 3 and it felt like we were on the verge of something. Sadly, T got completely faked into the air, and was rather lackadaisical on her recovery, sucking the air back out of the crowd. Steal at the buzzer with no pay-off, besides getting to watch Sue chuck it from mid-court. ;) 3Q: 39-60
Sue kept going to work, but the Lynx kept finding ways to score on the other end. It was like 2002. But the crowd kept getting excited with each shot. We don't need much. Any mini-run will do. Something to take away from our 1st-half suffering. A few minutes in I finally saw a Storm play that employed ball movement to good effect, and suddenly we were within 17! Cheering and carrying on. :D Less than a minute later LJ hit a 3, and suddenly the energy in the Arena changed to where we thought we could win, only down 16 with nearly 7 minutes to go. The crowd started getting to its feet at anything positive we did, and got really chippy with the refs (who may not have necessarily made bad calls, but from now until the end of the game the timing of the calls repeatedly killed most of the Storm momentum) and probably would have remained so for the rest of the game if we'd been able to get any defensive stops.
As it was, I don't think I sat down from Swin's &1 with 5 minutes to go (to got us within 14) to the end of the game. 8-) It was very exciting, with every fan trying to cheer every bit of energy into the Storm that we could. We scored again to cut it to 12 and the Lynx were forced to call a timeout. The fans smelled blood in the water. The Lynx starters had been back in for a while, but seemed shaky. Over the music on the Storm side of the Arena (I heard it first around Section 106) a group of fans started chanting, "Let's go, Storm!" It spread around the arena like a wildfire (apologies, Arizona) as each fan yelled in unison at the top of our lungs. The music went off and it was all Storm fans. "Let's go, Storm!" reverberating from the rafters. It felt like they couldn't stop us and I got chills as we kept it up all timeout, letting it slowly die out as the players took the floor. It's been a while since we needed to dredge up the passion to home grow our own cheers, and it's one of my favorite things about Key Arena, that things like this can happen.
Frustratingly, in one of the most ridiculous moves all night, no game play resumed as we stopped our cheering and the music was turned back on. Refs? Hello? Four minutes to go and we can do this. Um, are you listening? It was maddening. Then the announcer let us know that the refs were reviewing an the LJ 3 from [i]back at the 6:50 mark[/i] to determine if it was really a 3-pointer. Really? Is this some BS gamesmanship from the Lynx? Or something the refs concocted on their own? Anyway, the call stood, and the crowd cheered. But some of our energy was gone. So if this was due to the Lynx requesting a review, then well-played. But if this was the refs, then you're a bunch of dill weeds, and now Penny and Cameron have marks in my book as dark as Roy's for almost hitting Sue in the broken nose. :D
Sadly, we couldn't efficiently decrease the lead quickly enough. With 2 minutes to go we were still down by 12 with only a ghost of a chance. If Sue can't hit her 3s, and LJ is missing point-blank put-backs, then we can't win. :( We did have an exciting jump ball, and Swin hit a 3, but the Lynx pretty much decided to take Shot Clock Violations the rest of the way, and though they missed a few free throws at the beginning of the end, and Sue hit a couple more shots, and LJ finally hit another turnaround, it just wasn't enough. Sue missed at the buzzer to cap off a fantastic quarter, and a gutsy effort from our All-Star point guard, but also to appropriately bookend a night when our shooting just wasn't up to our usual standards, even if the stats do look reasonable at the end.
So, did the Lynx run out of gas after the starters logged heavy minutes, having played 4 games in 7 days, including several on the road? Or did we legitimately figure things out. Also, who yelled, "You suck, Whalen!" during free throws at the end? That isn't right. I dislike personal attacks on the players. You can mock them for their play, taunt them with their name (which is a personal favorite of mine), but saying Whalen sucks when she clearly doesn't and her team is beating us besides? That's just sad. Poor form, even if she does suck.
So is this season's schedule some sort of conspiracy in order to take the Champs down? I mean: think about it. Another week off in between games, and in the interim other teams like the Lynx are playing games and gelling. Then at the end of the season we have a brutal schedule, tiring us out for the play-offs. It'll be a challenge to be sure.
And finally, on her chat today at the ESPN website (http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/chat/_/id/38844/storm-lauren-jackson) Lauren mentioned that she and Sue went to breakfast this morning to discuss things. LJ avows that she is not injured, that she feels good physically. That's a relief in one way, but in another a nagging physical issue would probably be easier to understand. Are we trying to implement some new schemes? I remember we tried that at the beginning of 2005 to disastrous results for LJ. She's said before how she has a steep learning curve about things like that. Is she still searching for her pre-injury basketball rhythm? I believe that she can work things out. I mean, come on, this is Lauren Jackson. Enough said. But I hope she does it soon. Just a few more shots going our way last night and we'd have pulled off a crazy come-back. So do some soul-searching, Lauren. You know we need you to be a beast! ;)
P.S. I thought the crowd was fantastic last night, Jayda (and Swin). I was proud to be a Storm fan at the end of that game, despite the sad loss. Hardly anyone left, and we cheered our little hearts out. :)
- There's more new gear in the Team Shop. This year they have black fleece sweat pants with an embroidered logo, in contrast to the gray ones from last year with Storm printed down the leg. They also have a new yellow car flag, which looked pretty cool if you have a car and are in to that type of thing. Haven't seen any more Doppler dolls, though.
