I find it hard to give a detailed account of yesterday's game. I attended the game with both my kids in tow. The toddler, Connor, at 17 months is a big fan of basketball. He cheered, waved his arms, clapped and even waved his MVP sign around a few times. He also was desperate to get Doppler's attention, and still went ignored. He managed to touch Alicia Thompson as she walked up our aisle, though I doubt that he realized she was a player with her shooting jersey on. The eldest child, Eamon at 6 years of age, was in a foul mood, grumping that he wished that there was no such thing as basketball. He also told me that he was never coming to a basketball game again. I was charmed by his chants of "I'm dying, I'm dying, I'm so tired, I am sleepy, I need a nap...why can't I have juice, why does Connor always want Doppler when I want Doppler, I'll never catch a T-Shirt, NEVER!" Between attempts to amuse the two of them, and other attempts to keep the bored eldest from annoying his younger brother, I found it hard to follow the game with my usual focus.
The ring ceremony with Kamilla was as emotional as expected. The fans shared their love with a raucous standing ovation and cheers for the video clips of Kamilla scoring in a Storm jersey. It was great to see the hugs between her and the members of last years team, particularly her moments with Storm original Simone and her Russian teammate Sue Bird. It was not a moment you wanted to end...since we don't get another ring celebration, at least not until they win the championship this year! I found my sentimental eyes tearing up a couple of times throughout the presentation. It is amazing how this team really makes you feel a part of family...I cheered when Gary Payton came back for the first time to Key Arena, but I certainly didn't feel so touched.
The crowd cheered and applauded for quite a few of the Mercury players, including The game started off well for the Storm, with a solid run of defense leading to early Storm offense and forcing a quick timeout by former Storm assistant coach Carrie Graf. LJ starts the game off nice as well with an open three off a pick and roll with Sue. She grabs a few boards and scores a few more baskets and getting fouled. She looks assured another double double.
Kamilla's first basket elicits some polite applause, but that is it for our appreciation of our first Storm player. She and Taurasi put on a two woman show for the rest of the game. DeForge and Taylor are mostly non-factors, with Penny picking up her third foul midway through the first half. The score remains close, but the Storm hold a lead going into the half.
I miss the Dunking Usher halftime show as I have promised to let Eamon buy Connor a Doppler toy. Connor loves his new toy and walks around holding it in a suffocating bear hug the rest of the day.
LJ does not return from the locker room at the end of the half, and Suzy starts at PF for the Storm. LJ did not look hurt, and in fact does return to the bench. She is out for the rest of the game, breaking her current streak of double figure games and likely surrendering the MVP battle to Swoopes, as if that weren't already decided. I learn later that her sore lower back concerned AD enough to decide to rest her the remainder of the game.
When Phoenix makes its final run at the Storm Sue and Betty put an end to their hopes. Sue pulls up for a three when Diana sags off her, and Betty shoots a few jumpers and drives into the Phoenix defense for multiple fouls. Suzy is solid off the bench finding open shooters and scoring when she is open.
The classiest moment of the game comes when Diana Taurasi, who has just lit up the Storm defense all night long, calls the final play to give Kamilla an open three. What a selfless act, and what a treat for Seattle fans. One last chance to cheer our original franchise player. I think that, as much as her performance on the court, has earned her fans in this city, and even more volume from us during player introductions next year. I have heard lots of people complain about her behaviour on the court, but to me she just proved herself one of the true class acts in the game. Thank you Diana.
Tanisha proves that she CAN take her new found confidence to the bench and puts up a career high 17 points. She is impressive with a smooth jumper, drives to the basket for layups and fouls as well as her solid defense. Izzy has an unspectacular game but plays good defense on a number of key plays. Suzy provides an impressive line of 11 points, 2 steals, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Nice way to fill the box score, mate!
After the game we are treated to the news that Anne Donovan has signed a multi-year contract to remain with the Storm. She says that she can't imagine being anywhere else...lucky us!!! The players return some love to the fans, making their own signs, in their own languages to answer the signs from the fans all season. They all address the crowd and tell us that we are the best in the league. I am sure that every team tells that to their fans, but I don't think anyone cares...it feels genuine today. Betty seems too emotional to talk and just says that the fans are the reason that she is here today. Simone makes the joke that the women fans who were pregnant her first season are now sending their babies off to high school. Zara thanks us for "trying" to learn Italian. Vodo manages to thank us in what little English she has. Suzy tries to avoid talking to us...she says that we were very intimidating her first game here in Seattle while in street clothes, but that we were inspiring her first game in uniform. Jenny Boucek says she isn't used to talking to us, and Jessie Kenlaw says that we are FANtastic. LJ, Sue, Chelle and Tanisha are more reserved...with Sue making jokes about being trite and LJ smiling shyly as the crowd TRIES to chant MVP.
Houston's rout of LA means it is off to Houston for Game 1 on Tuesday. Here is hoping we only get to see Houston for one game in Seattle before the Storm advance to take on the winner of Sparks/Monarchs in the Western Conference Finals!