- Pre-game the US Army, celebrating their 236th birthday, swore in about 10 new recruits. At first those of us chatting didn't know what was going on, but I thought it was pretty cool.
- I mentioned that there are some new concessions this year. I visited the taco/quesadilla place over by the beer counter, had a chicken quesadilla, and found it to be a cut above previous Key Arena fare, complete with a pretty good salsa bar (and self-serve squeeze bottles of sour cream). Hopefully it's not all that cheese and dairy I ate that were weighing down the Storm in the first quarter. ;)
- By the time I got into the Arena, only a few Stormies remained. T, Krystal Thomas and Camille were being stretched out, as well as some Lynx (my view was partially obstructed, but I did notice Charde Houston). Swin and Ify were diligently shooting around, with Nancy Darsch and Jenny Boucek assisting.
- The "Item of the Game" was the replica jerseys. They were making a big deal about it, and I can't help but think they were blatantly glossing over the fact that they put the "ug" in UGLY, if you're looking for a jersey. As general game wear, they aren't bad. But in no way do they look jersey-like, and to keep insisting that they do just makes me angry. ;) The design is terrible, including a cut that made Shelley Hart look like Ming the Merciless with points at her shoulders. Convince me I'm wrong.
- The Lynx came out while our introductions were starting...once the music started. That's a pet peeve of mine. Plus they made us start the "wrong" way.
- It was exciting to see Snell dressed for the game, though she had no playing time. Katie Smith's leg was taped/wrapped from her ankle to eternity. Hopefully that helps.
- The pre-game non-profit spot-lighted was the Women Sports Foundation, which promotes active lifestyles for kids (and adults, I'd assume, but I think their focus is kids).
- There was also a pre-game shout out to a specific Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure team of breast cancer survivors that raised over $10,000, along with a little girl who raised $4,000 all by herself, if I heard the announcer correctly. Pretty impressive. 8-)
- Brunson and Whalen were the Lynx Captains at Center Court for Honorary Captains, joining Sue and Lauren to sign and hand basketballs to these cute, cute little girls with long hair (names withheld to protect the innocent).
- The fact that the Virginia Mason Team Medicine Report showed no injuries for the Storm did not help us.
- The Lynx were introduced accompanied by the song "What's New, Pussycat?", I believe. Tom Jones or Burt Bacharach? Or am I completely off? Perhaps a fellow Storm fan from the game can answer this. It's a tradition for when the Lynx visit. Maya Moore got quite a bit of applause. Taj got respectful cheers. And Whalen was really well-received as well.
- It still throws me off for a split second to hear Lauren introduced as a 6'6" forward from Australia. ;D
- I was entertained by "Doppler's Assistant" last year; did he go somewhere, or have I just not noticed him yet this year?
- The Alaska Airlines Seat Upgrade was weird and almost uncomfortable, as two guys came down, and Shelley Hart only engaged the 1st guy, Jim, then asked if [i]he was alone[/i], and never even talked to the other guy like he was invisible. This was especially uncomfortable because the 2nd guy was black. I'm just saying. Did no one else think this? Am I crazy? It was so bizarre. He even seemed to reach for the microphone at the end as Shelley was leading Jim in leading us in the "Go, Storm!" cheer. Mostly the two guys just laughed about it, though.
- Looking at some of the older kids in the Storm Dance Troupe made me miss the Hip Hop Squad or whatever from several seasons ago. I think they would have caught on if they were introduced differently. There was initially back-lash because I think people were worried that the kids would go away, but since then shows like So You Think You Can Dance have gained popularity. Doing some short routines like that would be an awesome addition to the game experience, in my opinion. Keep it lively.
- They showed a fun video summarizing the Stormin' the Lake event. It made me miss the sun. It also captured pretty much every memorable moment that I described. I'm sure they'll put it up on YouTube or something, so you should check it out. :)
- Doppler Bowling was back. The winner got an Xbox 360 + Kinect and 2 games, which is a pretty sweet deal. I was speaking to someone in line at the doors today who won the Fan Dance last time. I'd thought they just got a Kinect, but they actually got the whole system! Score. 8-)
- Brock Huard and Walter Jones were at the game, their introductions (particularly Walter) giving us something to really cheer about, creating a kind of contrast with the rest. At one point Brock was tossing a football around with Doppler. Doppler made a pretty good catch, but his throwing arm wasn't quite there and the ball dropped short of the former UW QB.
- In keeping with her support of the Susan G. Komen foundation, and helping us all maintain perspective by remembering that there are bigger things in the world than basketball games, an endorsement video from Swin was played on the Arenavision during one game break. It said that a grant from the Susan G. Komen foundation has touched every major breast cancer treatment advance in something like the past 29 years. That is impressive.
- The Army did their Army t-shirt parachute drop. When did they stop using Flight of the Valkeries? I know there was some small controversy about using that piece, but I always thought it was fun. Perhaps I'm not sensitive enough? ;) The Army/military music from the recruiting commercials was playing instead. Which is fine.
- The 1st Movie Magic of the season featured Brian Agler intoning, "Bueller, Bueller, Bueller..." So that was pretty funny. And they winner got a Blue Ray Player and "The Fighter" on DVD, as we were all exhorted to vote for Mark Wahlberg for the Guy's Choice awards for Spike TV. I don't mind the in-arena endorsements if they can keep giving such cool prizes away. 8-)